i left the house around 10:00 this morning, heading to belmont to do some sanding before it got too hot. by 10:30 i was in action, orbital sander attached to the shopvac, mask and earmuffs attached to my head. i worked the lower shingles first, before climbing the scaffolding to reach the higher shingles. the west side of the house was still in shadows, but it was hot and humid enough that i decided to work topless, with the added bonus of fixing my farmer's tan in the process. despite the heat, i also wore my painter jeans, for safety reasons, in case the sander fell on my legs. i wore gloves too, which saved me from an injury when i had a knuckle too close to the 40-grit sanding pad.

the thing to know about sanding is that it's laborious (orbital sander starts feeling heavy after a while), it's noisy (hence the earmuffs), and it's hot (even without the summer sun shining directly on me, i'm sweating inside the dust mask). nevertheless, there's a zen-like soothingness about it, the same sort of feeling when i mow the lawn. sanding layers of paint also produces interesting patterns that look like geographic features and i saw various shapes that looked like different countries while i worked.

i took an occasional break to rinsing off the flecks of paint from my body, water the garden, pull up some weeds, and get a drink of water. by noontime the sun was beginning to peek around the corner. i kept working until 1:00, when finally the sun was just too much to handle. i think i may have even gotten a slight sunburn on my right arm (the side facing the sun).

i went inside to take a shower, changing into the spare clothes i bought. my mother told me there were two leftover blue cheese burgers in the fridge but i couldn't find them, so instead i had some chips and salsa while watching an ink master marathon (season 4). my mother came home a little bit after 2:00, biking from the cafe. rummaging through the fridge, she found the missing burgers which i then heated up for a late lunch.

i returned home around 3:30. after another shower (motorcycling in the summer can get sweaty), i went to star market to contest the price of the cilantro seed packet i bought last week. sure enough, the display said 40% off, so i got some money back (a missing national park quarter to boot). before i left, i got a bag of cherries, a package of salad, and a box of stouffer's french bread pizza.

i received a package today, the special go-pro dog harness arrived. only problem is my go-pro knockoff (SJ4000 HD) is still coming from china and it'll probably be another week or two before it arrives, if it'll even show up. the seller had his account banned by ebay, but i'd already paid for the camera. it's not much - $23 - but that should've been a red flag since the camera normally costs $100. i can file a complaint with ebay, but since this is an international shipment, i have to wait 30 days before i can do so. the seller did contact me via e-mail, told me not to worry, that the item has already been shipped, and even gave me a tracking number; unfortunately it's china post, which i can't seem to track (even then, i'd be suspicious about its reliability). sometimes users get banned not because they did anything illegal, but because they violated ebay's price exclusivity clauses for certain brands (like selling something for too cheap). nothing i can do but wait until the end of the month to see if anything shows up.

last night i didn't sleep until 4:30, obsessed with researching all there is to know about panasonic viera HDTV repair and the TCON board. the service manual doesn't even mention the TCON, but after some sleuthing (i even opened up the HDTV again just to poke around inside), i found out where the TCON is located. a faulty TCON board might explain the black screen, but so might a broken A-board. the service manual says 8 blinks means "SOS (T-CON power)" and to check the A-board, but no other instructions after that. my concern is if it's the TCON board that's broken, that's a cheaper fix because a refurbished board goes for $15 on ebay, versus the $55 i paid for the A-board (which might not even be broken). in the meantime, all i can do is wait for my replacement board to arrive (maybe as early as wednesday-thursday).

now that i temporarily don't have a tv, the house feels very quiet, empty almost. not that i was watching a lot of television anyway, and if anything, because i don't have regular cable, i've been using the tv less and less these days. i watch it mainly for the news, which i can receive over the airwaves. and of the news, i only really care about the headlines and the weather. before lunch i might catch a little price is right (mostly to see if amber lancaster is on, she's my favorite price is right spokesmodel) before the news. i might watch a little tv while i have lunch, but then the tv is off the rest of the day until the evening, when i watching the 6:00 news. come prime time i'll watch tv if there's something good on, but recently i've just turned off the television until later in the evening, when i watch the 10:00-11:00 news broadcast followed by some talk shows depending on the guests.

