GC and i have a weekend routine of making a trip to market basket sometime in the late morning. he needs the service of my cargo bike to bring groceries back, and i go along just to have something to do, picking up a few things as well, though i typically go again later in the week (typically monday or tuesday). the weather was surprisingly cold with temperature in the 70's, after a heatwave last week with a still hot and humid 80's yesterday at the beach.
market basket didn't seem very busy today, maybe a lot of people were on summer vacation, judging from the short checkout lines, although the bike rack was nearly full. i grab a few things for making tuna fish sandwich next week. GC always seems to get the same things: stocks of on seafood, including a bag of frozen shrimps, a package of frozen mussels, and two packages of white fish; a large cut of beef; vegetables including tomatoes, green peppers, garlic, scallions, and lettuce. judging from the food he buys he eats pretty healthy although a bit bland in its consistency. he rare gets any junk food, but when he does it's typically ice cream.
GC's coworker showed up again around 8:45pm to watch another new episode of game of thrones, right when GC and i were about to finish watching another episode of westworld. "should i remove my shoes?" i heard him ask, which seemed strange because he's already been here before and you always assume you take off your shoes in a chinese person's home unless notified otherwise. i watched to see if he brought anything this time, as advertised. at first i thought he arrived empty-handed again, but fished out 3 bottles of sierra nevada pale ale from his backpack. just 3 bottles, no more, no less. you figured if you were going over to somebody's house you bring a six-pack at least. i had some cream puffs thawing on the coffee table and this coworker helped himself without asking. none of this bothered me, but he probably didn't know he was under a microscope and being scrutinized on everything he was doing. at least brought beer even though i typically don't drink beer (if he brought hard cider though, he'd score points for being considerate since that's what we drank last sunday).
a long day speaking with 2 solar installers, neither of whom provided me beforehand information on their visiting agent and what they'd be doing. first up was level solar at 11am. JOHN was our agent, sporting a level solar polo shirt. we soon realized that level solar was not the right company for us. for one thing, they're primarily a solar lease company. he kept talking about PPA's until i finally stopped to ask him what that stands for. they exclusively use panels from certainteed, a company i'd never heard before, and rated at 285w, less than the cheapest chinese-made hanwha qcell 295w panels. they use optimizer/inverter technology with everything mounted on the outside of the house so their technician can better monitor the panels (this is only necessary if your panels are leased). finally, their software for checking the panels can only do total output, not per panel. it just didn't sound like a good fit. my father had to leave around noon, which was also the time we wrapped up the meeting. JOHN took photos of the attic and electricity panel box. he said his site surveyor would come sometime next week, unannounced (unless i wanted to know beforehand), and then pushed for another meeting next friday 11am.
i stayed in belmont to wait for the next appointment which was at 3pm. my father came back home around 2pm. we waited in the hot house, finally turning on the crapping sharp floor unit air conditioner which doesn't really work. when 3pm rolled around, i got a call from luca of united solar telling me that their consultant would be 25 minutes late. it gave me a chance to ask who exactly was coming. somebody named frank, and he was only a site surveyor, just hear to do measurements and take photos.
frank ended up arriving in a white van 45 minutes later from their malden HQ. he had a serious expression and didn't smile very much, never even bothering to apologize for being an hour late. we first went in the basement so he could photography and measure the electricity panel. we asked him some questions (what panels do you use?) but he couldn't really answer any of them, passing the buck to the salesguy, which means another scheduled visit until we can finally get a price quote. next frank worked his way to the attic. it was already a hot day, and up in the attic it was easily over 100°F. unlike JOHN, frank actually climbed into the attic to take more detailed photos and measurements. we gave him some paper towels when he came back down, drenched in sweat. finally he went outside to survey the roof. he brought ladders but we had our own so he used that instead. while he was up on the roof measuring and photographing, my father and i were down below, sometimes watching, sometimes acting busy to pass the time. he was finally finished by 4:30pm, in which point my father and i promptly left. my mother was biking home but i wasn't going to wait because my potential next roommate was coming to my house at 6pm to see the place.
today marks the beginning of a marathon session of meeting with 4 various solar energy vendors over the next few days: new england clean energy today, level solar and united solar tomorrow, then boston solar monday. i made the boston solar appointment this morning when a consultant (john) finally got in touch with me. he told me something very interesting: that direct energy solar was actually going out of business, that they weren't even doing commercial installs anymore, and employees were getting laid off, including our former agent jonathan. i don't know if it's just industry gossip, but if it's true, maybe we were lucky not to sign with them.
