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i thought about skipping the community garden work day this saturday morning because it was already so hot and the blistering dermatitis on my left hand was itching something fierce. i also didn't sleep well the night before, my first floor neighbors across from my bedroom had a noisy box fan in their kitchen window so i couldn't open the window nearest to my bed. without access to the cooler night time air, i tossed and turned, trying to find that cool spot on my mattress. nevertheless, obligation compelled me participate, plus i needed to be down there anyway to water my plants, and visit some pokestops along the way.

a lot more people showed up at the community garden than i anticipated when i arrived around 10:30am. i signed in and picked a job for myself from the garden to-do list: empty the compost bin beneath the mulberry tree and then move the empty bin to the other side of the garden. i got myself a small shovel and some rubber buckets and began working. others were weeding the paths, or pruning the common beds, or reorganizing the tool shed. i worked until 11:30am, chatting with joel and watering my plot before leaving. during that time, an eevee managed to escape, but i caught a pidgey, a rattata, and a kakuna, finally capping it off with my first dratini (cp 99).

back at home, i took a quick shower before taking the motorcycle to belmont, stopping by the gas station at the intersection of walden-mass ave to fuel up ($5). this is how much i ride the motorcycle these days: this was my first time getting gas all year, as i was still riding on the fuel i had in the tank from last december's storage.

my mother made some egg pancakes for lunch. after i finished eating, i went outside to wash the motorcycle. as a consequence of parking underneath trees in the late spring/early summer, my bike was coated in sugary droplets of tree sap. i've been meaning to get it washed but always forgot about it. as i still had a lot of sudsy car wash mix in the bucket, i also gave the honda element a quick wash as well. later i got a bath towel and dried my bike (so there wouldn't be any water stains) and the car. finally, i got some rain-x and treated the mirrors and windows. when i came back inside, my mother had made some belgian waffles, so i had a second lunch in the middle of the afternoon.

i looked for my freewheel tool but it's been so long since the last time i used it, it really could be anywhere. a search of the sun room (the most likely place) turned out to be fruitless, so i had no choice but to order an new online from amazon for $8, due to arrive sometime on monday.

on a hot day you need to water more than twice to keep tender garden vegetables (like cucumbers) from wilting. the solitary eggplant in my parents' backyard has produced a flower, so hopefully we'll be eating garden eggplants soon. for dinner we had noodles mixed with a medley of pork, beef, and garden kale. afterwards my father fixed my 2nd aunt's electric kettle: turns out one of the terminals inside the kettle was loose, which resulted in the heat building up and melting the terminal shrink wrap. my father tightened the terminal connection and the kettle is back to working again.

we waited for the thunderstorms to arrive but it must've skirted by belmont. at most the sky looked threatening and we felt a few drops, but then the sun came out again. it was one of the hottest days but once the storm pass through, temperature suddenly plunged into the lower 80's. when i motorcycled back to cambridge, i noticed a lot of leaves and small branches littering the roads.

it felt like an oven when i came home: 85°F indoors while it was a cool 78°F outside. i went about stationing fans throughout the house, trying to circulate the cool air inside. a package was on my doorstep, my raspberry pi arrived. it wasn't due until the middle of next week at the earliest, so it was a pleasant surprise.

i pieced everything together in the kitchen (also so i can document the unboxing and assembly). i stuck the heat sinks to the chips, then put the board inside of the plastic casing. finally i inserted the 32GB memory card, preloaded with the raspbian OS. i dug out my wired mac keyboard and my usb wireless mouse, and connected the pi to my HDTV. i was worried maybe it wouldn't recognize my input devices (particularly the mouse) but everything worked effortlessly. first time booting, i was asked to install the system. i already input my wifi information, so beside raspbian, it also gave me the option of installing some additional OS's (pulled from the internet), so i decided to include OSMC as well, the open source media center. i waited as it took a little while to install everything. once it finished, it rebooted and gave me the option to choose which OS i wanted to start with, so i picked raspbian.

