the kitchen smells like cabbage, a side effect of kimchi fermentation. i personally don't mind, but when i've had roommates here, i usually warm them, or i don't even bother making kimchi until they leave, as a courtesy.
a cold day with a crystal blue clear sky, the optimal weather for peak solar production. the question wasn't if we'd break the all time record today - that was guaranteed - but of how much we'd actually produce. 45kWh? 50kWh? who knows, we were heading into uncharted territory. i kept my eye on the graph all day long, plotting it against past peak productions. it was actually sort of boring, as most of the day was just a solid block of production; only the beginning and ending was interesting.
|BLUEBERRY MUFFINS||(6 jumbo servings)|
1 stick salted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups blueberries
|bake 425°F 10 minutes, 375°F 30 minutes + 10 minutes|
in the afternoon i made some blueberry muffins. nothing exciting, just using some ingredients i had lying around the house. this was a whole milk muffin, using 1 cup of old fresh blueberries and 1 cup of frozen wild blueberries, with a stick of butter and eggs left out overnight to warm to room temperature. i tried to cream the sugar and butter the best i could, but i don't think i've ever mixed it enough that i've reached the cream stage. the only ingredient i forgot was to add a dash of lemon juice.
i baked the muffins at 425°F for 10 minutes, then 375°F for 30 minutes, adding another 10 minutes to darken the crust a bit. i think next think i will resist the temptation to bake the muffins an extra 10 minutes to see if they come out more moist, even if it means a slightly pale crust. it was one of those rare times when i ate a freshly baked muffin right away instead of waiting. right away i noticed a strong floury taste. was it because i used old flour? or too much baking powder? or because i didn't add a sour note with the missing lemon juice? after that initial hint the floury flavor disappeared and what i had left was a perfectly serviceable blueberry muffin. the fresh blueberries are great in that they simply melt from the heat, like chocolate chips. the smaller frozen wild blueberries are more robust, but even they seem to meld into the muffin. what i like the most is the crust on the sides though. if i could i'd make a cake that was mostly side crust.
i made a grilled cheese & ham sandwich afterwards for a late lunch.
once evening came, it was time to tally up the solar production score: today we made 44.69kWh, about 9kWh more than yesterday, which was the all-time production record for only a day before today's new record. the ending is still a bit of a mystery, around 5pm there seems to be a mini plateau of about half an hour before decreasing production again. i'm not sure what that is.
dinner came in the form of another grilled ham & cheese sandwich, a tall glass of chocolate milk, and some leftover fruit salad. i have a hankering for another food project and i really want to try making traditional kimchi. i want to get some ingredients from chinatown but tomorrow might be too cold to bike into boston.
i could've slept late but woke up at 8am. i think my body hasn't yet adjusted to daylight saving time. i wasn't entirely free of obligations, i still had to go down to the cafe and defrost the freezer then dogsit hailey in belmont for the day. when i contacted my sister, she said that wasn't until next weekend. by that point i was already dressed and ate a grilled ham & cheese sandwich for breakfast. it's been 5 days since i've been on the bike and my legs felt tired as i pedaled down to the cafe. weather didn't help either: temperature was in the lower 30's but with a strong breeze that made the wind chill feel like the 20's. it took a long time to defrost, and there were still a few ice patches that i couldn't melt no matter how long i blasted it with a blowdryer. i also emptied a full pan of drip water, managing to pour most of it on myself while i tried to maneuver it out of the freezer, narrowly getting electrocuted from all the extension cords on the floor. i returned home afterwards.
back at home i got started on my korean kimchi, since it takes a few hours for the vegetables to reduce. i briefly went to star market to get some garlic and a fruit tray i'd eyed hungrily the last time i was there.
|kimchi march 2018||(4.5x 1 qt. pickle jars)|
6.83 lbs. napa cabbage
2.16 lbs. daikon radish
5 tbsp fine salt
2 tbsp salted shrimp paste
12 tbsp red pepper powder
0.30 lbs. ginger, processed
2 heads of garlic, processed
1 asian pear, processed
15 thai hot peppers, chopped
2 bunches scallions, chopped
back in january 2017 i made what i thought was my most perfect kimchi recipe. a few months later i figured out the key portions per pound of vegetables: 0.54 tbsp of salt and 1.30 tbsp of hot pepper powder. i know how to make a bunch of fermented foods (sichuan paocai, sauerkraut, curtido, kimchi, kombucha) so sometimes i get them confused. like how i bought carrots when i don't need them for my korean kimchi recipe (i do use them for sichuan paocai).