even without a tv i can still watch tv. i have an analog set in my bedroom, but i hardly ever go in there nowadays, even opting to sleep in the guest bedroom instead. all my smart phones and tablets can receive various forms of video entertainment, not to mention my computer. recently, i'm more inclined to watch some show or movie i've downloaded than actually use the HDTV. ever once in a while, if i want some variety, i might put a video on the USB drive and hooked it up to the tv, but it's easier just to watch it on the computer, despite the smaller screen size (better than a smartphone screen anyway).

around 5:00 i went into my bedroom to watch an hour of news before returning to the living room. this must be how people without televisions spend their evenings! in the dark, with the solitude and the quietness, waiting for it to get darker.

i tested the HDTV again, reconnecting the A-board, thinking that maybe it might miraculously work. no image, just 10 blinking red lights, ZWEI/FRC issues (not even sure what that is).

for dinner i ate that package of salad i bought earlier. when i was sanding this morning, i saw my topless reflection in a window and didn't like what i saw. let's just say there was a lot of jiggling when i didn't expect to be jiggles. i could stand to lose about 10 pounds to get into fighting shape.

i'd planned on going to my parents' place to do some sanding, but by the time i finished with my community gardening (picking a carton of golden raspberries), it was already 2:00. once i arrived in belmont in the middle of the afternoon, it was just too hot to do any work on the western side of the house. the plan is to come back early tomorrow and do some late morning sanding before the sun starts shining from the west.

back at home, all was well, until my panasonic viera TC-L42ET5 HDTV suddenly switched off and began blinking its red LED. i noticed it was blinking in series and recognized that as a diagnostic indicator. i found the service manual and discovered that 8 blinks means the TCON power on the A-board (main board) is damaged. a few times it blinked 10 times, which meant the ZWEI/FRC was having issues (also on the A-board). so whatever the problem was, it meants having to replace the A-board. i'm not quite sure how the HDTV broke in the first place, it's never happened before, and i only bought it 2 years ago ($698), so the HDTV is fairly new.

a seller on ebay had used A-boards for $44 but he was all sold out; i ended up finding an online tv parts seller who had it for $55 including shipping. but first i took apart the HDTV just to take out the A-board and make sure i was getting the right part. it was remarkably easy, despite having to remove around 40 screws once i got the television flat on the dining table. there was no visible sign of damage. so i went ahead and ordered the part (refurbished), hoping it'll come by the end of the week and i can fix my HDTV. i don't even use it all that much, but it's one of those things that once you don't have it, you start it miss it.

i'd be lying if i didn't admit a part of me wishes the HDTV might be broken beyond repair. that'd give me a legitimate excuse to go out and buy a new HDTV. nowadays, for the same size (42"), i can get one cheaper and with even more features, that better smart tv integration. this panasonic viera does have some smart tv features (including wifi and 3D, i did a lot of research before i bought it), but it's proprietary and seems outdated (because it is, since they're never updated). nowadays, you've got fancy HDTV's that have built-in roku or android OS. i could always use an HDTV upgrade in my bedroom, although since i've been back, i haven't watched tv in that room. it's got an old CRT television with a digital-antenna-to-analog converter box.

i went over to my parents' place this morning where i had some leftover barbecue for breakfast (2 chicken and sausage sandwiches).

i went to check on the rat, which was now completely dead, its body in a state of rigor mortis, green bottleflies hanging around its rear end. i buried it behind the evergreens along the southern fence, a place no one ever goes. i did think about just throwing it away, but we have a big backyard, and maybe a buried decomposed rat can add some nutrients to the soil. how it died is still a mystery. was it poisoned? perhaps injured? but i never saw any blood. when it was still partially alive, flies were already congregating near its lower body.