raspbian felt very much like using a very stripped down version of OS X. a couple of things i noticed: first, the screen size. stretched to 1920x1080 pixels, i had a hard time seeing everything on the screen as every appeared so tiny with so much screen real estate. i can't imagine doing programming at this resolution. then there was the issue of the wrong time in the menubar. i tried to change it and the only thing i managed to do was fix the date and the timezone, but no place to manually adjust the time. i did manage to get my apple bluetooth trackpad and my bluetooth keyboard to pair up with the pi, very easy. raspbian has a barebone browser which was a little slow, so i wanted to see if i could download a better browser. i went to the google chrome website and it identified my system as OS X and allowed me to download a disc image file. that was the extent of it because it couldn't open the dmg.

i then restarted and booted into OSMC. i was underwhelmed by raspbian, but had a better experience with OSMC, which felt like a very sleek media player. it didn't recognize my bluetooth devices, so i was forced to use the wireless mouse, which took some getting used to, especially once i figured out that right click meant return/previous. for some reason OSMC managed to give me the correct time once i selected my timezone. i played some movies from a USB thumb drive, worked effortlessly.

i did feel like after spending all this money for a raspberry pi, i essentially got a glorified media player. i can't imagine programming directly on the pi, since the user experience leaves something to be desired. i think i'm more inclined to develop on my mac and port over to the pi.

later i chatted with alex, who's been doing a lot of network pi stuff recently. he uses it to automate a lot of his online downloading (via newsgroups). i asked him if he was playing pokemon go, which was just introduced to japan this weekend. i told him enough about the game that got him intrigued to possibly try it out.

someone from comcast called me this morning with a deal on internet and cable. i cancelled my cable at the end of june, but apparently comcast wants me back in the fold. i thought it was a scam at first, and almost hung up, but was intrigued by the deal. i currently pay $77 month for internet alone, but the deal they were pitching me was $80/month for faster internet plus 50 cable channels and HBO for one year. it sounded too good to be true, and fortunately this wasn't my first time dealing with a comcast sales representative, and eventually i found out why it was this cheap. so the deal is only good for a year, after which the price goes up by $15 (i somehow doubt that). the 50 channels doesn't include a few like fox sports, so i wouldn't be able to get all my sports. but the deal breaker is the channels are only standard definition, not HD, which costs an additional $10. the fact that they charge people an additional amount for HD is criminal, since most people have HDTV's. the rep didn't tell me this small detail and i had to dig it out myself, and when i called him on it, he agreed with me that the deal wasn't that great after all.

i knew something would go wrong. even if i had all the right tools, removing the old freewheel assembly from the rear bike wheel would require some sort of feat of strength in which i was grossly unqualified for. alas, i didn't even have the right freewheel removal socket tool. i had all the others - cassette removal socket, crankset removal socket - i was just missing the freewheel socket. my immediate reaction was to go online and order another one - about $9 - but decided i'd check at my parents' place first, since that was the last place i saw the freewheel socket (5 years ago).

i bought some clothes online through the gap. they had a 40% off everything sale, i got 2 pairs of shorts, a pair of mustard khakis (not the best color, but they were on clearance, i figured they'd be my everyday pants that i wouldn't have to worry about getting dirty), and a polo shirt.

after finishing a bowl of raisin bran cereal for lunch (i'm on a raisin bran kick all this week), i walked down to the community garden to water my plants...and to play a little pokemon go. it was a hot day, with the official temperature reading for boston at 98°F. i brought my gardening gloves because the dermatitis on my left hand has gotten pretty bad (i broke one of the blisters and now it's oozing) and i want to make sure i don't touch anything that could be causing it, like the rubber handle of the water sprayer.

i left the hose running while i weeded the garden, making sure to give my plot a thorough soaking, so i wouldn't have to come back over the weekend. during my garden visit one of my incubating pokemon eggs hatched, delivering a tentacool, my first.

elsewhere in the community garden:

around 4pm i went to star market to pick up some groceries. in the parking lot i came face to face with a koffing pokemon, which i'd never seen before. i hit it with the pokeball twice before it ran away, i'd never seen that behaviour either. later in the evening i came across a eevee in my living room and that also managed to escape. maybe now that i'm a level 8 catcher, pokemons are becoming harder to catch, and sometimes they might even escape.