korean kimchi is a little difficult to make compared to some of my other fermented foods because it needs ingredients that might be hard to come by in a typical supermarket. the main ingredient is napa cabbage, it won't work with anything else. i've seen napa sold at market basket on occasions, but always small and pricey compared to the ones you'd find in a chinatown supermarket. the other key ingredient is the red pepper powder. it's not the sort you'd find in a spice rack, because you need to get it in bulk since you'll need a lot of it. that's the sort of thing you would only find in an asian grocery store, although i've seen it in the international food section of some more larger well-stocked supermarkets. i also like to add daikon radish, and although you could substitute, a typical normal radish is simply too small. i've also been processing one asian pear into my kimchi, but there's no reason you can't use a crispy peeled apple instead, since you can't really taste it but the sweetness adds another layer of complexity. finally, good kimchi needs a little fishiness, which supposedly also speeds up the fermentation. i add that by using the shrimp paste, which is definitely an ingredient you will only find in an asian supermarket. but you could always substitute, like adding some raw oysters, anything to impart a slight fish taste.
ingredient-wise i was following the same as last time, except i didn't have garlic chives so i used scallions, and didn't have an asian pear so i used an apple. however, when i was down at the cafe earlier, my 2nd aunt just happened to have an old asian pear she didn't want anymore.
i cut the napa cabbages into squares (removing the core) and cubed the peeled daikon radish. the napa cabbage were the right size (not too large) which made cutting easier. i had about 9 lbs. total worth of vegetables, about the same amount as the last few times i made kimchi, so i used the same portion of salt to reduce, 5 tbsp. if i really wanted to be accurate, the exact portion is (6.83 lbs. napa + 2.16 lbs. daikon) * 0.54 tbsp of salt = 4.85 tbsp total. so roughly 5 tbsp. wearing a glove (i learned my lesson when i made sauerkraut yesterday) i mixed the vegetables and salt and left it to reduce in the 20 qt. stock pot for the next 6 hours.
even with the clouds we still managed to set a new production record for the month of march: 35.54 kWh. tomorrow (and the day after) is supposed to be a cold and cloud-free day, i expected us to reach an overall production record, 40kWh+. one thing i noticed when i stack all the production data for the past week is production can potentially be plateaued from 10am to all the way to 3:15pm. that's 5 hours of peak production, which in itself would produce about 31.5 kWh of electricity. adding the head and tail, i'm hoping to be impressed by tomorrow's numbers.
i returned to my kimchi by 8pm. throughout the day i stirred the vegetables to help with the reduction. first thing i did was to remove the cabbage juice. i managed to get about a quart of liquids. then i prepared the ingredients for the food processor: asian pear (removing the bitter core), ginger (peeled slight though not necessary), and garlic. i processed them in halves since my processor isn't very big. next i chopped the scallions and frozen thai chili peppers. into the stock pot went all the ingredients, along with 2 tbsp of shrimp paste and 12 tbsp of red pepper powder.
wearing gloves again, mixed all the ingredients, then stuffed them into pickle jars. i managed to stuff 4-1/2 jars of korean kimchi. i put them on lasagna trays with the jars slightly opened. they will ferment in my kitchen for the next 3 days, or until they begin leaking. that's when i'll seal the jars tightly and put them in the refrigerator to slow the fermentation process.
elsewhere, on the sauerkraut front, the sichuan sauerkraut seems to be fermenting well judging from the airlock. but there's no activity in the traditional sauerkraut airlock, though i've noticed juices already already leaked into the bowl. this jar is so compacted with sauerkraut there's just no space for the air to escape through the airlock so it vented from the side of the lid instead. i opened it up to further compress the sauerkraut before tightening it back up again.
for dinner i made another grilled cheese and ham sandwich. i watched the weekend rebroadcast of two new ABC shows, deception and for the people. deception reminds me of castle, serious lady cop (in this case lady FBI agent) paired up with not-so-serious writer (in this case a magician) who can help out with investigations. it's a played out formula (all the way to the days of moonlighting) but i still like it. i really like the actress who plays the FBI agent, ilfenesh hadera. i couldn't remember where i know her from until i realized it was from the baywatch movie. as for for the people, it's another shonda rhimes produced drama. i don't watch an shonda rhimes shows, but i do know her reputation. this show really wasn't on my radar, but i've been a fan of britt robertson since her swingtown (2008) and life unexpected (2010-2011) days, so i was game. the premiere episode turned out to be pretty good, sets up a little relational drama that rhimes is famous for. so i guess i have 2 new shows i'll be following.