i knew john was calling from home because i could hear his children in the background. it reminded me of the clip of the children bursting into the room during their father's BBC interview. i tried to get a price quote from him, but like all these sales associate, they require a face-to-face consultation before they do that, which at this point is a waste of time. the appointment on monday is just for an engineer to do some measurements; the actual meeting won't be until august 1st, as john is booked up all next week.
i went to water my garden this morning, while GC was still in the bathroom. it was already a hot and steamy day. i'm rarely there during the mornings, so it was interesting to see that my plot was already sunlit while dave's more eastern plot was still in partial shade. perhaps my plot get the same amount of sunlight that he does, except i get more morning light and he gets more afternoon light. i was there for nearly half an hour, watering then doing some weeding then taking some photos. i figured GC had already left for work but was surprised to find him just leaving the house around 10am. it probably makes me a hypocrite for saying this, but i can't stand lazy roommates, especially one who's morning routine coincides with mine. i will be glad when he finally leaves in 3 more weeks.
* future roommate
i made a salmon cream cheese bagel for breakfast, then left by around 11:20am, first to porter square star market to buy some cherries on sale (final few days), then to the hess gas station on mass avenue to fill up the tank. i've noticed the motorcycle has been acting a little weird the past few rides, like not enough gas is going into the engine and feeling like it's going to peter out. not sure what's causing it, maybe excess oxygen in the intake. hopefully refilling the tank fixes this problem.
i arrived in belmont with a few minutes to spare before our 12pm appointment. my father was already home. we were outside looking at possible conduit pathways when roy arrived. roy began by taking some measurements outside the house. we thought maybe he'd have to climb the roof (we didn't see bring any ladders) but used some creative ways to get his numbers, including stretching out a tape measure (easy because my parents' place is only a single floor) and counting shingles. he also did something i'd never seen before: he had a device mounted on a long extendable pole that apparently measures the light exposure and roof tilt.
afterwards we went inside so he could crunch some numbers. roy seemed more like an engineer than a salesman. he fumbled with his laptop, using the wifi hotspot from his phone to get online. he said his company had done a few installs in belmont, but was surprised when he told him belmont requires panels to have a 1 foot offset from the edge of the room. he called the town looking for answers but after a few redirects ended up on an answering machine. he also went in the basement to check our electricity panel and the hot water heater. he didn't say this, but i had a feeling he thought we were specing out a system with too many panels (27+) that we didn't need, covering our current energy usage by 200%. at one point his laptop died (overheating?) but he managed to revive it sometime later after doing a partial presentation from his phone.
new england clean energy uses 3 different types of panels, priced from least to most expensive: hanwha qcells 295 (chinese), LG 320 (korean), and sunpower 335 (american). roy had samples to show us (not the LG's though). up until this point i thought LG's were the only companies to have all-black panels, but that's not the cause. sunpower has them too, and a type that doesn't even have the lines so you can't even see the individual cells.
the price he gave us for an LG 320 27-panel system was $33k before any tax incentives. he didn't offer any additional discounts. the only thing that made the price somewhat bearable was he told us about the mass solar loan program, something we'd never heard about before. apparently the state his a low-interest loan program where people with lower incomes who can't take advantage of the full tax credit can apply for a loan that pays 20-30% of the principal of the loan (which can amount to $6000-9000 worth of savings based on our system). the only catch was the paperwork takes a while (about a month after signing, provided you're able to qualify and secure the loan), and with their backorder of current installs, actual installation won't be until probably 4 months down the line, sometime in november.
roy finally left after 2pm. my father left soon afterwards to pick up my mother and the dog.
i love praying mantises but it's uncommon here in new england, at least i haven't seen them all that often. i've definitely seem them elsewhere, from costa rica (2003) to southeast asia (myanmar 2005), to china (zhaoxing dong village guizhou 2006, changshou 2013). i've also seen mantisflies before, which are not related to true mantises. the very first time i've ever seen a mantis here in massachusetts was actually in norwood back in september 2005, in a parking lot of all places. the next month i had my second mantis sighting at ponkapoag bog. the first time i'd ever seen a mantis in belmont was june of last year. then this month alone i twice spotted tiny brown mantis babies (6th, 13th). today while watering the garden i finally spotted my first adult mantis in belmont (actually subadult since the wings haven't developed yet), a green male european mantis. i grabbed the dSLR and spent some time documenting it.
