there was actually some sun this morning and the day looked promising. it was the aftermath of the heavy storm that rocked the area last night. i went to sleep late, and by 3am the storm had already quieted down. but looking outside, it looked like the aftermath of a hurricane, as the landscape was littered with leaf and branch debris. but it soon turned cloudy, and a check of the weather forecast said there could be some more sprinkles today, even though the brunt of the rainstorm had moved away.

my sister came to pick me up around noontime because she wanted to go to aldi's and i wanted to get some stuff from nearby harbor freight, with a peek inside OSJL.

i'd known about harbor freight since 2012, when i first visited the store in august. my father's first visit was later that year in december. since then we visit fairly often, once every month or two, or whenever we have a project that requires a specific tool or cheap part. so i was a little surprised when i discovered that my sister had never been to one before. maybe i shouldn't be that surprised, since up until a few weeks ago, she didn't really know about fellsway plaza and all the stores available like aldi and pet supplies plus. i was even more surprised that she wanted to check it out, since i always considered harbor freight a guy's store. she ended up really liking the place, leaving with $20 worth of stuff (i had a spare 20% off one item coupon for her) and wanted to buy more (denim apron! moving blanket! mini hammer! tool bag!) before i told her to come back next time with another coupon. i bought a magnetic tool holder and a few more pegboard hooks.

at OSJL i picked up more than a dozen wool blend yarn for my mother after coordinating with her over the phone by sending her photos of what i found. i only got a bag of rice crackers and some cola gummy for myself.

at pet supplies plus i was hoping to get some aquatic plants but they only had the few damaged ones i saw last time, no new stock. instead i gave the 20% off coupon to my sister who got some snacks for her dog. final stop was aldi's where my sister got a push cart full of groceries. i got mostly snacks.

it was 3pm before i finally had lunch, made myself a salmon cream cheese bagel sandwich with salmon slices, salmon cream cheese, capers, and onion. after wolfing it down in less than a minute, i went outside to clean up the storm debris, raking both the front and back yard. earlier i saw marti taking an uber with some suitcases, looks like she won't be home again this weekend.

chicken lentil soup 

olive oil
onion, chopped
garlic, minced

kosher salt
ground black pepper

1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp oregano

2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped

28 oz. diced tomatoes

6 cups chicken broth
2 cups dried lentils
6 boneless chicken thighs

parmesan cheese

sauté onion and garlic, add dry spices. sauté carrots and celery. add diced tomatoes. add chicken broth and lentils. once the soup boils, add chicken thighs and simmer for 1 hour. skim off any foam. take out chicken and shred. blend half amount of soup in blender and add back to pot (to thicken). add back chicken. serve with shredded cheese topping.

i called my father this morning asking if the nest thermostat was acting up today. he said so far it'd been quiet, which is a good sign. i adjusted the cafe heating schedule online as i noticed it was still set on 70°F late last night.

after a few slices of panettone for lunch, i went outside and did some yard work: raking up some leaves, branches, and acorn debris from the backyard, and pruning back some of the english ivy in both the backyard and front of the house. i also trimmed off the coleus flowers. i thought about visiting my community garden - which i haven't visited in weeks (actually a whole month)- but decided to postpone it until tomorrow. instead i biked to market basket to get some groceries. i decided tonight i would make lentil chicken soup. i realized i've never cooked lentils before, even though i have some in the house (left behind by former roommates 1 2).

i went to the cafe in the afternoon to test the motion sensing light strip we want to install in the stairwell of the upstairs apartment. i asked my father again if he heard any strange clicking from the basement furnace since we installed the 24vac transformer, and he said it's been very quite. also it was warm enough today that the furnace never kicked in, but that wouldn't affect the clicking issue, which is a side effect of the nest thermostat's proprietary power sipping technology. so the transformer may very well have fixed our problem. yes, it means having to rewire the thermostat whenever we switch from heating to AC, and we still need to snake the transformer wire behind the wall, but it beats having to return to using the manual honeywell mercury-switch thermostat.

my father and i went to the apartment and tested the led neon strip light. the light itself wasn't important - we can use any type of strip light we want. we were there primarily to check out where to mount the motion sensor so the stairwell light would turn on either from the top or the bottom of the staircase. we figured out the sensor works the best when we turn off the photo sensor and have it always turn on when it senses motion. we finally figured out a good spot, and will install the light at some future date.