good news on the weather front: it looks more and more likely that next week's nor'easter will push out to sea and not affect us directly. we have this cold snap to thank, all this high pressure is keeping the low pressure storm front from hitting us.
i think the next time i make kimchi, i'm going to try the maangchi recipe to make baechu-kimchi using a homemade kimchi paste. i like the kimchi i make, but i'd like to up my game, explore some other kimchi variety and methods. the one thing i noticed in her recipe is she only uses a little bit of ginger, while i use a lot.
i woke up at 7:30am to get ready for my 9:45am MGH dermatology appointment in boston. i decided to take the subway into the city because there was still frozen snow banks and the weather was a bit cold. however, i did see a handful of cyclists commuting down beacon street and elsewhere, and i felt a little jealous. maybe not so much the cold, but this time in the morning was rush hour and i wasn't looking forward to the crowds.
i left for porter square a bit before 9am. it's been 97 days since i last rode the subway (although i did take the commuter rail to north station back in early february). there was a lot of people but at least i got a good standing spot inside the subway car and it was just 4 stops to the charles/MGH station. i stood next to a very pretty woman twirling her hair and checking her phone. a passenger getting off banged into us with his backpack. the floor was sticky from some dried soda.
arriving at the station, it was a short walk to the dermatology building, located not on the main MGH campus but a few blocks away on staniford street. since i'd been there before, it was pretty routine, nothing to fill out, just had to sign in and take a seat in the waiting room where there was free wifi. a nurse led me to an exam room, asked a few questions, then left me to wait for the doctor. i was there for a possible wart, but it disappeared a few days after i made the appointment. i was really there to get rid of a few milias, but the doctor said they were benign and common and i should just leave them alone.
afterwards i walked down to nearby haymarket. it was relatively early and produce tents were still setting up. i didn't really have anything in mind i wanted. the orange sellers weren't even there yet. i left with 2 boxes of strawberries ($1/each), a bag of carrots ($1), a lbs. of ginger ($1), a large daikon radish ($2), and two heads of napa cabbage ($1 each, for making korean kimchi). i asked the vendor if he could weigh the cabbage for me (i wanted to see how much i was getting) but he got really angry and said they were just a dollar and he wasn't going to weigh them. i ended up dealing with his partner.
i could've taken the faster commuter rail back to porter square but i took the subway instead because i needed to go to harvard square to check out yulia's latest computer issue. she called last weekend, only now did i finally have time. so of course since that time the computer hasn't crashed, and it was a weird problem too, seemingly random and can't be reproduced. i double checked that all the automatic updates were turned off, and manually updated the OS X security patch, though i don't think that'd do anything.
afterwards i walked home, my obligations for the this week finally over. i heated up a leftover feta cheese spinach pie for lunch. i went out one more time to the dollar store to pick up some plastic cups for planting seeds (color tinted clear 16 for $1, i bought $4). i bumped into bruce, on his way to the liquor store. coming back, i went to star market to stock up on some canned soup on sale. i also picked up a single apple to be used as a substitute for asian pear in my kimchi recipe.
today was sunny but with periods of cloudiness. production never once reached 6kW, which so far has been the plateau. still, we managed to make 25.6kWh by day's end. the next few days are supposed to be very sunny so i'm looking forward to another record production day.
my lamp splitter base sockets arrived today. i ordered them from ebay less than 2 weeks ago from a chinese seller. they were a dollar a piece so i got 3 even though i only needed 2. i need these to make a pair of DIY lowel ego lights for food photography. however when i went onto amazon to buy the 27W CFL 5500K light bulbs, the prices had gone up by $9. i'm in no hurry, i'll wait until the price drops again, or search for alternatives. these bulbs are ideal because the ikea light cord i'm using can't go over 75W, so even with two bulbs it's still 54W.
around 8pm i got to work making my sauerkraut with the cabbages that've been in my fridge since last weekend. the sooner i got started the better, since it takes the sauerkraut several days to mature and develop it's sour taste. i still have several jars of old sauerkraut (and one car of curtido) from about a year ago; i'm planning to throw them out eventually, but i want to save some so i can do a taste test comparison between (very) old sauerkraut and fresh sauerkraut.
i had two heads of green cabbage so i made two different type of sauerkraut: one is the traditional with caraway seeds, the other is a sichuan paocai inspired sauerkraut. after shredding both cabbages (each one weighed about 2.5 lbs. each, standardized head of cabbage weight apparently), to one i added one tbsp of salt1 plus one tbsp of caraway seeds; to the other i added one tbsp of salt1, 7 chopped thai chili peppers, 3 tbsp of red sichuan peppercorn, and one tbsp of chinese baijiu. after mixing the ingredients, i left the cabbage on the counter to reduce for a few hours. i should've worn gloves because tiny microscopic cuts on my hands got really painful when exposed to the salt plus the hot chili peppers.