for dinner i cooked up the 2 pieces of chicken breast i let defrost in the fridge since this morning. i slathered them with olive oil, kosher salt, and cracked peppers, and grilled them in the foreman. i saved one cutlet but ate the other one as part of my chicken caesar salad.

around 10:30am my father delivered the final piece of my flan order: all my ramekins and a large pyrex dish. i didn't start making the flan until after 12pm (which in hindsight was a mistake). and why was i making flan? because the people my sister is cooking for this weekend requested it. she told me about a few weeks ago and asked if i was willing to make it. she said she could pay me but i told her i'd do it for free.

i'd be making 14 flan (6 for my sister's guests, 8 for myself), and i needed to scale the recipe which is set for 6 servings: 12 eggs, 8.4 cups of milk, 3.5 tsp of vanilla extract, 1.17 cups of sugar, 0.58 tsp of salt, and another 1.17 cups of sugar for the caramel. unfortunately i made a mistake in my math: i only needed 7 cups of milk, so i added 1.4 cups more than i needed.

i did something different this time around: i mixed the eggs with the sugar and salt first, before adding the vanilla and milk. this allows the course texture of the sugar to completely break apart the eggs. usually when i mix everything together, i get little chunks of eggs still floating around; doing it this way ensures the eggs are popularly blended.

mixture blended, ramekins in their hot baths, it was time to make the caramel, half a cup of sugar at a time on medium heat. this is the most difficult part of the recipe, but i've done it enough that i knew what i was doing. i don't want to scorch the sugar, and when i pour the caramel into the ramekins i had to work fast, because it quickly solidifies. and put the pan back on the stove, i make sure to clean the caramel off of the lip where i poured otherwise it could drip to the outside of the pan and scorch that way.

once the caramel layer was in place, it was time to pour in the mixture. i ended up with a lot of leftover mixture, which immediately raised the flag that i miscalculated the portions (and how i found out i added too much milk). i ended up having two large cups of leftovers, which i saved as slightly-unsafe natural egg nog. into the oven went the flan for one hour. it was 1:15pm. all the prep took an hour, so i regret not starting earlier.

one problem with using the oven during the summer is it makes the room even hotter on an already hot day (90's). since i was already heating up the house anyway, i decided to do a load of laundry as well while i preparing the flan.

earlier in the late morning i went outside to move my motorcycle. a small rat greeted me on the sidewalk (at first i thought it was an unusually large mouse). what does it say about the local rat population when rats can be seen in the daytime? it frozen for a split second, surprised by my appearance, then quickly scurried underneath a contractor truck parked outside. 2 rivers was the name, specializing in plumbing repairs. the owner of the truck can out of a house and said hello. i grunted back, still a little dazed by an early morning rat sighting. "nice bike," he said. i asked him if he rides. he told me he owns a harley, and takes it up to maine on a 3+ hour ride to visit his daughter. we got to talking and he told me about his highway crash that happened last october. nothing broken, but he did slide several yards and rashed his arm despite wearing padding. only damaged to his bike was a wobbly brake pedal and a broken tail light. as we left ways, i told him my name. "john," he said referring to himself, "john miller." this makes him the 3rd john miller i know.

while the flan was in the oven, i went to the community garden to water my plants. 4 pokestops along the way, 4 pokestops back. i caught a weedle, a horsea (my first), and two pidgey. i came back right when the first hour was up. i set the timer for another 30 minutes as the flan wasn't done yet, followed by another 30 minutes. during that time, i went out for another walk, this time looping around star market and out to the somerville community garden. just a lot of pokestops, no pokemons, except for a kakuna (my first wild capture, i'd already evolved one earlier) and an oddish. during this time i made it to level 8, and was gifted a lure module, as well as being able to pick up razz berries, which supposed makes it easier to catch pokemons.

