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it was snowing again this morning. i knew it was coming but i was still surprised when i looked out the living room window and saw everything covered in white. apparently this snow is supposed to dump 8-12" in the boston area. unfortunately we have another family dinner scheduled for tonight (a birthday dinner actually, celebrating the shared birthday between my aunt and my father). i thought maybe it might get postponed to another day, but my mother seemed insistent that it happen tonight, snow be damned.

even more of a surprise? a rare occasion when my upstairs neighbor steve (must've took the day off) came downstairs to shovel the sidewalk! perhaps there's hope for him after all, it's the neighborly thing to do after i shoveled all of last winter and most of this winter (the limited snow we've gotten).

the leaking toilet input valve seemed to be fixed for the time being, as i didn't notice anymore wet spots on the floor. it always gives me a special feeling when i can fix something in the house and not have to call in a professional. there really isn't too many things that can go wrong with a house that you can't do yourself. over time, things have a tendency to break around the house, and as a good homeowner, you have to be able to fix them. but there are always room for improvement, and sometimes the best way to learn is when something actually breaks and you're forced to deal with it.

my parents came to pick me up around 2:30pm. they were going to restaurant depot in everett to pick up some cafe supplies (mostly coffee beans) then go straight to bin bin's apartment (in revere). dinner wouldn't be until 6:30pm so there's be plenty of time for chatting beforehand. i was unaware how cold it was outside (later i found out it was 20°F, 14°F wind chill). typically during a snowstorm the temperature hovers around the freezing mark. the cold temperature could explain the consistency of the snow, which was a dry powder. there wasn't all that much snow on the ground either especially blown away by the winds. so much for the prediction of a foot of snow! a lot of people still heeded the forecast because there doesn't seem to be too many people out. passing by the assembly square shopping plaza, the parking lot was virtually empty even though the stores were still opened. and when we finally arrived at restaurant depot, it was empty too. so empty in fact that the place was pleasantly calm (normally it's a flurry of u-boat carts and forklifts) and most of the cargo handlers were just lounging around.

at binbin's place my parents chatted with zhangyu and his wife. their whole family had just woken up from their afternoon nap/jetlag sleep. zhang zilang was still at work. we ate snacks (roasted peanuts, watermelons, chinese new year candy) and drank good chinese tea. at 6pm we left for the restaurant. lili and matthew were already there, and my sister had just arrived at the restaurant as well. it was just a few miles away, but with the snow still falling, everyone drove carefully.

the restaurant was the flaming grill & buffet in revere (across from suffolk downs), which binbin and zhangzilang had only recently discovered. actually, the day her parents arrived in boston, they brought them here, but they didn't eat much because they were still groggy from the long plane ride.

buffet restaurants seem to be doing big business these days, i see them more and more. it makes sense, in times of economic hardship, that people value a good bargain. but when you place more importance on quantity, quality can suffer, and typically buffet food isn't that good (and sometimes it can be downright terrible). on the one spectrum you have places like tin tin (brighton) and old country buffet (watertown); these places are okay but i always feel sad and slightly sick after a visit. on the other end, there's maki maki (brighton) and minado (natick); my favorite is maki maki, but it's more expensive at $30/person for dinner. flaming grill by comparison is much cheaper, only $13/dinner (slightly more on weekends).

the place is actually not too bad for a $13 buffet. there was a lot of selection, a fusion of western, asian, and latin american, catering to the diverse revere demographics. granted, the ingredients aren't as fresh as a place like maki maki, but also bear in mind you're only paying 1/3rd the price. there were lots of tables, and even a function room big enough for probably 100 people, which was where we ate, along with a hispanic family celebrating a child's birthday. the tables were long, and we ended up sitting awkwardly where people were far apart from one another, which made it hard to chat.

my mother ate with an air of dissatisfaction, complaining about the ingredients, until i told her how inexpensive the place was, and then she quickly changed her tune. for $13/person/dinner, you can't get a better buffet than this, which says a lot.

as this wasn't my first buffet, i paced myself accordingly. actually, i hardly ate anything today, just a pickle and some tabouli salad with melba toast. my first plate was a lot of meats, all sorts of chicken and barbecue and some seafood. next plate was all the things i missed the first time around (fried shrimps, coconut shrimp, plantain, breaded fish fillet, calamari, raw oyster, octopus, cream puff) plus a bowl of sweat & sour soup. third plate i had to change it up, give my stomach time to rest, so i went with salad, some sushi, and a piece of chinese wing. by then i was winding down, and went for a plate of fruit, followed by some ice cream.