for dinner i made a grilled ham & cheese sandwich. i ate the leftover baklava for dessert. it was sickening sweet and the filo pastry got stuck on the roof of my mouth.
around 11:30pm i went back to the kitchen to pack the sauerkraut into jars. one head of cabbage reduced to sauerkraut should fit inside a 1 quart jar with some compressing. i barely got mine to fit. for the sichuan sauerkraut i used a different 1/2 gallon jar which was a lot roomier. i put the lids on with the airlocks and left them on the counter sitting in bowls to ferment.
1 the proper sauerkraut ratio is 3 tbsp of salt per 5 lbs. of cabbage. so i should've really used 1.5 tbsp of salt instead, but i don't want my sauerkraut to be too salty.
hailey slept with me in my sister's old bedroom, curled up at the foot of the bed. while trying to reach for her in the dark i accidentally poked her dog eye. she pressed up against me so hard that i was afraid i'd lose circulation in my legs. the room was cold and i tried to give her a corner of a blanket for cover. around 6:45am - about the same time as sunrise - i noticed she was already up, sitting on the bed. i let her outside to use the bathroom. when she came back inside she was waiting in the kitchen doorway for her breakfast. i gave her two scoops of dog food pellets and went back to bed. after she finished eating, she jumped back onto the bed as well, but left 10-15 minutes later, to go sleep in the living room, perhaps to wait for my sister to come home to pick her up.
around 8:40am i heard what sounded like maybe somebody coming into the house. i figured it was my sister but didn't hear anything afterwards, so thought nothing of it. i began surfing the web on my phone from bed, getting ready to wake up. that's when i heard my sister asking me if i was awake yet.
we were out in the backyard by 9am, to clean more snow off of the solar panels. my sister was complaining about the cold, she had no good reason to be outside except to spot me when i climbed the ladder. it had snowed a little bit overnight and there was a dusting of snow covering the panels i cleared yesterday. but in the amount of time it took me to get my equipment ready, that fine layer of snow was already fast melting once the sunlight hit it.
i first tried breaking the snow below the panels above the rear entrance. it was pretty stiff and even with the plastic snow rake i wasn't making much progress. it was also early enough that this area was still in shadow, and the sun didn't get a chance to soften the snow yet. i'd have to wait. in the meantime, i'd already decided yesterday i had to go onto the roof in order to properly clean the panels, even after my parents warned me not to do it before they left. i think if they could see how much snow was on the roof, they'd agree it had to be done. to wait for it to melt naturally would take days, and we'd lose valuable production during that time. it was primarily the area between the sunroom and the mainroom, a perfect place for a lot of snow to get trapped. i figured if i can shovel out that area, everything else will just melt on its own.
i moved the ladder to the other side of the sunroom, where i could get a handhold to help me up on the roof. i cleared some snow but apparently didn't clear enough and what wasn't supposed to happen happened: i slipped. but fortunately i had my hand on one of the panels and i didn't fall of the roof. that sort of put the fear of god in me, which i already had. once i was on the roof though (standing above the sunroom), i was safe. i began shoveling, the whole time sister pressuring me to hurry up because she remembered she had a doctor's appointment at 11am. from the roof i could see across to the neighbors with the new solar install, the contractors back again this morning to put down more panels. i wondered if they knew what i was doing, because from their vantage point it'd be impossible to know we had solar panels as well. maybe they thought i was just clearing the snow off of the roof, which still isn't a common occurence.
once i dug out a trench, i could gently slide the snow off of the main roof panels. i began shovel this new batch of snow, threw it over the roof onto the front of the house. with that done, it was time to work on the panel covering the sun room roof panels. it's a whole lot easier cleaning from the top than it is from the bottom. i tapped the mass of snow to break it apart then slid chunks of snow downwards off the panels and over the end of the sun room roof. unfortunately there was too much snow on the lower edge and there was a snow pileup, while i had to break apart by pushing the snow with the foam rake fully extended. i finally stopped a bit after 10am, with just a few panels still partially covered in snow, but confident the rest of the snow would melt once we reached late morning and the sun would be shining on it in full.