after 2 hours of baking, it was time to take out the flan. the 6 flan on the topmost layer were okay, they pass the knife test, but not as burnt as i'd like. the 8 flan on the bottom layer were still a little water, but i can't imagine they need more baking after 2 hours. there was some browning, but not as much as the topmost layer, and none of them had the beautiful golden brown of past flans. i think they'll be a littler watery, but that makes the flan more tender. it's mostly because i added too much milk, which prevented the flan from having a more solid texture. next time, double check the math!

i arrived in belmont by 3:30pm. as is my habit now where ever i go someplace, i open up the pokemon go app to see if there are anything interesting around. i sort of take it for granted that living in the city, with a lot of urban landmarks, there are there plenty of pokestops and gyms. the scene from belmont is slightly different however, essentially dry pokemon town, with the only pokestop and gym found on the cambridge-belmont line. it sucks to be a pokemon go player living in the suburb.

i helped my father finish installing the new fence we started working on yesterday afternoon. there was a small batch of bamboo we still needed to dip up before further lowering the trench and digging out the post hole. what we hadn't planned on was uncovering a bumblebee nest. one of them stung me yesterday, and the back of my hand still hurt. the nest must've been around the fence post and my father and i were both chased out of the area multiple times. finally my father had enough and went inside to get the flyswatter. there was just 2-3 bumblebees to deal with. we managed to swat two which seemed to solve the problem.

next we ran into a second problem: while digging out the bamboo patch, we discovered it's a lot more extensive than what we first thought. there were several strands of underground rhizomes, like buried cables. any other time we might've been tempted to just leave them be and solve the problem through herbicide, but the runners would prevent us from digging our trench, so we had no choice but to pull up all the rhizomes, which turned out to be a lot. the both of us ended up being covered in dirt.

once the bamboos and some random tree roots were dug up, we could finally dig out trench and post hole. we didn't go down far enough because once we installed the fence and saw it from a distance, it's obvious that it's uneven. my father said it was good enough, but i told him if we were going to put in a new fence, we should do it right instead of just good enough. so maybe next week we'll pull out the post and reset the fence so it's more level.

after dinner i helped my mother look for a cheap flight to taiwan for my 2nd uncle who wants to return to taipei next month. when we checked last night there were airfares for as little as $570, but when we checked again tonight, the cheapest fares had all gone up by $200. after a long research, we decided to wait until tomorrow morning, so my mother could buy the ticket with my 2nd aunt present, so we wouldn't have to do it over the phone. i left around 9pm.

packages were waiting for me back at home: the new replacement shimano bicycle freewheel i bought on tuesday ($13.95), and my articulating suction-cup mount from ebay ($2.79 + $1.99 shipping).

i did something later in the evening: using pokevision, i discovered a golbat that i didn't have within a 7 minute walking distance on the somerville side of the track. it was due to despawn in 10 minutes which gave me some time to capture it. so i put on my shoes and ran outside with my phone. what's really surreal is seeing all these other people wandering around outside, looking for pokemons as well. many were in groups, i was the only solo catcher. i went to the designated location but there was nothing there. dejected, i walked home, but not before fighting a gym at the junction of elm and somerville avenue. it lasted only a few seconds, me pitting my CP 237 kingler with some CP 1200+ champion. i thought i was doing pretty well but with a single attack from my opponent i suddenly lost. so much for my first battle! i want to join a gym because it's the only way i can earn pokemon money to upgrade my equipment, but to join a gym i have to rank up and have better fighting pokemons. maybe the life of a gym fighter is not for me. maybe i'm better off just playing the game as a collector. it's also sort of dangerous to be wandering around by myself at night, with my attention buried in my phone.

i ended up ordering a vacuum cleaner online, the shark rocket (HV301) for $127.49 through kohls. shipping was free, but i still had to pay $7.97 for taxes. i ended up paying what i would've paid when the same vacuum was on sale during prime day (actually maybe a bit cheaper). back then i didn't get the vacuum because i didn't like that the cord was retractable. but the shark rocket has so many great reviews, it seems i couldn't go wrong, so when i saw it for sale again, i decided to get one. i've been living with a vacuum in my house and it's a weird feeling. not like i did a lot of vacuuming back when i had a vacuum, but now that i don't have one, it's all i can think about.