all and all, a pretty good dinner. zhangzilang joined us for dinner after 7pm when he got off from work. we finally finished eating by 8:30pm, 2 hours after we arrived. my sister and lili and matthew went home afterwards, but i went with my mother to the dollar tree next door to do some shopping. i was looking for some more slinkies, but didn't find any. as my father wasn't familiar with the area, zhangzilang drove back to their apartment and we followed him (binbin and her parents behind us).

my evening wasn't over yet, as we went to the cafe so my father could take care of my grand uncle while i cleaned the snow off the sidewalk. i didn't want to use the blower because it seemed like a hassle, and there wasn't a lot of accumulation anyway, around 2" at most. so i used the shovel instead. it took longer than i expected, around 40 minutes, and by the end i was pretty sweaty and exhausted. next time, i'll definitely use the blower, regardless of the snow amount. i could've cleared the sidewalk with the snowblower in 10 minutes what took more nearly an hour by hand.

afterwards my parents dropped me off back at home. it was around 9:40pm. after i settled in for the evening, mary came out of her bedroom, seemingly concerned. she asked if her staying here next month presented any problems for me. i told her no. she told me not to hesitate if i had any concerns. i said okay. weird.

somewhere in china people are celebrating chinese new year's eve this morning. or as they call it, "the spring festival." having not really grown up with any chinese new year tradition, this particular holiday doesn't really register with my family.

we are however still having a dinner, but more in celebration of the arrival of our shenyang relatives (they got here friday afternoon in the middle of the storm) than anything to do with the spring festival. as the name implies, the new year marks the beginning of chinese spring (in accordance with the lunar calendar), despite the fact that february is still considered winter in these here parts. it was just last february when boston experienced the majority of its epic snow dumps, pushing us into the record books, the envy of far away acquaintances who wish they could be here to experience all that snow, but in fact, once you're experiencing it, all you can think about is not experiencing it anymore.

family dinners can be stressful (which is why my sister has decided to forgo as many as possible, which is her coping mechanism, by running away), but i think made more so by the fact that my father has decided to invite some additional guests who are not family members. all i want to do is put my head down and eat and have enough time to go home and watch the superbowl, which coincidentally enough, is also happening on chinese new year's eve this year.

the superbowl is different when the hometown team isn't playing for another chance to win a ring. watch it or don't, it really doesn't matter all too much to me, but i like to see it anyway, just for the spectacle. i am not buying into the NFL hype machine though, and will not watch any of the pregame shows. between the broncos and the panthers, who do i root for? a bronco victory would be a great story, especially if peyton manning does decide this is his last season. but maybe a victory might stir those competitive juices, and maybe he wants to come back again for a a repeat (limited only by the expiration date on his aging body). a denver win also means new england was beaten by the eventual champions, and there's no shame in that. on the other hand, i'd like to see carolina win as well, because cam newton is also a great story. this seems like their year. if it wasn't for that one lose to the redskins, maybe they go perfect. although a loss might put some humility in their steps, as there dominance had bred a feeling of arrogance, warranted or not. but the perfect scenario? both teams end up losing, it's a terrible game, and decided in overtime on some stupid technicality. everyone goes home unhappy, as new england licks its chops anticipating the beginning of next season.

i took a wrench to the toilet inlet valve, to try and stop the leaking. it's nothing i can't fix, but a nuisance. if i'm lucky, a slight turn of the wrench will fix the leak. if i'm unlucky, i'll need to replace the valve altogether, which i've done in the past. it made it better, but there was still a bit of leak, so i turned the valve nut a little bit more with the wrench.

by 4:40pm mary still wasn't home yet. my shenyang relatives were already at the cafe since 3:30pm. i couldn't wait anymore since i planned on arriving at the cafe by 5pm, and it takes 30 minutes to walk down there. so i sent mary a text message saying i was about to leave and gave her the address so she could get there on her own. but just when i was about to leave she came home.

while walking down to the cafe, mary asked me about US taxes. she was surprised that different states have different sales tax, and sometimes cities themselves can impose additional taxes. there are also property taxes which doesn't seem to exist in china. she asked if california was a richer state because when she lived there as a graduate student, she noticed many people had pools in their backyards.

the reason why we were having hot pot at the cafe was to accomodate my grand uncle, to have it at a venue closer to his house. we split into 2 tables, one all spicy, one half spicy half normal. i set up the SJ4000 to capture a time lapse of dinner. my sister was here in the early goings but predictably left once we began eating. my 2nd uncle opted out as well, didn't even make an appearance. my grand uncle came by for half an hour before my father took him back to the house.