i asked GC if he knew this li guy who was interested in seeing the place tomorrow. he looked at the name and said he's one of the guys he plays badminton with on a weekly basis. i told him the situation and just so happens they have a game tomorrow afternoon. i asked GC if he could bring li back to the house in case i was delayed. i then texted li the plan.
jonathan from direct energy solar called me this morning. at first i didn't understand what he was saying but then it hit me: he was telling me that his company was no longer doing residential installs, and now focused exclusively on commercials. the company-wide announcement was made a day after we met with him, that's why the engineer never came last week. so just like that, all those e-mails and discussions and phone calls and meeting was for nothing. i asked him if he could recommend some other solar companies
. he told me boston solar
and united solar
were two companies to look into. i called my father to tell him the bad news. then i got in touch with the 2 aforementioned solar companies asking for quotes. later i contacted 2 additional companies based on good online reviews
, level solar
(which has a huge presence in new york) and new england clean energy
every single one of these solar companies decided to call me just before lunch. i was on the phone with ryan from boston solar when i heard the sound of call waiting. new england clean energy (hudson) left me a message so i called them back. while i was talking with amy (making an appointment for thursday for roy to pay us a visit), i heard two more call waiting interruptions. one was from a new york area code (islip) so i assumed it was level solar, the other a number from athol, perhaps united solar. none of them left a voicemail but level solar sent me an e-mail with some contact info. as it was already lunchtime, i waited until the early afternoon to call them back. i talked with a young man named norrin, who was adamant that i speak face-to-face with an agent first before giving me a quote. i made an appointment for friday 11am. later in the afternoon, united solar called me (from a brookline number, not the one from athol) and we made an appointment for friday 3pm. so just in a span of a day i managed to talk with 4 different solar energy companies and book appointments with 3 of them. i made more progress in a day than we did the past few months. hopefully these appointments will go quick, since we're already familiar with how solar works. we just need prices.
maybe not going with direct energy solar is a good thing. jonathan did say they weren't the cheapest (nor the most expensive), so maybe we can get the price down even further; although the price direct energy gave us was the lowest of all the solar companies we've talked to so far (amergy, american solar).
i planned on going to market basket to get some groceries. tonight i was thinking of making either chicken lasagna or chicken tikka masala (boneless chicken thighs were on sale) (a more complicated recipe that involves broiling on a non-stick wire rack). as it was a hot day, i didn't want to cook, so finally decided some tuna fish sandwich would be best. then i realized i actually have a lot of food in the refrigerator. yes, mostly breakfast food, but there was enough in the house that i didn't need groceries this week. so i ended up not going. the only time i left the house was to move the bicycles to the basement and relocate my motorcycle onto my street before covering it up.
GC came home around 6:30pm. he immediately paid me next month's rent. i rarely have a roommate who pays on time. he explained to me why it was only 3/4th of the total because he would be leaving for amherst either on the 10th (thursday) or 11th (friday), depending on whether or not a former classmate can come pick him up. originally i was just going to charge him for the entire month regardless, but i didn't contest his reasoning. no sense making him pay for a week he's not here, and he won't be coming back either, going directly from amherst to logan airport on his way back to alabama.
shortly after GC came home, it suddenly started to rain. torrential downpour, the kind that quickly flooded the streets. it didn't last very long, 20-30 minutes at most. glad i didn't go water my garden plot since this more than takes care of the watering.
for dinner i made some sausage oatmeal. earlier, for lunch, it was an onion bagel with salmon cream cheese. GC didn't do any seafood again tonight, so it meant another stink-free evening. he retired to his bedroom after dinner, even though earlier he was asking me about westworld on HBO.
i noticed the light in GC's bedroom were closed around 9:30pm. did he go to sleep already? but when it came time for my own bedtime, i noticed they were open again. then around 1:30am i heard cooking in the kitchen that last for an hour. GC is a slow (and loud) chopper, it could take him 15-20 minutes to chop all the vegetables for his stew. at least he wasn't whistling, which is something he likes to do occasionally. i was curious to investigate but decided to give GC some privacy as he works out his new weird schedule. he's gone in 24 more days anyway (3 more weekends).