still later, i bought a knife on amazon, a kershaw 1605 clash, for $20 (not including taxes). as a guy, i feel like the thing to do is to carry around a knife in your pocket all the time, because you never know when you might need to use it. the only EDC (every day carry) knife i have right now is an old buck knife. it's big and clunky, gets the job done however, but i sort of have a bad history with this knife because it was the same knife that nearly sliced my thumb off. the kershaw clash has an assisted opening which makes it easier to open, and i've heard good things about the company.

today i made it to level 7.

i finally broke and ordered a raspberry pi online. it was $57 on sale (normally $68), and included the newest iteration of the pi (3 model b 2016, cheapest which sells for $36 standalone). packaged by vilros, it also came with a clear plastic case (typically $6, $7 with heat sinks), a 32GB microSDHC memory card (typically $12), a pair of miniature heat sinks, an HDMI cable, and a 2.5A power supply (typically $8-10). the only thing i didn't need was the HDMI cable (i have a bunch already). i actually only paid $28 because i had some amazon points i managed to use up.

after finishing my potato salad for lunch, i rode the trek to market basket in the early afternoon to pick up some groceries. i caught my first spearow in the parking lot. on my way back home i took out my phone to see if i could find any pokestops along the way. biking is the best way to make a lot of grounds in a short time. it's not as easy to pick up pokemons when you're biking - unless they happen to appear right around a pokestop. i noticed it yesterday but i'm beginning to see it more and more, just of people playing pokemon go. the demographics tend to skew young, and at least in camberville young adults. people who are older play in cars, i see plenty of people pulling over to the curb playing with their phones in a way that makes me suspect it's pokemon go. at the beacon street community garden - which happened to be a pokestop - i encountered a scyther. it took a few balls to capture it, but as soon as i did, the server went down and my capture never registered, just a frozen ball.

i live in an area where i'm surrounded by pokestops and gyms, but none close enough that i can tap from my house. the closest pokestops still are about a block away walking. i decided to walk the community garden, which passes no less than 4 pokestops, courtesy of a nearby park and an elementary school. even the garden itself (a public space) is a pokestop. this was actually my first time playing pokemon go while walking (rather than biking). i tried not to look conspicuous, but people who are playing can probably spot other players. i picked up a bunch of pokeballs and eggs, and collected a few more pokemons. i decided to explore a bit more and see if i could circle the block, visiting even more pokestops. that's when i noticed a pokestop radiating confetti, which i learned is what happens when a pokemon lure is activated at a stop. so i turned back, hoping to score some pokemons. i looked around to see who casted the lure but didn't see anyone. there was a metapod and spearow, but i already have them, so i didn't bother collecting.

back at home, i decided to test out a pokemon incense, which apparently attracts pokemons for 30 minutes (unlike a lure, an incense is private). i read that it spawns more pokemons if you're walking compared to if you're just stationary, so i paced around the house, trying to trick the game into thinking i was actually out walking. there didn't seem to be that many pokemons, but i did catch a paras crab and a drowzee. that game me just enough experience points to attain level 5, which i can finally battle at the gyms. i also had to choose my team and i went with blue mystic.

i slept restlessly last night, even saw the sunrise. it had nothing to do with the heat, as it was pleasantly cool in my bedroom with the window open. my nasal cavity seemed clogged even though i was able to breath, like i had something caught in the back of my throat. the obstruction caused me to snore badly enough that i actually heard myself doing it right when i was about to fall asleep and right before i woke up. the snoring sounded like voices, and i thought i was going crazy. i finally got out of bed by 11am.

i installed pokemon go today. i was going to do it last week and i almost did but changed my mind the last minute because it seemed like a silly game. but now that it's at an all-time hype, i wanted to see for myself what all the talk is about. i managed to catch a charmander while using the bathroom. i don't know if i have unlimited pokemon balls because it took a lot of tries before i caught it. i noticed some pokestops nearby, and a few pokemon gyms (weirdly enough, at a fire station).