around 6pm i began to slip intermittently into the backroom to watch the superbowl on the old analog tv hooked up to a digital receiver box attached to a massive homemade HD antenna. everyone finally started leaving by halftime. mary and i walked back to our place. she did a small load of laundry, but went to sleep with the dryer running. i hope she can sleep through all that noise!

i missed the halftime show and downloaded it while watching the 2nd half of the superbowl. it turned out as well as could be, according to my criteria: an ugly game that appeared both teams were losing, resulting in a lackluster victory that will easily be forgotten. broncos won, but primarily due to its defense. the panthers seemed like paper tigers. it makes me feel that the AFC is the stronger conference. cam newton imploded, and hopefully peyton manning retires afterwards.

i slept late this morning, knowing that i didn't have anything going on today. but i was sort of afraid to get up, in case i might run into mary, and what she might think, seeing me waking up so late. fortunately she wasn't home, having left early for the harvard library again. in this regard she is an ideal roommate.

my sister was coming by to give me a ride to belmont around noontime, so i had over an hour to get ready. all was well until i flushed the toilet and heard an unusual sound coming from the tank, like the sound you hear when you rub a balloon. i then spent the next 15 minutes trying to get rid of it, not realizing how cold the tank water was, and not being able to feel my fingers afterwards.

outside the house waiting for my sister to arrive, i had enough time to shovel the slush off the sidewalk. i did a pretty good job yesterday, but all this new accumulation was due to the falling snow and ice from the tree branches above. in fact, it was actually pretty treacherous, and the sound of falling pellets can be heard everywhere, hitting the sidewalk, pedestrians, cars, etc.

when my sister arrived, i made her stop at star market so i can get some tzatziki. she went across the street to petsi's pie to get some things. riding in her car, we kept getting bombarded with ice pellets.

my mother told me there was a lot of bird activity this morning, as they all came out for food from the feeders. she saw also a squirrel get to the suet feeder, which she quickly scared away. i saw a lot of birds too, and in their desperation for sustenance after the winter storm, a lot of big-sized birds were awkwardly getting to the globe feeder, including cardinals and juncos. of course the globe feeder is the natural feeding station for chickadees, who had no problems picking out the seeds. down on the ground were less inventive juncos, pecking in the snow. i throw out a handful of seeds just so they'd have something to eat. as usual, downy woodpeckers frequented the suet feeder. a new visitor today, for a few seconds i saw a house finch visit the globe feeder. my mother saw it too but she thought it was just a sparrow, but i recognized the characteristic reddish head.

i demonstrated to my father using the ampere app on my android phone that different usb cables (brand, length) can affect the current. using my oneplus one, i was getting 100mA using a short nokia charging cable, but around 50mA and less with a discounted 6ft braided cable i got off of ebay. but when my father used his coolpad F1 8297, he was getting a rating of around 800mA, regardless of cable used. he thought the problem had something to do with the micro usb charging port on my phone. using a can of compressed air and a toothpick, he managed to clean a mess of lint trapped in the port. after that i was getting a charge current of 250-300mA. i may delay my purchase of new charging cables for the time being, see how a cleaned up charge port on my phone might perform in the coming days.

after dinner my father dropped me off back in cambridge. before i even stepped inside, i dropped off my things and picked up a shovel to clean up a thick layer of ice on the sidewalk in front of the house. why did paul or steve clean this up while i was gone? i guess they think it's my job to do all the cleaning around here. snow removal. trash disposal. stain the deck. and when something goes wrong, the first thing they do is blame me. like when their furnace was turned off a few days ago. steve immediately sent me an e-mail asking if i was doing anything in the basement. i wrote him back that they just had there gas meter replaced and possibly the nstar technician forgot to turn their furnace back on. or when the water pressure gets low, i can expect an e-mail asking me if i'm doing anything suspicious downstairs. the only suspicious thing i'm doing is hoping the both of them will die soon! of course new tenants might be worse, especially if they have kids. maybe i should appreciate the lesser of two evil upstairs neighbors.

anyway, because nothing was done during the daytime, all that snow and ice on the sidewalk were frozen solid and there wasn't much i could do but sprinkle some melting pellets. inside the house all the kitchen lights were on but through the back door window i could see mary inside cooking so that was okay.

