it was already 82 degrees in the house this morning, the third day of this heatwave. i turned on the AC to cool things down a bit. outside it was overcast, didn't seem like the kind of day that would reach into the 90's.
i paid a visit to my community garden, i can't believe it's already been 2 weeks since my last visit. honestly, there isn't much to do, just water, and maybe some light pruning. the money plant seed pods have all dried up and ready to pick. the eggplant in the new grow bag that seemed to be doing so well the last time i checked seemed a bit wilty. there were a handful of cherry tomatoes. a gardener was just leaving when i arrived, carrying with her a large mostly red heirloom tomato. she asked me about her zucchini, that after producing one fruit, it now seems to be only making male flowers. i pruned back the lemon balm a while ago, i pruned it again today as it seemed to not only be getting bigger but flowering as well, which isn't what i want since i'm tempted to get rid of it completely, i have no need for lemon balm.
i also love admiring my plot neighbor gardener dave, who has the most robust plot of all the gardeners, where nearly every inch has something growing, whether be from the ground or hanging from makeshift trellises.
at my parents' place we air fried some more chicken fingers and onion rings for lunch. at one point i looked out the window and saw a large rabbit again. while my father went around the house to open the side gate, i slowly crept behind the rabbit with a stick to drive it away. it kept an eye on me the whole time, finally getting nervous and slowly moving away. i made sure it moved to the northeastern corner and not run back inside the yard where it can hide in the thickets of ornamental grass and spiderworts. it was almost too easy this time, the rabbit simply slow hopped it way out the gate. maybe because it's a larger rabbit, it's not as skittish. the thing i want to know is how is it getting in? i did a perimeter check, i can't find any holes. and it's always a single rabbit too, i'd be more concerned if there were more. a single rabbit, maybe we left the gate open, and it snuck inside.
my mother was back to watching her stories on the imac, as the xiaomi android tv box is too hard to use in browser mode. she has a hard time navigating with the cursor pointer and for some reason the wifi keeps dropping whenever she goes to her streaming website, not sure if it's the mibox or the page itself (like maybe it's doing something insidious in the background, like cryptocurrency mining). she was watching mr. housekeeper, mitazono about a stern yet caring housekeeper in drag who not only cleans the house but also the personal lives of the people she works for (some would call that "meddling" or "overstepping her boundaries"). it seems to be popular as it's already in its 4th season. throughout the show mitazono would impart bits of actual housekeeping widsoms/hacks, like stain cleaning with household chemicals, or ways to keep vegetables fresh. it's a weird show, but one that somehow seems to work in japanese. i don't know if it could ever be translated for an american audience. since it's an ongoing show, there was one episode where they did it entirely via zoom video conference since it was during the height of the pandemic in japan and they couldn't film in the studio.
by early afternoon i called the waltham census number directly, seeing that my agent hadn't responded yet from this morning. they picked up right away, were super nice, told me it was highly unusual that i didn't receive any notification since early july. the guy helping me said he saw my name in the main database but i wasn't assigned to any district yet. he told me he'd call me back before 3pm. around 2:30pm my original agent finally sent me an e-mail with the time and location for the census training: tomorrow 8am at newton city hall. a few minutes later i got a call back from the census office, my guy was relaying the info that i just received from the e-mail. so it looks like census 2020 is still on after months of covid-19 delay! that early wake up time is a bummer though, but it means less traffic. after checking google maps, it seems i've never been to newton city hall before, so i'm curious to see what it's like.
my mother made char sui pork (chashao 叉燒) again with the air fryer. although the pork is cooked well, it's not char sui because it doesn't have that characteristic red color or the charred sweetness. that's because she couldn't find her char sui sauce and had to create one using ingredients like sugar water instead.
even though it was cloudy earlier today, the sky turned clear as evening approached, which made me determined again to catch the NEOWISE comet, my 4th attempt. since i was waiting for it to get dark (around 9pm), i was outside in backyard taking a final tour of the garden. i noticed something i never realized: jasmines are night blooming flowers. i always see them already opened during the daytime so i just assumed they bloomed during the day, but catching them at night is when they put on a show, buds opening up first into cups before becoming saucers. freshly opened jasmine flowers also seem more fragrant.
we headed out to the nearby park around 8:50pm. i just brought my 18-200mm lens and my fast 28mm lens. halfway there i realized we forgot to wear our face masks, but since it was dark and we weren't expecting to encounter a lot of people, we decided to forgo the masks. we didn't venture out to the grassy field since that's where all the mosquitoes seem to congregate (lesson learned from last time), but instead stayed by the small paved plaza area by the tennis courts, with a ring of benches where we can sit down.
when we arrived it still wasn't quite dark yet, and we couldn't see any stars other than the planet jupiter shining brightly in the opposite direction. but the transition from twilight to darkness was quick, and at first we could spot stars using our binoculars before they became visible with the naked eye once it grew progressively darker. the big dipper was pointing down, and the two lower stars (merak and dubhe) were the ones i saw first through the binoculars. using them as a guide, i swept downwards with the eyeglass looking for the comet.
my father was first to spot the comet, after he said he saw something that looked like a fuzzy dot. to find it i first went to the lowest star of the big dipper - beta ursae majoris (merak, magnitude 2.37). i follow that downwards until i come across a pair of close stars - theta ursa majoris (magnitude 3.17, its dimmer companion is 26-Uma magnitude 4.5). i then track left slowly where the NEOWISE comet is unmistakable as a fuzzy green blob. it was actually nearly next to a different star, 15-LMi magnitude 5.1.
i've heard this often, but once you spot the comet, it becomes easier to find again. but no matter what, i couldn't see it with the naked eye, only through the binoculars or a slow shutter speed capture with the camera. JPL estimated the comet's magnitude to 6.00 but the observed magnitude from the comet observers database put it at a magnitude 1.9. i started with the 28mm which had no problems capturing the comet. but then i switched to the 18-200mm because i wanted a wide view as well as a closeup. closeup was harder, as i couldn't find anything bright enough in the sky to focus, so i did it by trial and error, adjusting the tripod by increments until i centered the comet, then adjusting the focus manually until i got everything clear.
at one point a neighbor taking a stroll in the dark came by and asked us if we saw the comet. he told us he saw it yesterday, when there was a guy there who brought a big telescope. that meant i could've been out here yesterday, but instead i thought it was too cloudy and just went home.
all the while mosquitoes were feeding on me. i wore jeans to protect my legs, but they bit through the back of my t-shirt. at one point i slapped a mosquito in the dark and could feel the wet smear of blood. when we returned to the house, i had about a dozen mosquito bites all over my back.
i got back home by 10pm. by then i could easily spot big dipper in the northern sky although i couldn't see the comet (but knew where it was). i was surprised to see that the motorcycle parked in front of my house had moved. strange that the owner has the foresight to remember it was street cleaning in cambridge yet still managed to illegally park his somerville bike here. i was a little disappointed, i was hoping to see it get towed.
i couldn't stay up too late as i had to wake up early tomorrow (6am) but still didn't go to bed until midnight. anxious about tomorrow, i didn't sleep well and probably only got a few hours of sleep at best, if any.