the last time i watered my garden plot was back on wednesday, followed by a thunderstorm and morning rain on thursday. i did visit the plot on friday (twice in fact), but spent the weekend away from the community garden. i finally went down today to water my plants. a few days of neglect wasn't going to be a problem, not after all the rain we got last week. watering today meant i wouldn't need to come back tomorrow if i didn't feel like it.
tomatoes are progressing, and one of the eggplants is over 5" long now. eggplants are kind of weird because they don't produce a lot of fruits per plant, not like tomatoes. they're also slow to grow, another thing they don't have in common with tomatoes. but they love the heat more than any other vegetables, and it seems like the hotter it gets, the better they do. they don't get blight like tomatoes, which makes me wonder if i should plant more eggplants than tomatoes next season. eggplants do get flea beetles, but i never had them here in the community garden (i did get them in belmont, but a couple of diatomaceous earth treatments took care of that problem.
my mother told me that somebody else is looking to stay at my place for 3 months, from september to november. i said no immediately, but it's easy money. as much as i hate living with roommates, the cash it provides is hard to say no to, especially since i still don't have a job. plus this guy regularly goes to the cafe so my parents have chatted with him and they think he's a good guy, spends most of time at the office, even weekends. that sounds like an easy roommate. if this roommate does end up moving in, i may possibly have gone this entire year where i had a roommate every single month (though not the entire months).
my mother told me something else: she said she doesn't want to do thanksgiving this year because she always has a fight with my sister. i don't see why i have to suffer not having my annual turkey meal because my sister has to make the holidays all about her and throws a tantrum. it's the only holiday i look forward to every year, the only thing that's remotely sacred in my life. you don't mess with thanksgiving!
my father finally managed to chainsaw one of the plum tree stumps. the heartwood is the hardest part of the tree, and at times the chainsaw just wasn't making much traction. what made it even more challenging was a large nest of carpenter ants had taken up residence, and the vibration from the chainsaw caused them all to abandon the nest and swarm everywhere. i don't think carpenter ants bite, but it was still a gruesome sight seeing those large ants everywhere.
maybe GC's been busy, but since we finished watching breaking bad, he's been spending more time in his bedroom than out in the living room after dinner. tonight he took a break from seafood, which meant i didn't have to suffer any fishy smells. i didn't see him after that, and he's never been one to say good night, just goes straight to bed which i find a little rude but i've had past roommates do this as well so i don't take it personally.
last night i watched the latest episode of twin peaks before going to bed. talk about hatewatch: i really despise that show with a passion, despite tuning in every sunday. we're already on episode 10 with just 8 more episodes to go. i'm hoping it doesn't get renewed for another season so finally the show can be put out of its misery.
GC asked me this morning if it was okay for his coworker friend to join us to watch the season 7 premiere of game of thrones
on HBO. i hesitated briefly but said sure; it probably wasn't GC's idea but rather his friend's. i was chatting with GC until 2:30pm before i finally left for belmont via motorcycle. i could've also biked but on a hot (though dry) day like today, better to motorize and save myself the agony of a sweat-soaked arrival. i found my mother knitting in the air-conditioned living room (barely cool, the floor unit is a piece of crap and waste of good summer electricity), watching her korean soap opera on netflix, with a face mask on.
i purposely didn't have any breakfast or lunch so i could finish the leftover quiche. there were two slices left and i ate them both, regretting it afterwards as it was definitely too much.
my father came home while i was in the backyard watering the garden. we managed to harvest a single zucchini, the first of the season. the plants themselves - composed of 3 seedlings - are taking over RB1, overshadowing the hot peppers and eggplants. so far the zucchinis have remained parasite-free - no signs of squash borers - but a few zucchinis developed strangely, like maturing only halfway while the rest atrophies and then turns yellow and rots. maybe those were just the early fruits that didn't grow correctly. all the new small zucchinis look fine.
i returned home after dinner. GC had beef for lunch (before i left) but cooked up one of his signature smelly seafood noodle dish for dinner. he's been cooking with the window now which makes it less odorous but i could still smell the strong stench of shrimp.