mary and i were just chitchatting, she told me she'd brought some dessert to bring to the chinese new year dinner tomorrow night. then she said something about photography, said she saw my dSLR in the living room. she asked if there'd be any photography at the dinner, but she sort of answered her own question and said of course there would be since we had special china relatives coming, but then she asked if we could not take any photos of her. i thought that was a strange request, it's one thing to be camera shy, but another to tell people what they can or can't do at their own dinner party that you're an invited guest to (and a last minute pity invite at that). the strange thing was, she kept repeating her request again and again, like it was something that was eating her away, and unless i agreed to her terms, she wasn't going to let up. the strangest thing was later she came out of her room and handed me an orange (it was rotten on one side, she didn't notice), but then out of nowhere added, "tomorrow, can you not take any photos of me?" with a nervous laugh. there's something not quite right about her.

i got my hands on a digital copy of eutopia by david nickle and i've been reading it the past few days. it's gotten some great reviews, the author compared to the likes of horror masters stephen king and clive barker. it's the sort of book that's hard to put down and i find myself stealing away whenever i have the chance to read a few more chapters. one of the protagonists, a 1911 black doctor named andrew waggoner - reminds me of doctor algernon edwards from the knick. the story touches on eugenics, racism, early 20th medicine (a horror in itself), mountain people, and strange things lurking in back woods forest. i'd recommend it to any horror fans, especially lovecraftian horror, for which this novel bears the most resemblance to. i can't wait to read more of david nickle's works.

while preparing for bed, i noticed the toilet was leaking. not from the tank itself, but from the inlet valve. i must've loosen something when i turned it earlier trying to fix the toilet tank sound. it wasn't leaking a lot, but leaking nevertheless. something about this feels familiar, like it's happened in the past and i managed to fix it. i wiped the small pool of water from the floor; maybe it's only temporary and by tomorrow it'll have fixed itself.

the original plan was to walk down to the cafe sometime in the late morning to do some snow shoveling. but when i woke up at 9am and saw that there was hardly any snow on the ground, i called my mother to let her know i'd wait until there was more accumulation. my father was itching to use the snowblower and was waiting for me to arrive, but i told my mother to give him the go ahead to plow without me.

when the phase shift finally arrived - transitioning from rain to snow - it came down with quite a force. i went out in the early afternoon to shovel my own sidewalk. as soon as i was finished, all my hard work was covered up by a fresh layer of snow. it wasn't just the sidewalk, as my entire jacket was encased in snow as well. the trick seemed to be to shovel multiple times in order to keep the walk clean. the only way to do that was to go out every few hours.

i finished the last of my chicken sausage for lunch mixed up in some oatmeal.

i noticed something unusual today: all the local female news anchors and meteorologists were wearing red dresses. could it be just coincidence? or maybe people subliminally associate the color red with snowstorms?

i also watched a flock of robins taking shelter in my backyard. there have been winters where robins were everywhere, but not this winter. i hardly ever see a robin these days. but apparently they're still around. they look sort of pretty, all puffed up to stay, with their red breast, white eye rings, and yellow bills.

by 1pm i finally decided to walk down to the cafe, which would take half an hour. i wore a pair of snow pants that my father gave me last night; they were a bit long so i rolled them up over my rain boots. i had my dSLR camera out, hoping there'd be some great photo opportunities, but it still managed to get soaked, despite the umbrella. snow was flying everywhere, it was impossible to stay dry. and when i did find time to shoot, either the viewfinder or my glasses would fog up, or the front of the lens would be wet. it was not good photo taking weather; better to wait when the snow stops. kind of shame, because it was definitely beautiful, with trees coated in layers of wet snow.

when i finally arrived at the cafe, i looked like a mess, covered in snow, jacket soaking wet. as my father has just plowed the sidewalk a second time, i waited around for enough accumulation before going outside to do some plowing.

around 2:30pm i went out so my father could show me how to use the snowblower. i've used it before, so this was just a review. this was the blower with the rubber paddles, a smaller one compared to the bigger blower with the metal blades (which we haven't used yet this winter). the snow was a bit too slushy and had a tendency to get stuck in the chute. it seemed like it'd be easier to just push the snow with a shovel. when the snowblower was working however, it made quick work of the accumulation.

i left sometime after 4pm. the sidewalk needed another run through from the snowblower, but i left it up to my father. i wanted to get back home before it got dark, as there was still a 30 minute walk.

as i got close to home, the storm finally let up. the sun broke out, lighting up the tree tops in a golden hue. as it was approaching sunset, the sky changed into soft pastel colors like something out of a maxfield parrish painting.

of course my good-for-nothing upstairs neighbors didn't shovel the sidewalk while i was gone. i dropped off my things and then outside to clean up. it wasn't very hard, as the snow was still very slushy, and wasn't sticking to anything yet. many other neighbors were out shoveling as well. everyone would stop intermittently to admire the sunset and the snow, and to take photos with their phones.