while my father was testing the sensor, i was looking out the kitchen window into the neighbor's backyard. when i was there yesterday i noticed the large sunflowers the neighbors had grown. but there were these other plants i didn't recognize, nearly as tall as the sunflower stalks, green and leafy with no flowers that i could see. it took me a few seconds to go through my mental rolodex of plant identification before i realized what i was looking at: marijuana plants! i'd never seen cannabis live before, but i'm sure of it: growing in a secluded spot, with some sunflower screens. it was a little shocking but marijuana is now legal in massachusetts: a single person can grow up to 6 plants, while a household can grow up to 12. it's just surprising to see it being grown out in the open, i figured anyone who was growing would grow them indoors. even though marijuana probably grows best outdoors, the biggest problem is theft. these neighbors actually have a pretty good spot, no one else can see their pot garden except us.

speaking of grass, originally i wanted to go to belmont to water the lawn. but after doing some research yesterday, i realized it's now too late to grow any new grass as it takes 6 weeks for the grass to mature. we'll experience our first killing frost within that time which will pretty much end the growing season. next year, either start the grass early spring (march-april), or early fall (beginning of september). i also wanted to use up the water in the rain barrels, but it's going to rain so much later tonight, it won't make any difference, as there'll be enough rain to fill the barrels 2-3x over.

before i returned home, my parents gave me a container of tofu soup and leftover instant pot beef stew. my lentil chicken soup will have to wait until tomorrow or this weekend.

feeling snacky, i rummaged through my kitchen looking for something to eat. i've invested in some healthy snacks (carrots, celery, humus), and came across my container of tabouli salad which i like to eat with melba toast. not sure how healthy it was because i finished the whole container along with a box of melba toast. i have to think it should at least be better than the processed junk food i sometimes eat.

i called my father after my parents returned home, to ask him to unhook the terminal leads connecting the outdoor pump to the indoor battery. with the strong winds, there could be a good chance that the plastic bucket we use to keep the contacts dry will be blown away, exposing the contacts to the rain, and i didn't want the rain to cause a short circuit on the battery.

the weather wasn't all that bad today, temperature in the lower 60's, warm enough that i could get by in just a shirt and jeans. there was sun this morning, but by the afternoon storm clouds started rolling in, eclipsing the sunshine. the northeast will experience a bombogenesis event, pelting the area with torrential rain and winds later this evening. i didn't have dinner until much later (beef stew), to coincide with the 9:30pm broadcast of a new episode of single parents. my parents gave me some irish breakfast tea which i didn't like because it's too bitter and strong, had to take out the teabag otherwise it'd make the tea even more bitter. i like black tea where i can steep for a long time with no bitterness. i finished a honeycrisp apple before throwing out the trash.

by the time i threw out the trash it'd already started raining. rain i don't mind, but the winds scared me, afraid of falling tree branches or down power lines. it was heavy at times, the rain beating against the windows, the wind howling outside. it kept pushing the side door open, which beat against the side of the house; it was annoying enough that i went out a few times to slam the door shut, only to have it blown open again.

nobody wants to fix the cafe's troubling nest thermostat. not xiaowu the HVAC guy who usually does all the repair work whenever something breaks down, not the handful of professional nest installers whom i contacted in early spring. some never responded, some i e-mailed but never got any traction, and the one installer (victory) who did come (late) took a look, said all the right things, but then disappeared off the face of the earth even when i tried to contact them afterwards (one of the guys stole our screwdriver no less). what is it about our particular setup that makes HVAC specialists so afraid?

but i've done enough research on my own, scouring online discussion boards, watching youtube installation videos, reading all the explanations and hack attempts, that i like to think i already know a lot about the nest thermostat. i've also installed it at my own place (december 2014, running my own common wire when one wasn't available) and my father and i hacked a solution for the nest thermostat at my parents' place (november 2016).

so the trouble started last october when we installed a nest thermostat at the cafe, replacing an old school dual heating and cooling mercury-switch honeywell thermostat. that should've been a cause for celebration, a step into the future. having the ability to control the heat remotely and turn it down for those times when my parents forget was be a blessing. i wired it by the book, borrowing an unused wire from the AC roof unit and connecting it to the unused common on the control board. everything was going according to plan until we switched on the nest and it said it couldn't detect neither Rc (cooling) or Rh (heating). after some trial and error, we found out that if we pull out the common wire the thermostat will work fine, even though it shouldn't. but we left it as is since it was working and all seemed right with the HVAC world.