it was already 8:45pm and his friend wasn't here yet. i'd thought maybe he'd even show up earlier and have dinner with GC, but apparently they're not that kind of friends. i ran out quickly to the liquor store after taking a shower to grab some hard cider. when i came back i noticed the foyer light was on, which meant his friend had already arrived. he friend came empty-handed, and sheepishly said he planned on bringing something but forgot. not a big deal, but if you're coming to my house to watch my HBO and i don't know you and you don't even bring anything, that makes you a freeloader. the friend (originally from shandong) seem to know me, or at least my parents, because he tried to rent one of the apartment rooms above my grand uncle's place but was denied. i wasn't sure if he was one of the annoying pairs that said they'd come but didn't and made my parents reserve the rooms for them for 6 months before my parents had no choice but to rent them out to other people on the wait list. later GC came out with some ice cream sandwiches.
at this point i'm sort of hatewatching game of thrones. maybe hate is too strong, but i definitely don't enjoy it as much now ever since it's become this international cultural institution. i liked it better when not everybody was watching it or pretending they were. the stories have become predictable, following the typical tropes: the unstoppable assassin out for revenge, a power struggle between siblings, the young scholar discovering a piece of crucial information, the repentant warrior, and the conquering hero returns to her birthplace. i'll still watch the series, but only because i've always watched so much.
i was actually worried that HBO's server would crash because too many people were streaming the episode. i logged in a few minutes before the premiere and was surprised that it loaded up without any problems. GC's friend left soon afterwards, going to the roof of the astrophysicist building to see if he get some photos of the aurora potentially happening tonight.
i've been researching VPN's again. earlier today i was trying tunnelbear, a really cutesy and simple VPN that has a free service (sort of like a trial) of 500MB of data. tunnelbear makes VPN fun. i downloaded a random 170MB file off of torrent and it was very fast, i didn't notice any slowdown. it even has an obfuscation tool called ghost bear, which is essential in places like china that routinely bans VPN. at $60 for an annual plan, it wasn't too expensive (typical going rate), and worth the price if it kept copyright holders off my back. i almost signed up for a paid account until i read on their website they don't allow P2P activities like torrenting. i'm not sure how i was able to do it earlier, but they block ports and could potentially ban you for violating their rules.
i then looked into vpn.ac. i used them when i was in china last year and i didn't have any problems. they cost $58/year, which is a few dollars cheaper than tunnelbear. i almost re-signed with them until i read they have a bandwidth limit of 1TB/month. it's not a hard limit, and if you go over slightly there are no penalties; it's just in place to avoid downloading abuse. chances are i would never go over that limit in a single month (my total usage for the 3 months i was with them was only 39GB), but just the idea of a limit makes me wary knowing that there are other VPN's out there with unlimited bandwidth.
so i kept on searching. one important criteria is the service has to have an obfuscation tool. this isn't a big deal for normal web usage in the US, but it's vitally important in china, when that seems to be the newest way to bypass their great firewall. vyprVPN ($60/year) uses chameleon, TorGuard ($60/year) has stealthVPN. both support a multitude of OS platforms, as well as VPN routers. but in the end, TorGuard seems to be the better choice as it's specifically tailored for torrenting, and as such, doesn't keep logs of any kind (vyprVPN keeps metadata logs for 30+ days).
i took GC to the somerville artbeat festival happening in davis square, giving him another chance to familiarize himself with our many nearby squares. i had to stop the bike on beacon street because the rear brake was sticky. glad i stopped, because out on the curb somebody had thrown out a bunch of travel books. many were wet from the rain a few days ago. i picked up a copy of a 2000 lonely planet guide to the yucatan, as well as a 1998 handbook called "shopping in china." pretty outdated, but still interesting to read to see what commerce was like in china nearly 20 years ago. there was no mention of chongqing in any of the chapters, it mustn't have been a big deal back then.
it's been a while since i last visited davis square. ever since julie moved out of the neighborhood, i don't visit as often. and when wings work went out of business (december 2012 was my last visit), i had zero reason to go to davis. it was nice to be back though, seeing all the new businesses, like kung fu ice tea or the fresh b supermarket.
the last and first time i went to the somerville artbeat festival was back in 2009. it must not have made an impression because i completely forgot it. it was mostly handicrafts, with a smattering of food vendors in the central square area. the most interesting thing i saw was a pair of young women typing poems on typewriters for tips. not since the mid-80's have i seen a real typewriter in action.