mary came home while i was still in the shower around 6pm. she told me she was going to go take an evening nap, wake up a few hours later to make herself lunch for tomorrow. i busied myself with my spaghetti recipe. i'd gone out earlier to grab a box of noodles and an onion. when i returned i realized instead of spaghetti noodles i accidentally bought a box of linguine noodles.

i have a fairly simple spaghetti sauce recipe that requires only 4 ingredients: onion, garlic, ground beef, and a jar of tomato sauce (any flavor). i cook the chopped onion and garlic first (in a bit of olive oil) until they're soft, then i add the ground beef. i wait until the beef is nearly fully cooked (scooping out some reduced beef fat in the process) before adding the tomato sauce. of course i can also dress it up a bit, like add some italian spices (basil, oregano, parsley) and a dash of red wine. the sauce was a little sour at first, but after i cooked everything on a slow simmer for half an hour, all the flavors fused together for a nice sweetness.

mary woke up around 8pm, while i was boiling my pasta. she only got up to use the bathroom, and went back to bed. but before she did however, she poked her head out from her bedroom and asked if i could please turn down the volume of the tv in the living room. in all the times i'd had roommates, i've never once had a noise complaint until tonight. i'm typically very considerate when it comes to tv sounds, but in my defense, i also don't have roommates who take evening naps. i agreed to the turn the volume down, but it left bitter taste in my mouth that will only be fixed once mary moves out.

originally i cooked just 1/4 of the linguine, as that was for 2 servings, but it seemed too little, so i used half the box, which was 4 servings. my eyes were probably bigger than my stomach because that turned out to be too much pasta. it was delicious for the first half of dinner, but by the end i hit a food wall, despite finally finishing everything. pasta - though great - leaves me feeling bloated and gassy.

i was surprised this morning to see snow in the weather forecast for tomorrow. a few days ago it seemed like a non-event, but now this storm might dump 3-6" of wet snow in boston. it didn't seem to make much sense, since the temperature today was in the upper 50's, but here in new england you sort of get used to unexpected weather.

my immediate thoughts were to the supermarket, to pick up a few things before the snow arrived (since i wouldn't be able to easily travel by bike afterwards). but when i spoke to my mother, she said they were heading down to market basket after work, and i could get a ride with them. so i decided to wait.

that was before i received an e-mail from REI letting my know that my items were ready for pickup at their boston store. i had exactly an hour before my parents' arrival, which was enough time for me to race down to fenway and back on bike. with snow coming, this might be the last time i can ride into boston for the coming days.

so i rode into boston, which took about 25 minutes. i brought my bungie netting, which i used to tie the box to the rear rack. it then took another 25 minutes to get back to cambridge. i immediately called my mother to let her know i was back home. i then took the bike helmet out of the box and tried it on. it felt a little small! but bern helmets seem to only come in two sizes: S/M and L/XL. i decided to try the helmet again later, as my heart was still beating fast from racing back home. i also tried out the new bike lock, the abus ugrip 585 chain (75cm). i really like that it's easy to lock, and then takes a key to open. it has a self-rated security level of 5 out of 15. i intend to use it with my fuji bike, on the rare occasion when i park it outside or elsewhere.

market basket wasn't as crazy as you'd expect, given that it was the day before a snowstorm. but maybe later when folks start getting out from work, this place will get mobbed. my parents showed up with bags of drink cans to be deposited. after we finished shopping, we stopped by the cafe to unload the supplies, before heading to belmont.

i tried the bern brentwood helmet again. it was a snug fit, and even tighter on my father's head. it fit my mother perfectly though, which was a surprise, because i always assumed she had a bigger head. i told her she could keep it but she didn't want it. the more i tried the helmet though, the looser it felt. i think i will keep it after all.

my father and i tried to fix the broken electric kettle. it heats fine, but won't automatically shut off once the water is boiling. the problem is pretty simple, the thermal cutoff fuse needs to be replaced. however, we can't seem to find it, and as i've already ordered a new electric kettle, it's not worth it trying to fix it. maybe i'll try taking the old kettle apart once the new one arrives. it maybe also be a problem with the bimetallic thermostat disc, and that whole assembly can be purchased online for a few bucks (from china).

i got a ride back to my place after dinner, as my father was going to visit my grand uncle afterwards. we made plans for me to come by the cafe tomorrow morning to shovel the snow. as it will be too treacherous for biking, i will have to walk it, a 25 minute trek (1.2 miles), maybe longer in the snow. it might make for some good photo ops.