we left for my sister's place, where i stayed until she was done with her doctor's appointment around noontime. i brought the spare roof rake and cleaned up the edges of the restaurant, so there'd be an empty strip where the snow could gently melt into the gutters. once that was done i went back into the house. now that the internet was working, it was so much better, and it was far less boring. i copied some movies onto a 64GB thumb drive i found, thor ragnarok and jumanji. the drive was formatted in FAT32, which is supposed to support 4GB file sizes, but i couldn't over the MP4 files, which were about 2GB+ each. i did some searching online and discovered it's a known bug in OSX 10.13, that there's a file restriction of only 2GB when tranferring to MS-DOS FAT32 drives. i ended up making the transfer after all using the transmit app, which is what i normally use for ftp. i also checked the status of the solar panels. despite 4 panels still registering low output, production was already at 6kW.
my sister finally came home with gyros for lunch. we ate in the empty living room, sitting on the floor, watching the weather forecast on the news. once we finished eating, it was time to go back to work: first a quick stop in belmont because the monitoring app kept telling me 4 panels had very low production, and even though i'm sure the snow would eventually melt, just for my peace of mind i wanted to go back and clean off the final patches of snow; afterwards we'd go to market basket to pick up some cafe supplies; before finally dropping me off at home.
i thought i was clear the lower edges of the roof with the foam rake, but the angle just wasn't right, the pole kept hitting the gutter instead. finally i set up the ladder, and it took me under a minute to clear the remaining snowy patches, which by that point was quickly melting anyway, turning to semi-transparent slush.
we actually stopped by my place first, where i dropped off my bags, and grabbed my father's credit card for buying cafe supplies. but when my sister saw the card, she said it wasn't the right one. i unfortunately didn't have any money or additional cards on me (they were in the backpack i just dropped off at my place), but my sister said she had cash.
market basket was busy but we were lucky enough to find a parking spot right away, one that was big enough so my sister didn't have to worry about somebody scratching her car. inside the supermarket however it was very quiet, probably one of the least crowded times i've ever seen it. i think it only looked busy from the outside because so many parking spots were taken up by the snow banks, which we could see snow removal equipment busy working to clear it to free up more parking. it was weird shopping with a cart, usually i'm navigating the aisles on foot, putting everything into my shopping bag, so i can only buy as much as i can carry. my 2nd aunt requested milk, half & half, turkey, bananas, tuna, and zero-calorie jones soda. my sister bought a lot of stuff for herself. the only thing i got was a 99¢ 6-pack of yakult yogurt drink.
i finally came home around 2:30pm. it felt good to be back, but i was a little guilty for not helping with the shoveling. but i'm usually the one to shovel anyway, so i figured i'm allowed to miss cleaning up one nor'easter. even though i've been back to the house intermittently over the past few days, it felt like i was coming home for the first time in a long time.
i continued checking the solar production numbers. even though some panels were partially obscured this morning and a bit of early afternoon, the sun today was so strong that we managed to make 34.08 kWh, the second most production this month, only the 3rd time we reached 30kWh+ in march. i shouldn't be that surprised, as on february 27th we narrowly missed reaching 40kWh. if the weather cooperates over the next few days, and we get one of those perfect cloud-free days, we should reach 40kWh+ easily. today was also a weird day when the number reported for the inverter (34.05kWh) was less than that of the production meter (34.08kWh).
i ran speedtest on my home modem to see if i had the internet speed increase. it was just 24Mbps. so i rebooted the modem and ran speedtest again. this time i got a speed increase of 41Mbps. not the 60Mbps advertised, but not bad.
for dinner i finished my sister's leftover moroccan chicken tagine (purchased from the loading dock on brighton street belmont). she paid $12.95 for it but only took a few bites.
i woke up to the news that stephen hawking had passed way. that how my day started, with more snow to shovel outside. i began about 8:30am, happy to see that someone with a snowblower had altruistically plowed the sidewalk. so now all i had to do was dig out the car and clear the driveway. a few neighbors were outside shoveling as well. i saw our next door neighbor and we both shrugged and laughed. the driveway was easy to clear, but the part leading out onto the street was buried in more than 2 feet of snow courtesy of the snowplow truckers. digging that out manually would be too much work. so i pulled out the car enough so i could get into the garage and take out the big snowblower. i always have hard time starting it and today was more of the same. prime it, choke it, pull the ripcord, nothing worked. i ended up going inside and bringing out the extension cord. i managed to start the engine and clear several feet of snow before the machine sputtered to a stop. eventually i got it working, the trick is to not turn on the choke despite what the instruction said. with the snowblower working, clearing the snow was actually kind of fun. especially this particular machine, which is more industrial strength with a metal auger compared to the one at the cafe which just uses a rubber paddle.