we stopped by star market on our way home to grab some cherries that were on sale for $1.49/lbs. that's probably the cheapest i've seen it this season, even cheaper than the $1.57/lbs. price a while back. the weird thing is the sale is only at the porter square star market, the one across the street from me sells them at $1.99. GC also bought some ice cream.
we dropped off our things at the house before continuing to market basket, our next destination. i picked up a few ingredients for making quiche, which i planned to do at my parents' place tonight for dinner. i left for belmont via motorcycle soon after we got back.
i started making the quiche around 4:30pm, it wasn't actually in the oven until well after 5pm, with approximately 40 minutes of baking. it was the second quiche i've been this week, and i haven't gotten sick of it, but i only had one slice. my parents thought it was okay but my mother said she still prefers eating asian food instead.
i finally finished watching episode S02E04 of preacher, which featured an incredible single take fight scene at the end.
after GC left for work, i had some time to unbox the waterpik and give it a try. growing up, my father had a waterpik which i used occasionally for fun. it was very primitive compared to this new unit i bought, more than 3 decades later. it's sort of big and sits conspicuously on the bathroom counter by the sink. it came with an assortment of different tips (orthodontic, plaque removal, toothbrush, fine pik) but i just picked out the most generic one. initially i didn't attach the tip securely enough to the tethered wand so watered pour out of the handle the moment i turned on the waterpik. once i firmly attached the tip, it was fine sailing. the thing they don't tell you is how loud a waterpik machine can get, like running a little generator. it's also not like brushing where you can watch where you're going in the mirror. the thing i learned right away is not to use the waterpik with my mouth open, as i ended up spraying water everywhere. you basically just feel for the pulsing jet of water and angle it onto your gumline blindly. the water tank - though big - didn't seem like enough as i ran out of water before i finished cleaning. i'll probably get faster and better at using it with time. it has a dial with setting all the way up to 10, but i found that anything below an 8 was simply too weak for cleaning.
eliza - here in town for july - was paying me a visit from newburyport. she sent e-mail this morning saying she might be a little late - 11:30am or so - but arrived exactly on time at 11am.
we chatted in the kitchen while drinking tea. today was a good day for a hot beverage despite being in the middle of july as there was an unexpected chill in the air. eliza gifted me a tube of chestnut paste. we ended up chatting until 12:30pm before deciding we should get something to eat. i let eliza borrow a sherpa wool hoodie while i fished out a jacket for myself from the closet.
i took eliza on a detour to my community garden plot. dave just happened to be there, whom i haven't seen all season long. he ended up taking up all my time, telling me how he went on a 2 month trip to southeastern china then northern vietnam. "you should go [to vietnam]," he told me; i didn't bother telling him i'd already been. only after he finally left did i have a chance to show eliza the plants i was growing, and take a tour of some of the other plots.
eventually we made it down to harvard square. the plan was to find gyu-kaku, the famed japanese barbecue place of my dreams. i'd never seen it before but according to google map the place exist and wasn't closed. the alternative plan was to get a burger and shake from the shake shack. first i thought it was in the building above staples, but when we went up and looked, there was only an indian restaurant and some nondescript asian place that looked like a cafeteria (definitely not gyu-kaku).
an interesting note: the wagamama noodle shop downstairs seemed to be closed, which was unusual, but perhaps they close shop for the afternoon only to open up later. but i discovered afterwards that the restaurant was actually closed for good, their last day this past sunday. reason: 10-year lease was over, they decided not to renew, which says something about the rent price in harvard square that a successful restaurant chain couldn't make it work on the long run. i'd known about wagamama and was always curious, but also thought it was some fancy over-priced ramen noodles, and once it became popular, the contrarian in me never did seriously consider a visit. there are still two wagamama in boston: faneuil hall and the prudential center, with plans of opening a new place at the seaport district. but if i want ramen i can always cook it at home.
so we continued searching, tracing around the perimeter of the building clockwise to eliot street. while eliza got some cash from the ATM, i went ahead to scout, where i finally discovered gyu-kaku, above the IHOP.
the place had a very cool ambience, like a hidden restaurant. since it was already the afternoon the place was empty except for one long table of about 20 coworkers on an extended lunch break (i remember those!). the waitress sat us in a booth that was large enough to easily sit 6 people.