but over the weeks we began to notice that the basement furnace will make these loud intermittent clicking noises, like it was trying to ignite the furnace but couldn't. it never happened when it was heating, only when it wasn't. the most likely explanation was the nest thermostat still needed a common wire. the common provides power for the thermostat, and without it, it will try to sip power from the furnace, causing it to fire intermittently.

my father finally managed to get xiaowu to pay a house call (to fix a few other things). i figured him being the professional, he'd find a fix. but afterwards my father told me xiaowu couldn't make any sense of it either, and suggested we run new thermostat cables. while we waited for him to return (he kept putting it off), we did our own sleuthing mid-december and discovered that the common wire coming from the AC unit was actually 18VAC, not 24VAC. so it was definitely something wrong with the wire. fortunately there was one extra spare so i simply replaced the wire. when i measured it again from downstairs, it was the supposed value of 24-25VAC. wiring every back up, i put back the nest thermostat. it now accepted the common wire which you'd think is a good thing, but now it was firing the basement furnace non-stop, scary enough that we removed the nest thermostat after a few seconds. out of ideas, we went back to reliable mercury switch honeywell thermostat. sure, you couldn't control it remotely over via wifi, but at least it'd never repeatedly trigger the furnace when it wasn't turned on.

when spring came around i thought it'd be a good time to contact some nest-recommended professional installers. sure, it'd be expensive, but at least it'd fix our problem once and for all. that was before i found out nobody wanted to touch our system. something to do with a two transformer system - one transformer from the AC, one transformer from the furnace - a headache nobody wanted to tackle. as the weather was getting warmer, it was time to make the switch from heating to cooling. instead of using the honeywell thermostat, i decided to hook up the AC wires (Y-G-Rc-C) to the nest thermostat, which had been sitting on a shelf unused gathering dust all winter. the nest had no problems accepting the AC (a much newer unit by several decades compared to the basement furnace), and we didn't have anything to worry about, at least for the summer.

but now mid-october, with the temperature turning cooler, it was once again time for heating. we sort of kicked the can of our malfunctioning nest thermostat, but now it was time face the problem again. one thing i don't remember trying is to just use the common from the AC while connecting the heat. so the furnace would connect to W-Rh, while the common would be on Rc-C (disconnecting Y and G). i saw this wiring for an external 24VAC setup, and figured we could trying matching it, except we'd be using the AC as the common. i think in the past we tried connecting just the C wire which didn't work and the nest wouldn't even allow us to continue until we fixed the wiring. having a year to digest what we did, i now realize it didn't work (just W-C-Rh) because the C was an open loop. when we wired it again this time (Rc-C, W-Rh), there was no problem. the nest thermostat accepted the wiring, but did throw me an N72 error. from a youtube video i learned that N72 is a minor error, the nest will say this in certain conditions, like wiring in a C common wire from an external source. everything is still okay, and like the video said, the nest will still allow you to continue despite the error message. in fact, we were able to test the furnace, it turned on no problems, and we also increased the room temperature by 1 degree as an additional test, it passed as well.

so everything was working, and all seemed well in the HVAC world once again. but the real test wasn't whether or not the nest thermostat could turn on the furnace, it's always been able to do that. what we wanted to know is if left alone, will the nest thermostat try to steal power from the furnace (thereby causing the intermittent clicks) or will it behave and take power from the provided AC-supplied common wire?

in the meantime i helped my father take down 2 window AC units from the apartment bedrooms. in the past we simply left the AC's in the windows all season because 1) they were too dirty to move, and 2) they were too heavy. but these new AC's we've installed are much lighter, and taking them down will lessen the draft coming into the bedrooms come winter. currently a male astrophysicist is living in the small bedroom and 2 other male astrophysicists are sharing the larger bedroom. i was surprised they left their doors opened, i guess none of them have much to steal. after taking down the AC's we moved them into the basement. i was admiring the plastic wash basins, which i realized last night are the perfect containers for growing lotuses next season.

afterwards i rode to belmont to check on the solar batteries, water the lawn, and do some weeding.