the backyard eggplants seem to be doing well, on this inaugural season of eggplant growing. i've always thought eggplants as short plants, but the ones we have are growing tall (2-3ft) and thin. they seem healthy though, because the leaves are big and green. they don't seem to be indeterminate like some tomatoes - once they get a particular size and shape they don't make anymore leaves and branches and just focus on eggplant production. fruits are developing on some of them, currently the size of small grapes with characteristic purple skin. young eggplants have a prickly protective husk and the thorns are stiff enough to do some real damage if you're not careful (i found out the hard way by getting stabbed in a finger).

after my father came home from fixing lunch for my grand uncle, i went with my parents to the wrentham village factory outlet mall. there's actually a cracker barrel restaurant there (the only one in new england?) but since we still had a lot of leftover barbecue, we decided not to eat there this time.

has it been a decade since the last time i was at wrentham village? i barely remember it, just knew it took an hour to drive there and that it was outdoors. i remember a bookstore and a hardware store, not much else. it is the place my mother goes when she needs to score name-brand merchandise on the cheap - usually presents for relatives before an overseas trip. in fact, when overseas relatives come visit, they always make a pilgrimage to wrentham village before leaving. the dynamic of the place has really changed since my last visit. the first thing i noticed was how many chinese people were there. in fact, the PA system was broadcasting a welcome message in chinese (later i heard german and cantonese as well, so it wasn't exclusively mandarin). i saw a chinese advertisement for visa credit card. and even though i didn't see this myself, my father told me that the menus in the restaurant have chinese translations.

i remember when the predominant rich overseas consumers of name-brand items were japanese. i'd go to some upscale mall and would be surprised to see japanese translations on signs. you can still see remnants of that in places. i remember when i went to the detroit airport (2013) - which was designed as a transportation hub to asia - many signs had japanese translations even though most of the asians there were chinese. likewise the case at wrentham village: the free fold-out map has japanese translations but not chinese. i'm sure this will all change eventually. the mainland chinese - whether you like it or not - are taking over, and businesses are catering their services in order to earn their money.

my parents noticed it wasn't as crowded compared to the last time they came, which was right around memorial day. the nice summer weather combined with the 4th of july weekend probably meant some people were out enjoying the beaches instead of shopping. when my parents were in taiwan during the spring, my father's friends were selling him on comfort of skechers shoes. so the last time they came to wrentham village my father bought 2 pairs of light ventilated walking shoes. however, my grand uncle wasn't happy with the shoes he was wearing so my father traded his skechers for my grand uncle's shoes. today he wanted to get a replacement pair. unfortunately they didn't have the size he wanted. so he got something similar with the hopes of trading back his old pair with these new pair. they had a buy-one-get-2nd-off-1/2-off (BOG2OHO?) sale so my mother picked up a pair for herself. when they run up the purchase, they actually gave the more expensive pair half off.

i went to star market at 9:00am to get some ground beef on sale, figuring by going early i'd be able to score some easily. what i didn't plan on was a lot of people had the same idea and by the time i went they were sold out already (supermarket opened at 7:00). instead, i picked up a dozen corn for 9¢ a piece.

my mother came by sometime after 10:00am. she was able to get away since the cafe wasn't busy due to the july 4th long weekend. our first stop was ac moore, where she was stocking up on more yarn with today's 20% off everything independence day sale. after we came out she noticed something was off with the price and figured out 2 skeins of sock yarn weren't actually on sale so she went back inside to return them while i waited in the car, trying to skim free wifi from nearby assembly row.

then we went to the malden super 88 asian supermarket, first time for my mother (i'd only recently discovered this place). originally i just wanted to get some taiwanese sausage for tomorrow's barbecue, but my mother ended up getting $150 worth of groceries. on our way back (via highland avenue) we went through a drive-through wendy's to get something to eat. returning to cambridge, we had a few more food items to buy and decided to stop at market basket (i was a little worried because i knew it'd be crowded, but we scored a parking spot real quick), where we picked up 3 packages of ground beef (for making the burgers, originally we were thinking about trying the porter square star market, but decided the saving wasn't worth the additional time). finally, we went next store to get some beers (tsingtao) before i got dropped off back at my place.