it took me an hour to finish the front of the house before i moved onto the back (9:30am). up until this point i hadn't even been in the backyard, just enough to clear the snow off of the back steps last night. i assumed the panels were buried under thick snow so i dug a trench to the step ladder so i could climb it and get a good look. i then dug more trenches to either side of the sunroom so i could set up the ladder. i didn't start clearing the roof until 10am. the first step was to use a roof rack and clear the snow from the lower edges of the roof. this is important to allow the snow from the panels to eventually slide off the roof unobstructed. i then climbed up the ladder with the foam rake on the left (west) side of the sunroom. it looked daunting, there was so much snow, so thick that the foam rake couldn't make any progress, neither push or pull the mound of snow on the panels. i managed to clear a few lower panels on the main roof, but i was running out of time, because the comcast technician was arriving at my sister's place between 12-2pm, and i had to be there.
by that time my sister was back in belmont after picking up her car which had been safely garaged at the alewife parking lot. she would've been here sooner but realized when she got to alewife she forgot her car key, so had to go back home and get them. the plan was to go to my sister's place and wait for comcast to arrive (she also needed to clean up her room). after they fixed the problem, she'd take me back to my place so i could check if i needed to shovel my sidewalk, and so i could grab a few things (change of clothes, medication). then she'd drive me back to belmont, where i'd be dogsitting hailey for the night while my sister went out. this would give me time to clear more of the snow from the roof.
so i waited at my sister's place while my sister left with hailey. her dog couldn't be at home when the technician came because she wouldn't stop barking. we got a little freaked out initially because there was a comcast van parked outside the house when we arrived but then later left. i didn't think nothing of it, but when i checked the appointment information, the number they were calling was my father's number. so i had to call comcast and get them to update the number. according to their app (which i downloaded), the appointment was still on time, between 12-12:30pm, but then later changed to 1:00-1:30pm. all i could do was wait around, with no internet and busted tv reception. i saw on the news that patriots offensive tackle nate solder had signed a four-year $62 million with the new york giants. once again, i can't blame the guy, but it seems like so many people are leaving now, i wonder if the team will be any good next year.
the comcast technician showed up around 1:15pm. i saw the van pulled up in front of the house and i went outside to greet him, just in case he tried calling the wrong number. after checking the coaxial cable for signal strength (weak), he replaced the line. the utility pole was in an awkward spot, wedged between several properties, hidden in an evergreen tree. i showed a path so he could get in with his ladder. he climbed up and replaced the coaxial. he told me that squirrels had chewed through the cable. it might've worked if it had time to dry out, but water had gotten inside, which was causing the weak signal strength. besides the cable, he also replaced the splitter. once that was done, i went inside to check the cablemodem and saw it was working again, all the proper lights were on. it took a few more minutes for the router to fire up to see that wifi was working too. i called my sister to let her know she could come back to the house.
after the comcast technician left, i ran speedtest out of curiosity. i was shocked to see speeds approaching 60Mbps. did a new coaxial cable really make that much of a difference? it seemed suspicious, so i went online to see if comcast had bumped up their internet speed limit. sure enough, as of last week, comcast increased their internet speeds across the northeast. our "performance" tier of 25 Mbps is now 60 Mbps. i just happened to notice it because we had to reset the cablemodem. unfortunately upload speed is still not in parity, preventing customers from doing things like setting up a viable personal cloud server.
when my sister came back, she was shoveling snow in her backyard. i kept telling her i wanted to leave, because i still had to go back to my own place, but she didn't seem to be in a hurry. finally i got so angry i screamed, "I'M GOING HOME NOW!" and ran out of her place. if i had to i would walk home. you have to keep in mind that up to that point i hadn't eaten or drank anything, and it was already 2pm. i was so hangry it was making me crazy. my sister said she didn't hear me but i didn't believe her. in the end she did give me a ride to my house, where i was surprised to see the sidewalk was nicely shoveled. i shoveled away the snow around my furnace vents then went inside the house to grab a few things before we left again.
next we went to the burger king on concord avenue, where i bought a 2 whopper meal with fries and drinks, something for lunch, and something for dinner. my sister didn't get anything because of her gluten allergy, but earlier she'd bought some middle eastern food. we finally arrived in belmont sometime after 3pm. my sister ate her moroccan chicken tagine, me with my whopper. i ate that whopper in under 30 seconds. i would've eaten the second whopper as well but i was saving that for later.
i rested for a few minutes, enough to catch my breath, before i went back outside to clear the snow from the solar panels. despite the overcast, temperature was in the 40's and there was considerable melting today. what little snow i cleared from the panels earlier this morning had melted and slide off the roof, free about 6-7 panels. i worked the roof with the foam panel, but the snow was just too dense. tired, soaked, i decided to call it a day, and continue working on it tomorrow morning.