i brought home two leftover barbecued drumsticks for lunch, which i finally ate around 2pm. i was going to eat both, but decided to save one for dinner. i also had some sourdough bread.

i should've realized something was wrong with the nest thermostat when my father called me around 3:30pm. he said he started hearing the clicks again, said they were different from last time, put the phone up to the furnace for me to hear as well. they sounded like somebody knocking or hammering on a door. although he said we could fix it tomorrow, i told him i would come down immediately. i went via bicycle, figuring it'd be easier to get back home come rush hour.

so the Rc-C common wiring hack from the AC didn't work. i couldn't figure out why, but our final solution was to use an external 24VAC power source. we actually had a 24VAC transformer (MG ELECTRONICS MGT2420, $13.55) that we purchased back in april 2017, when we discovered that turning off our furnace for the season would also cut power to the nest thermostat. the transformer was a potential fix but my father figured out a way to have a separate 24VAC switch from the basement to the thermostat so we ended up never using the transformer. this seems like such a common problem (smart thermostat requiring an unavailable common wire) nowadays that i've seen specialty plugs being sold on amazon just for this purpose. the kind that we got is a big ugly heavy transformer, didn't even come with wires, which you have to provide yourself.

ideally you'd want to hide the transformer wires inside the walls, but we decided to do a temp hack job, just to see if it'd even work. we unscrewed the rectangular thermostat baseplate so there'd be some clearance for the wires to go underneath and then into the nest. i wired it exactly the same way i did before, except the Rc-C wires were now coming from the 24VAC tranformer. like before, it threw out an N72 error, which i learned to ignore. it allowed us to continue and we were able to run a heating test without any problems. but like before, the problem isn't with the heating, it's with the thermostat when it tries steal power when its battery begins to run low.

only time will tell if the external 24VAC transformer hack will work. we taped the wire to the wall to prevent anyone from accidentally snagging it. my father seemed optimistic, but i've been fooled so many times before, i'm sort of hopeful but guarded. even if it was does work, this is a hack, and come late spring, we'll need to switch the wires inside the nest for AC cooling. we'll also need to find a way to hide the exposed wires. but all those are things for the future; right now we need to worry about if this fixed it or not.

my aunt showed up unexpectedly. we thought she was hire to pick up some xian bread jason's father had made before they returned to china, but she came to tell my parents' that matthew's father passed away on saturday.

when i came home there are two packages for me in the foyer: a pack of alligator clips and a solar-powered rubber cork stopper string light. the cork stopper light is cool, not sure how much electricity it can actually store. the rubber cork is also completely sealed, so no way to replace the battery. the cork isn't very elastic, i couldn't really squeeze it into a bottle, it's more of a solid stopper, but cool nevertheless. speaking of solar string lights, my amazon seller finally refunded by $7 for the handful of solar mason jar lights that leaked water. i brought a few home to test, so i could figure out where exactly is it leaking from, so that maybe i could fix it with silicone caulk.

i had some bread and the remaining drumstick for dinner but it wasn't enough so i heated some soup from a can. still haven't gone to the super market this week, need to figure out what i'm going to make for dinner the rest of the week. my parents are off to bermuda next week so i'll need to forage for myself for the entire week.

late morning:

late afternoon:

early evening:

it's been so cloudy and rainy this past week, i'm starting to forget what it felt like to see the sun. this lingering october overcast coincides with our purchase of 2 new solar panels, still unable to test them fully. i brought back the 6-cell 50W solar panel - which i will now call the 20W panel - and connected it to one our smaller batteries. i also got a chance to test our rgb strip light with one of the rgb controllers that arrived yesterday. these rgb lights are not addressable so they all glow with the same color. my next project is to get my hands on some WS2812B/WS2813 lights.

a lot of the smaller lotus leaves have turned brown, but the one healthy lotus with the big floating and aerial leaves is still going strong, but even that one has started to yellow bit. my repotted columbines are getting bigger, they were stunted when grown in the plastic cups. i should transfer them to the ground before it gets too cold so they can have time to set some decent roots for the winter. it goes without saying that the rain barrels are at maximum capacity, given the amount of rain we had. some rain water i found in a bucket showed that about 1.5" of rain fell over the past few days.