it was around 1:30pm, we'd been out for over 3 hours, and i finally ate my spicy chicken sandwich for breakfast/lunch. i went to the community garden to water my plants (bumped into dave), not before chatting with ed to learn that somebody had cut his clutch cable last night (my bike was safe, i moved it early this morning because a large SUV had parked in front of it).

finally i rode to belmont, where because of the holiday long weekend, i decided not to do any noisy sanding work. i mixed up the ground beef (80% lean, i like it fatty, adds more flavor) along with the other ingredients: blue cheese, worcestershire sauce, huy fong sriracha (normally frank's red hot sauce but the bottle was expired and tasted a wee bit funny), scallions, garlic (both ingredients my mother helped me chop), grey poupon mustard, and black pepper powder (normally gresh ground pepper but my parents didn't have any peppercorns).

* more sanding work

* speaking with former architect neighbor tunk; turns out he's designing a planned community in chaotianmen (chongqing) with 6 buildings featuring 2 hotels, commercial space, and an outdoor observation deck that has a park and a pool.

who trampled my wire-mesh fencing on the little strip of front lawn garden? that's what i saw when i went to go bring in the trash can today. if i had to guess, i'd say one of the numerous people who regularly walk their dogs in my neighborhood. they think that little front garden area is just a bathroom for their dog and don't really notice when their dog walks into the fenced area.

after the morning rain subsided, i went out in the afternoon to get more groceries. last time i couldn't find the market basket chicken that were on sale, but my mother told me they sometimes keep it near the deli department, and that's where i found it. i had a load of laundry tumbling dry that finished right when i got back. unfortunately the dryer added a few degrees more to the room temperature, even to the point where it fogged up the kitchen window (weird humidity situation happening). rest of the day i stayed indoors, fiddling around with some CSS stuff. for dinner i finished the last three of my zongzi. i didn't put them in the freezer and one of them had a little bit of mold on the outside leaf which i just casually washed off.

i wanted to watch the england-japan women's world cup semifinal match, but i don't get fox sports channel and couldn't find anywhere online that was streaming the game, so i ended up "watching" the game online on ESPN stat mode. japan ended up winning in the final minute (2-1) when an english player accidentally kicked the ball into her own goal. now comes the rematch of the US-japan 2011 world cup sunday evening. i'm not sure who's favored to win but i'm rooting for japan, just because they seem like the underdog.

i stopped by the community garden on my way to market basket. more spots of color as the zinnias have bloomed. for now just a single flower per plant, but more blossoms over time. that one dry zinnia flower i saw 5 days ago? just haven't fully bloomed yet. i noticed the delphiniums have formed seedpods; i was tempted to snip them off, but decided to keep them, figuring they might self-sow and i could get more delphiniums next year. besides, it seems like new flower buds were forming underneath the seed pods, so it'd be hard to snip off without snipping those as well. there were also many ripe golden raspberries, i'll have to come by with a container and pick them before they fall off.

in the early afternoon i went to my parents' house to begin sanding the outside shingles. i was the one who originally did the research for orbital sanders, but never got a chance to really use it, other than to do some test sanding when we first got it back in the summer of 2012. it's quite the spectacle, running a long extension cord halfway around the house, and making a lot of noise when the sander is operated in tandem with the shopvac. the western side of the house gets a lot of sun in the afternoon and gets pretty hot. i was sweating something fierce inside my dust mask. i had on a pair of earmuffs to drown out the noise.

i managed to sand about a 3x3ft square area of shingles in about an hour, taking a few breaks in between. i'm not planning on sanding off all the paint, just enough so it's smooth to the touch. it's a little tedious, the sander starts feeling heavy after a while (plus it's vibrating the whole time), and there was also the afternoon sun. i noticed that if i hold orbiting sander at it edge, it seems a lot better, essentially stripping off the paint (and the wood if you're not careful). i didn't put down any tarps and there wasn't all that much dust but there was still a little bit that clung to the sander and to my arms. when the paint did come off, it was more likely in the form of dried chips. at this rate, if we get a couple days of good weather, i might be able to get the sanding done in 2 weeks. about half the house still requires sanding, but we're fortunate that my parents live in a one story structure. the hardest part is the western side, but once that's done, the front of the house will be pretty easy (shady at least, won't have to deal with the blistering sun).