after a shower, i walked to star market to get a few things for my mother (cherries, corn, crescent roll), before taking the motorcycle to belmont a bit after noontime. my mother was watching the sniffer (russian: nyukhach) on amazon prime, a 2013 ukrainian police procedural about a detective with the superhuman ability to literally sniff out clues. she made some croissant and kielbasa for lunch.

it was a hot day but not as bad as yesterday, with temperature in the 80's and low humidity. i was able to work in the backyard, watering the plants and grass, pruning some lilacs, cutting down a wild elm and some nightshade, and weeding the raised beds.

when my father came home we tested out the transfer pump + battery + solar panel setup. he tried it on his own earlier but couldn't get it to work. we discovered that the transfer pump requires 9A of current (in addition to 12V of DC power). the used motorcycle battery was rated 12V with 12AH (amp-hour). technically, the battery should be able to run the pump for at least an hour. i went ahead and trickle-charged the battery. it completed the charge in a fast 20-30 minutes, which seems like a mistake, so the battery itself might be bad, damaged enough that it can only hold a very small charge.

we plugged in the transfer pump directly to the charged motorcycle battery: it sparked the moment i made contact with the positive lead and the pump began to run. so the battery works! we just don't know how much charge it has before it runs out of juice.

the next step is seeing if we can get the solar panel to charge the battery. at 1.5 watts with about a 200mA, it's essentially a trickle charger so we will forgo using a controller. besides, the amount of power it produces would all be lost if it had to go through a controller first. my father opened the solar panel and cut the led lead to prevent the blinking light from interrupting the power output.

when my father plugged the battery back to the outlet-powered trickle charger, the light was steady red, meaning it was deep charging. my father took that as a good sign but it could also mean that the battery couldn't hold a charge and in just the few seconds we demonstrated running the transfer pump it used up most of its power.

after dinner i motorcycled back to cambridge. i was hoping for a bit of rain today so i could wash the motorcycle (covered in sticky drops of tree sap) but it was another dry day. after taking a quick shower, i ready myself for another episode (2) of the night of. i watched it through hbo go. i tried to play it through my chromecast three times but it crashed out every time, so i ended up watching it streaming from the hbo go website instead.

i found out this morning that the coup in turkey had failed, and the president was back in charge. actually by late last night there were reports that the coup was winding down, and erdogan was already delivering a press conference from the airport. the authorities arrested a bunch of military people involved with the coup, but the weird thing was the report of thousands of judges also arrested. what do the judges have to do with the coup? the president also blamed fethullah gulen as the mastermind behind the failed uprising. gulen is a name i'm familiar with; i first heard it when adelaide mentioned it during one of the meetings i attended with my uncle willy in new york.

as my mother working was this saturday, i decided not to go to belmont today. it was hot anyway, not a good day to be working in the backyard. instead, my father swung by and we went to harbor freight to pick up a DC-powered transfer pump (normally $40, but we had a 20% off coupon). it was much smaller than i expected, but can still siphon 300gph. we also picked up a 1.5watt solar panel ($13), hopefully enough power to charge an old motorcycle battery. afterwards we went to costco to pick up some supplies. costco on a weekend is a nightmare if you hate crowds, particular chinese crowds, of which there were many.

after returning home, i spent some time retightening the rear derailleur cable, before biking down to the garden to water my plants. my repairs were unsuccessful however, and now the chain skips even more than before, so i could hardly ride. my garden seemed okay, but the pepper plants were a little shriveled. i made sure to give it an extra amount of water.

back at home, i spent the rest of the day lounging around the living room with the AC intermittently on and off (i turn it on until the room gets cold, then i turn it back off). for dinner i ate some ramen.

i went down to harvard square to see yulia this morning. i checked her machine, there was nothing suspicious: windows 7 wasn't secretly updating the system in the background, nor was OS X doing the same thing. there were a few updates available for non-essential apps which i allowed the system to update, and i explicitly turned off auto-update in the preference, just to rule out any future surprises. i really didn't have any other answers, i just told yulia to continue using the machine and to remember what she was doing the next time it crashes. she told me she'd take a photo of it with her phone.