i checked out our hydrangea, looking for flower buds on the terminal ends of stems. they all just look like more leaf buds. i'm not going to worry too much about it, i'll find out come next season whether we get any new flowers. in the meantime i just have to remember now to prune any of the stems.

i told my mother about the new breaking bad movie on netflix. she started watching the first few minutes of it but couldn't remember a lot of details. that made me suspicious so i started quizzing her on key moments. the death of hank. the death of gus. jessie's imprisonment. she failed to recall every single detail, which made me realize she's missed the final few seasons of the show. i stopped the movie and made her rewatch breaking bad from the middle of season 3, beginning with half measure.

we hung the led grow lights from the ratchet hangers that came with the lights, for easier up-and-down adjustments. we had to shorten the 4 wire suspension cables. i learned of a technique where you string 2 wires length-wise and clip them together with a carabiner clip. the first one was easy because we reused the lanyard clips. the second one we used the lobster claw clips i got last week, looping them together with wires. it looked fine but when we hung it up, one of the lobster claw clips snapped apart. these are made of metal but of an inferior metal, meant for earrings and necklaces, not for suspending grow leds. instead my father removed a few links from a fluorescent shop light hanging chain and used them as hooks for the wires. i got a chance to see the wall mounted shelves, now stocked with garden-related supplies. finally i saw the 4x2 ft pegboard my father got from the cafe basement. it's a good sign, we just need a way to hang it up and to buy some pegboard hooks.

the rain that'd been promised all this week but disappointingly never arrived day after day finally came today. good for the lawns, bad for the people. there wasn't much to do today, just moseyed about the house, eating healthy snacks (carrots and celery), catching a few episodes of SVU in the background, filling up the remaining backlog of blog entries.

some ebay purchases came in the mail today, it's been a while, i still have more than 2 dozen things i'm waiting to arrive. ebay was like my dollar store fixation before it started charging sale taxes on all purchases (it's a massachusetts state thing, starting in october). 10x 4.5cm clear suction cups ($1.79, for window mounting flexible solar panels), and 2 mini 3 key RGB led strip light controller (75&cen;t bare wires, 75¢ 12V plug).

also arriving in the mail was my replacement meterk clap-style digital multimeter. i bought it back in may for $22, just because it had a clamp for indirectly measuring the current. but it was unwieldy and hard to read, and as it turned out, it was also defective, unable to measure DC voltage. i contacted meterk nearly a month ago, because supposedly the meter had a 2-year warranty. i wasn't confident anything would come of it, so was surprised when they replied and said they'd send me a replacement meter free of charge, and i didn't even have to return the broken meter. a few weeks later i still hadn't gotten the replacement, so i e-mailed them again. a different person replied, said the previous person had gone on vacation, but she'd send me the replacement in a matter of days. the new one seems to be working, but the lcd display is still too small given the size of the device, and has a shallow viewing angle. the little DKMHA turquoise-colored multimeter i got my father back in november 2017 for just $12.50 is much more usable.

for lunch eggs-kielbasa-sauerkraut-tea, for dinner leftover beef barley soup. every time i eat the soup it changes: today it had the chunky consistency of canned beef stew (dinty moore). i was going to eat everything in one serving, but wisely decided to split the portion; i now have some more beef barley soup for the future.

i watched el camino, the netflix produced breaking bad sequel movie. it's mostly the story of how jesse pinkman survived the days after he escaped from the neo-nazi prison. the film could stand on its own, but far better if you'd already watched the 5 season series. fan service interspersed throughout the film, and some cameos from old favorites. i watched half of it while eating dinner and finished the rest from the netflix app on my phone from bed.

i wrote emma back this morning, accepting her offer of a refund minus $12 for the cost of the hypothetical return postage. i was tired of negotiating, and my desire to return the 50W panel was more out of stubbornness because i wanted her to admit that her US seller label was a lie. her last deal was actually the best deal: i'd get a $19 refund, and could still keep the 50W panel. it's like paying $12 for the panel, which i checked on ebay, you can't get for less than $30. but definitely there's some false advertising on her part, but i should've been smarter and checked the specs, because according to the specs there was no way this panel was 50W. even if i didn't see the specs, this panel only has 6 monocrystalline solar cells. assuming each cell generates a little over 3W of power, 6 cells would mean roughly 18W maximum, the equivalent of a 20W panel. in fact, if you search ebay for 20W solar panels, these same 6-cell panels pop up - but at least those sellers are being honest with what they have.