a day of rain kept me confined to the house. i was hoping to work on some projects, but the only thing i managed to do was to update some weblog postings from last week. i had planned on doing some behind-the-scene code work for the weblog itself (like fix the archive indexing feature), but didn't have the time. harvard sent me an e-mail today, officially notifying me that i'm out of the running for that part-time museum cataloging job.

for lunch i had some oatmeal, for dinner a can of soup. mary came home late, around 6:30pm (normally she's back by 5pm). her question for me today was if i knew how to recover a document on her computer that might've gotten corrupted after she closed her laptop. it was something she'd been working on for the past few days, and she didn't have a backup. i told her i'd take a look at it but she never did get back to me. after she ate dinner, she showered, then cooked something for tomorrow's lunch. i was surprised to find her already asleep by 9pm.

the nstar technician from 2 days ago came back again. apparently my upstairs neighbors were getting their gas meter replaced as well. they could've told me about it since i started to smell gas afterwards. i know it's a natural temporary side effect of replacing the meter, but had i not known, i could've panicked and called the fire department.

i bought a USB tester tonight. i was going to get it off of amazon.com, but i found the same tester (at least it looked the same) on ebay for less than half the price. the only downside is that it's coming from china so could take 2-3 weeks to arrive at the earliest.

i biked to michael's store in the morning to pick up the macbook pro. he suggested a few potential glasses frames for me, even though he sort of figured i still like my old frames, which i've had for two prescriptions that spanned almost a decade. he let me borrow a pair of durable plastic frames (they feel like sports goggles) to try out at home.

i stopped by the rite aid on my way home. there wasn't anything i needed in particular, i just had to get some change for a $20. i left with altoids and coolmints.

i was only at home for a few minutes before going back out again, this time to beacon hill to pick up the wifi router. it seemed a lot farther than i'd imagined, but i figured it was good exercise. the temperature was in the lower 50's, i only wore a hooded sweatshirt, a little cool at first, but i warmed up quickly enough.

when i arrived at s russell street at noon i called the seller but there was no answer and it went to voicemail. i then texted the seller, but there was no response as well. i was starting to get the feeling that this was a no-show, when i finally got a text message back. jen said she just saw my message and would be right down. i waited for several more minutes, still not certain this was going to be a successful craig's list buy. finally she came out, an asian girl. more often than not, most of the craig's list sellers i've dealt with have been asian. i didn't even inspect the box, i gave her $10 and went on my way.

i got back at 12:30pm. the lock felt a little funny, and when i came inside i noticed my roommate's shoes were in the foyer, which meant she was home. our social contract stipulates that during the day she won't be home so i can have my quiet time. if she's going to be the sort of roommate who's coming in and out, then that's not something i'm going to like.

mary decided not to go to class today because she received an e-mail regarding filing US taxes and it left her completely anxious. i asked her if she was receiving any stipends or grants or salary from harvard; she said no, that all her money comes from china. i told her in that case she doesn't have to file any taxes. but she didn't seem to believe me, so i told her to ask some of her other visiting scholar associates. she was eating her rice porridge mixed with fish heads and the smell was distractingly disgusting. later she went to her room to take a nap it seems. i quietly slipped away.

i went down to the cafe to install the new tplink router (replacing an old belkin). earlier i'd changed the settings (wifi network name, LAN address, forwarding ports), to make it an easier switch. i did have to shuffle some of the forwarding port numbers for the wifi cameras, but after a reset, everything worked fine. i'm starting to get the hang of this router setup thing!

i returned home around 4pm. i put my bike away in the basement since rain was forecasted for tomorrow. mary was gone again (from the fact that her shoes were gone). she did come back around 5pm, still worried about her taxes. she showed me the form they asked her to fill out: the 8843 statement for exempt individuals and individuals with a medical condition. for use by alien individuals only.

i got a postcard in the mail, the one WWY sent me from sri lanka. she probably did it on purpose, but the postcard featured ancient murals of topless asparas. in return, i sent her a postcard from NYC last week.

mary also came home with some groceries, and bought a package of bacon she wanted to cook. bacon is my kitchen nightmare. the oil splatter, the smoking, and then having to vent everything out with multiple fans. the way i was talking about it, she thought it'd be too much of a hassle and said she could just boil the bacon instead. you do not boil bacon. so i insisted she fry her bacon, just under my supervision so i could make sure she didn't make a complete mess of my house. it was a warmish day anyway (50's) so the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors wasn't that great (worst is kitchen venting on a cold winter's day, letting all the hot air out). i suggested she buy ham next time, since ham comes precooked.