my chain was still skipping, even though earlier i tightened the cable. i checked the cable again and noticed there was some slack. i'll have to tighten it again at some point. with batteries fully charged, i reinstalled them back into the fuji wheel lights. i cut strips of foam insulation to use as a bottom layer on the hub before i put in new strip ties and attached the battery packs. i finished by putting away the fuji bike back into the basement, and exchanging it for the air conditioner.

although i can't remember, last year i installed the air conditioner on july 19th, so i'm a few days early this year. typically when the indoor temperature is in the 80's with high humidity, i tend to break down and install the AC. i've had this sharp model for 7 years now, but i hardly use it. i wait until i can barely stand the heat before installing it during the summer, and come labor day, it'll be back in my basement. despite giving me much needed cooling relief, i don't like using the AC for several reasons: it uses a lot of electricity, and the unit is loud. the noise is a major concern on rainy nights, when the rain beats down on the metal back of the AC so hard i can hardly hear anything. this sharp unit is much better than the AC i had before, which still sits in my basement. that one is a steel monster, requiring 2 people to install it, and breaking backs in the process. i really should throw it out, it's just taking up space since i'm never going to use it.

i was expecting a bunch of amazon prime items to arrive today. the only thing that came in the afternoon was a 64GB sandisk microXDHC card ($14.99). i sort of regret not getting the shark rocket handheld vacuum that was on sale during prime day. i didn't like it at the time because it seemed like it'd be heavy and didn't have a retractable cord. it's also one of those products that sells through infomercials, which immediately makes me suspicion. but it has a lot of good reviews online, and i seriously need a vacuum because i don't have one at the moment. i've been researching canisters, and i haven't seen any good ones.

i waited as long as i could for my packages (that didn't come), but finally left for belmont via motorcycle around 4pm. it was too hot to do any yard work so i stayed indoors, enjoying the AC, snacking on my hainan hard candy. during dinner we saw on the news of a coup in turkey, which seemed to overshadow the nice terrorist attack just 24 hours ago. soldiers blocked bridges around istanbul, tanks rolling in the streets, jets screeching above the city, and reports of a siege in ankara. a person can only take so much breaking news these past few weeks before suffering from breaking news fatigue!

after dinner i returned home, eager to play with the presents i was expecting to be waiting for me on my doorstep.

i tried the jbuds earbuds first, which were terrible. i bought a pair before which were excellent, but these new pairs have a terrible cheap sound. next i unpackaged the xtech handheld steam cleaner ($28.75). it resembled a futuristic plastic tea kettle and was smaller than i expected. i followed the directions, making sure i don't accidentally scald myself. it did produce steam, but it couldn't really clean anything, so it's not the miracle cleaning device i thought it'd be. i tried bath tiles, grout, toilet, sink, faucets, nothing seemed cleaner than before. i even tried a stain spot on one of my rugs, which didn't seem to do anything.

i got a solar-powered motion-sensing light. i didn't realize that it doesn't have an off setting. it's either always on (but dim) when it's dark, or super bright for 30 seconds when it detects motion. i rather have something that's dark and then turns on when there's motion. i'll probably give it to me parents to hang in their backyard; i can't really use it anyway because my backyard is so shady.

finally, i tried the goertek laser distance measure ($37.59). it's brand i never heard of before, and the same model sells as several other brands as well, which is typical for generic chinese-marketed devices. despite such a nameless pedigree, the laser measure works quite well. it looks like a thick nokia cell phone. i got the 60m which is almost 200 feet. originally i was going to get the 40m version (131 ft), but for a few dollars more i could measure a longer distance so i upgraded. for laser measurers, the more you spend, the longer the measuring distance. i thought 60m was a respectable distance, but on the box there were checkboxes for other models with even longer distances, the maximum being 150m (nearly 500 ft). besides length, it can also measure area and volume, as well as trigonometric measurements. the trigonometric features is the one i find most interesting, because i can use it to find the height of trees by measuring the hypotenuse and the base (to the tree). i look forward to finding out the height of certain neighborhood trees!