since i was keeping the 6-cell 50W solar panel after all, i decided to check just exactly how much power it could get out of it. we'd only tested it once on saturday, and once we saw it couldn't possibly generate 50W, we sort of stopped testing. i knew it wasn't defective, because at the very least we got 6W out of it. i found my usb power tester (purchased back in february 2016 for testing usb cables) and plugged it into the usb port on the back of the panel. it read 3V, not enough to charge anything, since a typical usb has 5V. it was no fault of the panel though, as today was an impossibly grey day. in fact, we're not scheduled to see the sun until saturday, more likely sunday. i tested the direct voltage of the panel from the alligator clips, it read nearly 15V, slightly off from the 18V i saw the first time (once again, due to cloudy conditions). as a control, i tested the usb power tester connected to an usb charger, which read 5V. connected to my phone, the voltage dropped but i was reading some current values, which meant it was charging. later i found a short strand of usb string lights; these don't require the full 5V to glow, and i was able to turn them on, proving the panel worked at least.

i didn't want to eat eggs-kielbasa-sauerkraut again, so i heated up a chicken stuffed with cheese broccoli in the oven for lunch while i used the bathroom and took a shower. it was good but the serving size was too small, felt like i was rationing or on a diet. my sister dropped off a pretzel in the afternoon, and also left me with some sourdough bread. some of the bread i ate, while saving the rest for dinner to go with my leftover beef barley soup.

it was also supposed to rain today but it stayed dry more than it was wet despite the clouds. i biked to walgreens briefly to pick up snacks: smoked almonds, altoids, twix. that's my version of scratch tickets, cigarettes, and beer. the cashier - a middle-aged townie lady (whom i've never seen before) with a raspy voice like she had throat cancer - asked me if i had a walgreens card. when i showed her my phone, she shook her head. "i don't know what to do with that, hon," she told me. "i can't scan a phone." stores have been scanning loyalty cards off of my phone for years now, but obviously this woman believed otherwise. i didn't try to challenge her since the customer is always wrong, so i punched in my phone number instead, easier anyway.

while channel surfing on youtube tv, i got caught in the SVU vortex. i used to watch a lot of SVU, and many of the early season episodes (when stabler was still on the show) i've seen every episodes. haven't watched it in a while, but it's kind of like my comfort food, even though the subject matter can be troubling (sex crimes). all of the law & order stuff, i could watch at any moment, at any point in the episode, and it'd still be good.

in the evening i had a bright idea and decided to see if the 6-cell 50W solar panel could charge under bright lights. the brightest light i had in the house was the halogen fixture above the bathroom sink. i lifted the panel with the usb meter and phone attached. the meter was showing high voltage (up to 5V) while the phone was actually charging. i turned on the amperage app and saw measurements upwards of 1200mA (but averaging around 430mA). but the moment i pulled the panel away from the halogen lamp, the voltage would drop and the charging would stop. so i discovered two things: that bright indoor lights can charge the panel, and that i can use the panel to actually charge my phone. it's kind of handy to have, even though a portable battery backup would probably be easier, but it wouldn't be free like solar panel electricity. and you'd need bright sunlight. you could also do it with a bright indoor light, but if you're indoors and have electricity to turn on the lights, you'd also have electricity to charge your phone. i'd be curious to see if the panel could in fact actually fully charge a phone.

i coincided my leftover beef barley soup dinner with the start of the giants-patriots thursday night game. i feel for the players, who have to play again on short rest, but the good thing is they have the weekend to relax, and so do i since my sunday will be free because i don't have to watch the game. the barley had thickened up into large clumps at the bottom of the crockpot bowl, but reconstituted themselves into recognizable grains once i heated them up. the soup is much thicker the second time around, more chili than soup. by the time i finished a large bowl (plus bread) i was so full i could explode. i also reached that point where i don't know if could eat beef barley soup again tomorrow night.