even though a lot of panels were buried in snow, the inverter still managed to recognize 16 of the 24 panels. hopefully there would be some more melting with the few hours of daylight left today. but i knew tomorrow i would be climbing the roof since that was the only feasible way to clear all that snow.
maybe it happened a few days ago, but i noticed it right away when my sister called me while i was outside digging out a backyard path this morning: i couldn't hear her when i answered the phone until i put it in speaker mode. that's when i realized that my phone was stuck in headphone mode. it's a common problem with iphones, it either means there's some obstruction in the headphone jack or water got into the jack to damage it. so when we stopped by my place briefly so i could pick up my pills and a change of clothes, i also grabbed my can of CRC 5103 quick dry electronic cleaner spray.
in belmont, i sprayed the headphone jack with some compressed air but that didn't seem to do anything. i then turned off the phone and sprayed the jack with some electronic cleaner spray. when i rebooted the phone, it was still stuck in headphone mode. i began to think the iphone was broken for real and started imagining myself with a new phone. maybe one with a bigger screen for my aging eyesight. definitely android. maybe a samsung? but then i tried one more thing: i misted a q-tip with some cleaner spray and gently inserted it into the headphone jack and swabbed out the inside. i then tried out the volume toggle and my phone was back to normal. iphone fixed!
hailey waking up at midnight to drink some water before i let her outside (where it was snowing again) to use the bathroom
i've been jumping from places to places within the past 48+ hours that i'm starting to forget where i am and what day it is.
i woke up at 8am to get ready to walk down to the cafe by 9am to begin a day of snow shoveling. there was already a few inches of snow on the ground but thankfully not enough to make walking difficult. however, title="korean instant ramen cup for dinner">the snow was falling at a fast clip, serious enough that i used an umbrella to keep myself from getting too wet. it was windy and my umbrella inverted a few times. there was hardly any traffic, mass ave a ghost town. the only footprints in the snowy sidewalk were mine. the only civilians i saw out were folks walking dogs, and i did see one jogger. when i finally got to my sister's place, i was already pretty miserable, my jeans soaked, my body sweaty inside my jacket. the day was just getting started.
it wouldn't be all bad, as i'd brought some food and was ready to stay warm and cozy inside the house, going out to shovel every few hours. the reality was quite different. almost the first thing i noticed when i set foot inside my sister's place were the flashing lights on the cablemodem alerting me to the fact that their internet was down. my sister told me it'd been down since last night. even if i called comcast today, they wouldn't be able to send someone out until tomorrow at the earliest. not only were we inconvenienced, but i felt especially bad for the astrophysicist tenants upstairs who shared our internet. one thing to inconvenience yourself, but it's another thing to inconvenience others.
we began our first round of cleanup around 9:00am. of the few businesses that were opened today, i saw they already had crew working to clear the snow. my sister worked the shovel while i manned the snowblower. you'd think the snowblower would make the work easier, but the initial stage of this nor'easter was wet snow, which clogged up the chute (despite my snow-jet treatment) and i had to manually break apart the slush every so often. we worked from my sister's place down to the cafe and to the parking lot. most of the businesses had closed for the day so there was no cars parked, which made the work of the hired snowplow truck much easier as he cleared the parking lot. but his vehicle couldn't get to the corners so we had to manually do those areas ourselves. returning back to the house, one of the astrophysicist tenants from upstairs came down to help us shovel. originally from beijing, they get snow there but nothing like this, and he seemed to be enjoying the novelty of it all (though he'd probably think otherwise if he's lived through new england winters for nearly 4 decades). we finished by 10:45am, nearly 2 hours later.
back to the internet issue: at first i thought maybe the problem had something to do with the wiring inside the house. i managed to run an extension cord and plugged the feed coaxial directly into the cablemodem but it was still flashing no connection. finally i called comcast tech support, figured it was better to book a service appointment early, beat the rush. that really tested my patience, because i didn't remember the account number and there's no corresponding phone number, so it took a lot of hoop jumping for them to finally verify me. once that happened, they walked me through the standard tech response where they reset my modem remotely. when has that ever worked? all i wanted was to make an appointment for a technician to come out and check the wires. it ended up taking me 30 minutes, and i nearly abruptly hung up because i had snow to shovel and this was a waste of time. i did make an appointment for tomorrow between 12-2pm.
the second round of cleanup happened at 11:30am, when there was already enough accumulation to shovel again. this time it went a bit quicker since we'd already done a lot of the ground work. we primarily went out to make sure the restaurant workers were parking in the right spots, so the plow truck can still do its cleaning. we were back inside less than an hour later for a lunch break. i ate the greek salad i bought yesterday.