although gyu-kaku is a japanese barbecue restaurant, i associate it with korean barbecue, and a lot of items on the menu are korean inspired. typically korean barbecue can be pricey, but i discovered that gyu-kaku has a pretty (relatively) cheap lunch menu. i got the 3 meat lunch special ($14.95) which comes with miso soup, a salad, and rice, along with 3 choices of barbecue meats. i ended up selecting huromon miso, yaki shabu beef miso, and beef tongue (with was a $3 extra option). eliza went with the more conservative 2 meat special and ordered the chicken basil and the bistro hanger steak miso. i also ordered a plate of addictive spicy cabbage ($4), intrigued by the description.
eliza had never had korean barbecue before, so this was her first experience in the exciting world of barbecue-your-own-meat cuisine. the first and only time i ate at gyu-kaku was more than 12 years ago in ebisu (tokyo), with alex and claudio. it was by far the best korean barbecue i've ever had, and even to this day i still remember it. i had something called "hormone" which nobody could explain what it was but it was tasty, so when i saw it on the menu i made sure to order it. i didn't realize gyu-kaku was a chain store until i saw it in taiwan, but only through the window on a bus as we passed by. since then it's been a dream of mine to eat there again, whether in taipei, or in tokyo. i thought it was exclusively asian, until i saw a gyu-kaku in brookline back in april when i took karen and miguel to see the boston marathon. then when i went online, i found out i didn't actually have to go down to brookline, that there was in fact a gyu-kaku right here in harvard square, my backyard. ever since then i've been waiting for an opportunity to eat here. today was the day.
the soap and salad arrived first, followed by the assortment of different meats. there's a certain visceral element to korean barbecue, that close proximity to raw flesh can be unappetizing for some people. there was a wait on our rice so we began to barbecue.
the yaki shabu beef tasted like typical korean bulgogi. the tongue was bland and tongue, not worth ordering again for future visits. i discovered that huromon is actually intestines, it didn't taste how i remembered it, mostly fat with a bit of intestinal wall lining crunch. i didn't give eliza any huromon to try and she wasn't interested anyway. eliza's bistro hanger steaks were really good, a delicious marinade that didn't need any additional sauce. the chicken was chicken, i didn't really taste any of the basil. we finished eating by 3:15pm, after spending more than an hour with our japanese barbecue adventure.
we stopped in a few stores looking for a suitable birthday present for one of eliza's nieces. we went to urban outfitters, a place i haven't visited in over a decade. there was a particular smell in the store - not unpleasant, more nostalgic - that made my head spin a little bit. we then went to black ink, where they had a lot of cool little knick knacks, but nothing that seemed like a suitable birthday present. we ended up heading back.
it was getting late and it was almost 4pm. eliza returned my jacket and visitor's parking permit and headed down to the south shore, hoping to avoid the traffic.
i tried the waterpik again, figuring it'd be a proper test after having lunch. the pik did manage to flush out a piece of lettuce stuck between my molars and a few additional bits of barbecue debris. it felt like flossing but without the actual floss and a lot noisier. although i didn't see any, there was also a faint taste of blood in my mouth, that similar taste after a teeth cleaning.
i went back to my community garden plot to cut off all the tomato leaves affected by early season blight. i removed a lot, i hope what leaves remain will be enough to mature the green tomato fruits. the cherry tomatoes seemed to be the most affected since they have thin stalks and branches. one of the two varieties of larger tomatoes doesn't seem to have any blight, while the other has a little. i think the good variety is the best boy, while the heirloom lifer is susceptible. currently i don't think it's easy to buy blight-resistant tomato seeds, at least none of the big seed sellers carry them (burpees, park). at this rate i might decide to forgo planting tomatoes next season and plant other vegetables, like eggplants, which so far don't have any diseases and the only pests were early season slugs.
for dinner i heated up two french bread pizzas in the oven. after GC was done with his dinner, we finished watching the final 2 episodes of breaking bad.
before i went to bed i used the waterpik one last time. first i flossed, then i used the waterpik, finally the electric toothbrush, followed by a mouthwash rinse. this is all a novelty phase; i can't imagine doing this every single night. the waterpik was supposed to make my life easier, not to add additional minutes to my nightly bedtime routine. but my teeth felt super clean afterwards, like i just visited the dentist. of course i felt that way the first time i used my electric toothbrush, and i don't feel that way anymore.