i called brome bird care this morning at 10:30am. kevin had a late start, for a while i thought maybe he was beginning his work from home today, but he finally left while i was on the phone. brome is based in quebec and the woman i spoke with must've been canadian because she was super friendly and nice. i told her my situation, that grackles have been ransacking my squirrel buster standard, eating up a whole feeder's worth of seeds in just a day. she said this was normal during the busy time of the season, and said the same thing happens to her own feeder. i told her of my weight experiments, how it takes more than 6 oz. of weight to close the shroud. i told her i had photos, but she seemed to believe me. i also told her i took apart the feeder and put it all back together again in the hopes of fixing what was wrong but everything looked normal.

she said she could send me a replacement inner tube - i told her i just needed a new spring but she said they just replace the entire tube since no skill wis involved . she also give me some additional advice. for one thing, i could remove some of the perches, since grackles need a place to land on, while smaller birds like chickadees can simply cling onto the cage. i could also change the feed, grackles love cracked corn, if i put only sunflowers, they typically leave those feeders alone. she said some customers have had success with this trick, which is to add fishing weights to the bottom of the feeder, thereby requiring less weight to trigger the shroud to come down. she told me that the springs are designed with a tighter initial tension since they become looser over time, although she noted that not triggering until 6 oz. of added weight seems abnormal. i told her i would try the fishing weights idea, and if that still doesn't work, i'd call back to see if i can get a replacement tube.

i tested the TYT radio again with my father this morning. reception wasn't very clear until i added the SWR meter in between the DBJ-2 antenna and the radio. initially the meter told me i had an SWR of 3.63 - which would explain the bad transmission. i played around with the antenna wire until i got the SWR down to nearly 1, a near perfect SWR. transmission then worked fine, though higher the power the clearer the signal.

i left for belmont around 11am to fix the squirrel buster feeder. i found my father's old tackle box from the basement and found a few lead fishing weights, 2 oz. each. i tied them to the bottom of the feeder with fishing line. i had enough weights to equal 8 oz., but it still wasn't heavy enough to pull down the shroud even after i added a 3.5 oz. weight to the perch (to simulate a bird landing). i needed something heavier but i was all out of weights. i thought about making a sand bag but finally ended up with the idea of a small ziploc bag filled with weighted rocks attached to the bottom of the feeder by a small carabiner.

the bag of stones plus an additional fishing weight was 14.32 oz, nearly a pound. with a simulated 3.5 oz. bird weight added to the perch, sometimes the shroud came down, other times it only came down halfway. the stone weights looked ridiculous, and all it'd take is for a squirrel to grab onto it to tear the whole thing down. i wasn't going to add more stones, figured it would be enough for the time being.

i was about to leave when i saw birds flocking to the newly refilled feeder. the whole time i was working outside i could hear grackles squawking up above in the trees, waiting for me to leave. as soon as i did, first the small birds came - juncos, white-throated sparrows, house finches - but that was followed by a single bluejay and a few grackles. the bluejay never tried to land on the feeder, maybe it was distracted by the grackles. it didn't take long for a grackle to land on the feeder. i was dismayed to see that the shroud did nothing, and the grackle managed to take a piece of cracked corn before flying off. it came back again, with no response from the feeder. but when it tried to readjust its perch, the jostling motion finally closed the shroud. the shift in weight must've startled the grackle because it flew away. but it didn't take long for it to come back. landing is no problem; but the moment it readjusts its perch, that's when the shroud closes. so it does work! but i needed to add an additional 1 lbs. of counterweight, which seems way too much. i'll leave it for now, but will probably call brome again next week to get the replacement part.

even though temperatures were just in the mid-50's, it was sunny and i felt warm enough that i put my jacket away and rode in just my shirt. i stopped by the cafe on my way home, my father told me earlier that my mother had made some chinese meatballs for me. she asked me to go to the supermarket when i have to chance to look for specialty sanpellegrino drinks.