i wouldn't say the game was awful, but new england's offense once again seemed listless. new york actually tied the game at 14-14, when their rookie quarterback daniel jones threw a beautiful long catch to golden tate who fumbled the ball in the air a few times before catching it, escaping two defenders as he ran into the end zone, and then new york scored again on a tom brady fumble. that last play was the costliest, since it looked like josh gordon rolled his ankle trying to play defense and stop the giants player from scoring. the game was a battle of attrition, and the giants couldn't maintain the momentum against the patriots defense, finally allowing pats offense to show signs of life in the second half, including a long bomb catch from edelman that was nearly a touchdown. final score 35-14, patriots go up 6-0 on the season. the win is fine and all, but i'm sure all of pats nation would rather have a healthy gordon given the choice, since the offense is depleted enough as it is. an antonio brown would be sweet right about now, if only he wasn't such a garbage person (amazing player, terrible human being).

emma contacted me again - perhaps for the last time - to let me know she was issuing the refund. she asked me to accept it right away, as doing so would also close the return dispute, which apparently is very important to her. later i gave them a good rating. i did earn a working 20W solar panel for just $12.

emma - my ebay contact for trying to return the defective 50W low charge panel - wrote me back with yet another way to not have me return the panel. she said it'd cost $12 for postage and insurance to send back the panel, so she could refund me the $18 and i could then also keep the panel. that option made more sense, but then i remembered the panel doesn't even work well, it'd still be a waste of money. i also asked her for the return address, which she seems reluctant to tell me. my guess is there is none, at least none in the US, even though the item was advertised as a US seller. more than likely the return address is someplace in china. but let's say there is a US address, i don't think it'd cost me $12 to ship it back.

this morning i did a load of laundry while scrubbing clean the tub with some baking soda. i like cleaning with baking soda, how there's absolutely no odor, not even a scent. to me that feels clean. my father called to ask me to go with him to binbin's place to clean up the fridge, throw out the trash, set some timers, and move the car. what i didn't realize was my sister was also going, so i opted not to go. i hurriedly biked down to market basket in the early afternoon as rain was approaching to get some groceries for the next few days as it's supposed to rain non-stop until late saturday. there was already a light drizzle, it wasn't too bad, more so when i was returning home since i didn't much care by that point.

beef barley soup

1.5 lbs. chuck pot roast, cubed
1.5 lbs. potatoes, cubed
8 oz. baby carrots
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
black pepper
2 bay leaves
6 cups beef broth
1/2 cup merlot
2/3 cups pearl barley

brown cubed beef in pan before adding with rest of ingredients into slow cooker. wash pan drippings with wine then pour into slow cooker as well. cook on high for 6-7 hours.

since it was cold, grey, and wet outside, i thought it'd be fitting to make some slow cooker beef barley soup. i bought too much pot roast and trimmed off a pound to freeze in the fridge. the hardest part was browning the beef. i added too much to the pan and ended up boiling the meat instead of browning, stinking up the whole house with the smell of cooked beef. i then added all the ingredients to the slow cooker and set it on high to cook for the rest of the day.

i finally used up that big roll of AEP brand commercial plastic wrap. my parents gave it to me when i first moved into this place 17 years ago, nearly 2 decades. now i have to decide what new brand of plastic wrap i want to get. i kind of like having the commercial stuff, so much of it that it'd last for decades and that i always knew i had it on hand. it's a big box, and people always laugh when they see it for the first time. it takes up space but i've made room for it in my kitchen. maybe i want to get another box of commercial wrap and using it for the next 20 years.

when early evening came around, i tasted the soup. it seemed oily and watery with an umami sweetness. the original recipe called for tomato paste which i didn't add, but decided to add some anyway to thicken the soup and the cut down the sweetness. recipe said 2 tbsp of paste, but i ended up adding the entire 6 oz. can. it thickened the soup but also made it taste sour.

the beef barley soup was finally ready to eat by 9pm. the sourness from the tomato paste had mellowed out but the soup flavor wasn't anything particularly special. i could've added all the beef since it shrinks when cooked so it didn't look like i had a lot of meat in my soup. i also could've added more barley. it's called beef barley, neither which ingredients show up very much in the soup. it's mostly a vegetable soup, with the tomato paste and chopped celery-potato-garlic. i used generic white potatoes when i should've used something else like a russet potato, which would break down in the soup and thicken it; in this case the diced white potatoes kept their shape, more like daikon radishes than potatoes. i can definitely eat it for the next few days but i wouldn't call this recipe a success. afterwards i could still taste the umami flavor in my mouth.