mary is a terrible cook, or maybe just not used to our gentle american cooking style (traditional chinese cooking is oily smoky stirfry). she tried to keep the splatter down to a minimum, but bacon grease was still getting everywhere, especially whenever she flipped the bacon strips with her chopsticks. if i didn't supervise, she would've never known to use the mesh splatterguard, nor not to dump the bacon grease into the sink (instead pour it in an oil refuse can for later disposal). i don't think her family does much cooking at home, preferring to eat out instead, since food is cheaper in china, especially street food which can be found anywhere urban. she also seemed impatient, and complained that frying the bacon was a waste of time. the bacon she bought - some star market brand - wasn't that good. or maybe it just wasn't salty enough, since all good bacon has a high level of fat and sodium. maybe one day i might treat her to some good bacon, but i also don't want to encourage her to cook more bacon. hopefully she learned this lesson tonight.

later in the evening i bought a bern brentwood bike helmet on sale from REI for $24. it's to replace the giro bike helmet i have now which i purchased used from a 2009 garage sale (i believe $2) and that i've paired up with a baseball cap so i could have a visor. the old helmet's a little beat up and doesn't quite fit like it used to. also if i get a cool helmet, i might wear it more often (even though i'm pretty much a helmet convert nowadays after my most recent bike accident). my only concern is the overstock bern cames in just S/M size, but hopefully it'll fit. i also got an ABUS ugrip 585 chain lock for $11.

for lunch and dinner i heated up the leftover pizza from yesterday. i used a frying pan to bring back some of that crispiness, but it left a slightly burnt smell in the house.

it was almost 11am when the nstar technician called me to let me know she was coming. i was afraid they'd forgotten about me, since i've been waiting since 8am. i'd never met a female technician before. i saw her pull up down the road and went out to make sure she knew the right house. she was making another phone call so i pointed to her where i was. she unloaded a new gas meter from the back of her truck and i took her to the basement where the old gas meter was. replacing it was easy, just turn off the gas inlet pipe, then unscrew the two meter pipes that fed gas into the house. the inlet pipe was easy to turn, but the two pipes on the meter were harder to remove. she ended up climbing onto a folding chair armed with her big-sized wrench.

the old meter came off, along with two old rubber gaskets. she replaced the gaskets before attaching the new meter. before the pipes were completely closed, she turned on the gas line. i thought that was a little weird because soon i started smelling gas, but the reason why she did that was to force the oxygen out of the meter, before she finally sealed everything tight. she had a container of soap water she smeared on the pipe connections to see if there were any leaks. afterwards she went to my hot water tank and turned back on the pilot light.

i noticed she set my hot water setting to B, which seemed to be the wrong setting. sure enough, back upstairs, when i turned on the water, it was much hotter than normal. after researching what setting i used to have it set to, i went back downstairs and set the water temperature to a smidgen lower than A. that way the hot water is always the right temperature and i never need to adjust it with the cold water. plus, it savings on the hot water heating utility bill.

for lunch i made some savory oatmeal with chicken sausage, washed down with some concentrated orange juice.

it was warm enough today (67°) that i opened my back door as as well as some windows to air out the house. imagine airing out the house the first day of february! definitely an unusually warm winter for sure.

my mother called me in the afternoon to let me know they were going supply shopping, particularly to buy all the necessary ingredients for a chinese new year hot pot dinner they were having this sunday. i ended up going with them. first stop was costco, followed by the 88 supermarket in malden. we didn't start heading back until 5pm. the traffic wasn't too bad. we stopped off at the cafe to unload everything before returning to belmont. i ordered some pizza from the car. after dropping off my mother, my father and i went to go pick up our order.

watching WCVB news, they announced a new addition to their lineup: maria stephanos, former news anchor from FOX25! she will co-anchor the 7pm and 11pm news, as well as a new 10pm news broadcast on MeTV. i wonder how heather unruh nd JC monahan are taking the news.

back at home, mary wasn't cooking something in her slow cooker for a change. however, there was large radius of thick oil splatter all around the stovetop. i cursed quietly to myself as i cleaned everything off before finally settling in for the evening. later mary came out of her bedroom to pay the rent for this month. she was asking me how long she could stay. i told her 3 months for the time being. she also asked if i was leaving the country. who said anything about leaving the country? my father asked me that tonight too, so many at one point he told mary that i'd be going to china at some point. i told her i wasn't planning on leaving anytime soon. what i didn't tell her was after living with her for about 2 weeks, i don't trust her cleanliness enough to leave the whole house to herself.