they had a bunch at market basket, but not the sanpellegrino momenti pomegranate & black currant my mother wanted (she said it's a best seller). so instead i bought 3 cases, and went to star market to look for the rest. they did have the flavor my mother wanted, i paid using the cafe debit card. since it was still early, i decided to ride down to the cafe and drop off the drinks. by that point the weather started to get a bit cooler. i still didn't have my jacket, so the return trip felt a little cool.

i stopped outside elizabeth warren's house to check out the supportive chalk art neighbors have left her on the sidewalk after she announced she was pulling out of the presidential race. most of them were positive, but there were a few "trump" and "maga" graffiti.

it was already close to 4pm and i hadn't eaten anything all day. i didn't feel tired but did feel a little hungry, so i warmed up the ramekin chicken pot pie my sister had made in the toaster oven. even after 30 minutes at 300°F it was still a little cold on the inside, but i was so hungry i didn't care. i saved the chinese meatballs with rice for dinner.

my predict 2 nutritional study kit finally arrived today (it was supposed to get here yesterday). the box was a lot bigger and heavier than i expected. inside were more boxes, nicely packed, each labeled to its content with a few having instructions to put in the freezer, like the special muffins and the ice packet. there was also a carton of shelf0save skim milk, plus a few packets of what looks to be chocolate powder. that box contained a scale, which they told me i could keep after the study was over. turns out, it's the same ozeri scale i already have in my kitchen. there was also a fitness tracker (which i need to return), bigger than the one i already wear, and without a display. reading the study guide, i realized i was supposed to make an appointment at a nearby quest lab to get my blood taken after the 10-day study and to give them my samples.

i won't actually start eating the special muffins and logging all my meals until next thursday, but beginning sunday i can start doing the prep work, like taking saliva and stool samples, putting on my blood sugar monitor, taking my measurements, and begin wearing my fitness tracker. the thing i'm most afraid of are the 6 blood samples i have to take myself (thursday and saturday), i'm not very good when it comes to purposely pricking myself in the finger.

my father and i tried radio testing again in the evening around 6:20pm while my parents were driving home. even though i didn't touch anything, he couldn't hear me with the car radio setup without using the repeater in between. that probably has more to do with the antenna he was using, but he was transmitting just fine at 20W+, i was able to hear him, though when he dipped behind a hill his transmissions got a bit garbled. once back at home, he tried using the TYT radio. he could only receive me when i was transmitting on medium1 or high power. i played around with the antenna, and lost my perfect SWR, dropping down close to 3. surprisingly, that actually made my transmissions clearer, a lot less background static on my father's end. so nothing makes sense anymore. definitely daytime and nighttime matters when it comes to transitting clarity, and a perfect SWR doesn't necessarily mean better quality receptions for some reason.

kevin came home at 6pm, microwaved his dinner, ate in his bedroom, and seemed to have gone to sleep because his lights were out. he woke up at 9pm to take a shower (soaking the bathroom carpet in the process, i almost wanted to talk to him about it but wasn't worth my time), then made dinner around 9:30pm. his schedule's all messed up, he didn't go to sleep until 1am.

i heated up the chinese meatballs with rice for dinner.

the latest in coronavirus news: WHO official announced the coronavirus spread as a pandemic, about a month too late. donald trump gave a speech tonight, said he was banning all travel from europe to the US for the next 30 days, with the exception of the UK. what constitutes europe though? is scandinavia a part of europe? what about eastern europe? former russian bloc countries? it seems a little drastic, and more of a too little too late situation as the coronavirus is already within the US population, spreading undetected since we don't have enough test kits to go around. this will most definitely precipitate and cause the canceling of the boston marathon. in greater boston news, more schools have joined in the campaign to suspend classes for the rest of the semester and sent students home to do remote learning. i paid enough tuition this semester to buy a nice car and now you're telling me classes are canceled? sucks to be a college kid right now. breaking news moves quickly, as somerville decided to close all schools and public building for the rest of the week after 3 somerville residents (all with ties to biogen) tested positive for the coronavirus. tom hanks and his wife reportedly have contracted the virus while doing a film down in australia. finally, the NBA has suspended the rest of the season because a player had tested positive for the virus.