earlier i fertilized the front lawn with some organic fertilizer. i already fertilized the front lawn at the end of april but it was due for another feeding. it was the perfect day to fertilize since we're expecting a rainstorm tomorrow morning.

when i went back inside, i could feel my forearms (particular the left arm, the one holding the sander) were a little sore.

my mother started making dinner sometime after 4:30 and by 5:00 we were already eating. i was planning on sticking around until it got dark (8:30-9:00) so i could see the conjunction of jupiter and venus. where i live in cambridge, it's hard to get a good view of the sky, much less the horizon. we ended up watching the US-germany women's world cup semifinal match. around halftime my father came home and it seemed dark enough to possibly see something so we walked out to the nearby playground field. looking west, we saw a bright star - venus. a little bit above it, much fainter, was another star - jupiter - easily missed if you didn't know where to look. my mother went back home to get her binoculars. through the telephoto lens i could see i could clearly see the 2 planets, with venus in a partial phase. there was enough shaking from hand-holding the binoculars that you couldn't see any details other than the fact that there were 2 stars.

returning home it got dark enough that now both planets were very much visible. i saw people gawking at it on the streets, taking photos with their phones. after parking my motorcycle, i went onto mass avenue to get a better look at the conjunction.

as it was getting close to my 1 year comcast anniversary, i went down to the local comcast office on beacon street in the late morning to see if i could lower my bill. comcast basically screws everyone over. they have these package deals that are good at first, but after they expire, the price of everything increases. i was trying to get rid of my HBO bundle, which i hardly ever watch (normally $15/month), and i was even considering dropping my cable tv altogether, since i just have basic broadcast cable, which i can just get for free over the airwaves. but after talking with them, it turns out if i opt out of cable, my bill (for internet only) would actually increase, which doesn't make any realistic sense, but makes perfect comcast sense. either way, starting next month my bill will go up by $10 (i pay $60 right now). i'll have to study all their different price categories and try calling them over the phone to see if i can get myself a better deal. i'm even tempted to switch to dsl, but the speed is just too slow for the same price (3MBps verizon DSL versus 30MBps cable internet).

for lunch i made myself a bowl of oatmeal with some kayem artisan pineapple uncured bacon sausage with vermont maple syrup (same thing i had yesterday for lunch).

i took the motorcycle to belmont in the afternoon. my mother was already home, having walked back from the cafe. since it rained so much yesterday, there was no need to water the garden. instead, i spent my backyard time pulling up swallow-worts, clipping a few thin bamboo stalks, and pruning the diseased plum tree. swallow-worts are hard to eradicate, and i fear i've only pulled up the vines, not the roots themselves, so they'll live to grow another day. black knot disease have completely taken over the two backyard plum trees. we were supposed to chop them both down this year but never got around to it, hoping to wait until after they flower. but the disease is so rampant, there was hardly any flower this season. currently there's too many plants growing underneath to risk trying to chop them down. we will probably need to wait until the fall. in the meantime, whenever i have the chance, i lop off a few branches (today i managed enough for 2 garden refuse bins). finally, i moved the rain barrels, tipping them over, where mosquito larvae were already swimming in the pools of stagnant water. i probably saved the backyard from having a large population of mosquitoes.

i was so sleepy after dinner, i need to get more sleep. i replayed a mint copy of mad max for my parents before i left, along with a chinese subtitle file i found online. riding home, i noticed all the piles of discarded furnitures and household items left on various sidewalks; end of the month moving day for a lot of renters. i fought off the urge to stop and dig around in the junk pile (couldn't carry anything anyway, since i was on the motorcycle).

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