i found a craig's list seller in beacon hill trying to get rid of a tp-link TL-WR841N wireless router for only $10. i've been trying to find a simple router to replace the aging belkin at the cafe. the TL-WR841N is a good bargain (sells on amazon for just $20) but i've already bought two of these in the past to replace bad routers (10/2014, 11/2014), and i wanted to find something slightly better this time around with more features. but a $10 router is hard to pass up, so i decided to get it. i'm scheduled to meet the seller tomorrow at noontime.

even though i was looking forward to a good night of sleep, i still woke up about the same time as yesterday morning when SM texted me to chat. i won't be able to sleep late tonight either since i need to wake up early for a gas meter replacement appointment. mary had already left for school. walking around the kitchen, i noticed several new oil drip spots on the floor that i had to clean before i went to go use the bathroom and take a shower. for once i'd like to have a roommate where i wasn't constantly cleaning up after.

today's local temperature reached as high as 59°F. i find it very hard to believe that we will get any significant amount of snow this winter given that there's only one month left in the season and it's been so unusually warm. sometime after noontime i biked to belmont. my mother made some eggs and venison sausage, as well as some biscuits that ended up scorching on the bottom because she used the toaster oven.

not too much activities on the feeders, a male down woodpecker came to the suet cage, and i saw a chickadee visit the globe feeder. the squirrel came back again and managed to get at the suet; so far it's seemed to have avoided the globe feeder, which is actually much easier to break in, with an easier cache of seeds. i think the slinky pole setup i have for the globe feeder is just too advanced for the squirrels.

my parents were watching the godfather epic on HBO last night. i replaced the last 2 hours for my mother who hadn't finished watching it, and then replayed the movie all over again because she'd missed the beginning.

after dinner i helped my father order some supplies from vitalitymedical.com for my grand uncle: 2 boxes of ensure clear therapeutic nutrition drinks (apple and mixed berry flavors), urinary leg bags, and some urinary drainage bags. i then biked back to cambridge. mary asked me if she could use my rice cooker, as her slow cooker was making some stew, something she does every single night.

this morning at 8:30am i heard mary working the microwave in the kitchen. because i still don't know her schedule yet, i didn't know when to turn on the heat, so i turned it on manually from my bedroom with my phone. i then go out of bed to show her the bike she'll be riding later today. she was going to come around noontime but better to do it in the morning so she won't need to do it later. soon afterwards she left for the library and i had the house all to myself.

i ate the last of my tea egg for breakfast. i finally wrote an e-mail to my upstairs neighbors telling them about my new tenant. i wonder what they must be thinking, that i seem to have a neverending series of academics living at my place, from both china and europe. around noontime i rode the fuji bike to belmont.

i didn't feel well today. i woke up with a twisted pain in my neck from reading in bed with a short charging cable attached to my phone. and the headaches came back, the ones that sort of sit behind the back of my eyes. maybe i still haven't recovered fully from my NYC trip. i wasn't hungry when i got to my parents place but my mother still made some belgian waffles with the remaining waffle batter mix.

at least i seem to be getting some neck relief: my package of 2m long micro USB charging cables from monoprice. at just 75¢ a piece they were a real bargain for thick 28/28 AWG variety.1 though purchased from monoprice, they don't seem to be monoprice-branded cables. i did some research later and discovered branded cabled with 22/30 WG (select) and 23/32 AWG (premium) wire gauges. i'll see how these work out. if they end up failing as well (like all the USB cables i've purchased in the past), i maybe need to buy an additional set of cables of even better quality.

feeling tired, i took a nap in my sister's old room around 4:30pm, waking up at 6pm, feeling even groggier than before. hailey was searching for me to feed her, but my mother ended up providing that service. after dinner i biked home around 7pm.

mary was home (naturally), the kitchen lights turn on again. she told me about her bike trip to haymarket today with her friend. she bought a lot of different fruits and wanted to share them with me. i finally asked her if she could keep the kitchen lights off when she's not using them. turns out she leaves them on for safety reasons, which i think is crazy, but i think she'll keep them off now.


1 after some more research, i discovered that 28/28 is the standard. actually, in terms of wire gauge, the smaller number means a thicker (i.e. better) cable. the ideal wire size is 28/24 (normal data, thicker charging). also, the longer the cable, the less effective it is at charging as well, which might explain my recent slew of 6ft USB charging cable fails. the cheap prices for the cables should've tipped me off!