a big part of snow shoveling is waiting. waiting for the snow to end so you can go out and start cleaning. but there's particular challenges when it comes to big snowstorms that last for an entire day. you have to shovel in stages, otherwise if you wait until the very end, there will simply be too much snow to handle. you have to time it so that there's enough snow to shovel but not too much that it'd bog you down. it's also a little demoralizing to see the sidewalk you just shoveled get covered up in snow just as soon as you finish.
waiting without the internet was like being stuck in boredom hell. all my beautiful plans - surf the web, download some movies, stream a few shows - were out the window. i could get the free xfinitywifi from neighboring routers, but the connect was weak and intermittent. the only thing left to do was to watch the non-stop nor'easter coverage on television, but even that was short-lived when my sister wanted to play one of her dvd's. her place also wasn't very cozy, sort of like a hoarder's apartment, with just a single office chair in the back of her bedroom where i could barely see the tv. the living room (my grand uncle's former room) was empty, the floor newly sanded/stained/treated, but it reeked of polyurethane. in fact, the whole place smell of it. i found myself pacing around the empty room, wishing time would go faster, or maybe a miracle might happen and the internet would come back. my jeans were also wet, but i wore a layer of wool underwear underneath that kept me warm. i figured i would just dry the jeans in situ using body heat. it finally got so boring i got the second HDTV which used to belong to my grand uncle and hooked it up in the living room. i got spotty reception using a paperclip antenna and watched the news sitting on the floor with my back to the wall.
unable to get online, i had no idea what the big news of the day was, which was trump firing secretary of state rex tillerson. i found out from watching the news. but the headlines kept on coming. i was shocked that danny amendola decided to leave the patriots and go to the miami dolphins for a two-year $12 million contract. that was followed by the news that malcolm butler signed a five-year $61 million contract with the tennessee titans. that was no surprised given how he was mistreated by belichick during the superbowl, i'm really happy for malcolm, 2-time super bowl champion, finally making the big bucks. then i learned dion lewis also signed with the titans, four-year $23 million.
we went out again at 3pm. i was a little dismayed that our 2nd aunt didn't call us to check the status. she's oblivious to the intricacies of snow cleaning, i imagined her to be warm and cozy at home, watching the snow fall, staying warm, while my sister and i were slaving away every few hours clearing the snow.
i had some instant korean ramen cup for dinner around 7pm for dinner, before we went out again at 7:30pm for one final round of shoveling, with the snow about to taper off by 8pm. afterwards i still had time to grab a 74 bus heading into belmont so i could shovel out my parents' place. when i got to the parking lot, there were half a dozen plow trucks parked haphazardly. i flagged my sister to come over, wanted her to call the tow truck company because obviously somebody had left these vehicles here as storage. but my sister said they could be restaurant customers, and went to the restaurant to check it out. that turned out to be the case, just a group of snowplow drivers stopping for dinner at the restaurant. one of them even volunteered to plow our parking lot for free before they left. they had a newer plow truck, one that cover pivot the plow head in all sorts of angle. when our own plow guy came by later tonight, he's going to be awfully confused as to why the parking lot had already been cleared.
we finally finished by 8:30pm. that gave me enough time to catch the 8:55pm bus heading into belmont. when the bus finally arrived, it was completely empty, i was the only passenger. we arrived at my stop fairly quickly since we didn't have to make any stops, like my own personal bus ride.
when i got to belmont i had to walk in the streets because not all the sidewalks had been shoveled yet. i was pretty anxious, looking back several times to make sure now plow truck was behind me. along the way i some a few houses were people were digging out. it was actually quiet beautiful and quiet, but as i still had a job to do, i didn't have time to stop and admire the scenery.
when i got to my parents' place, i had to dig out a trench with my boots over the plow-created snow bank, then walk in snow that was nearly knee deep to get to the front door. i spent the next 1-1/2 hours digging out, first the walkway, then the sidewalk, and finally a path to the trash bins as there was trash pickup scheduled for tomorrow. i also went into the backyard and cleared the steps. i finally finished by 10:30pm.
after i finally finished shoveling for the day, i stripped out of my wet clothes and went to take a shower. i knew it wouldn't be a pleasant experience, because i'm turned down the water heater after my parents went on vacation, and it was too much of a hassle to turn it back on again. the water was set to 90°F, lower than body temperature. it was liking showering in cold water in a cold room. i've experienced worse (taking a high elevation ice bath shower in a trucker's rest stop bathroom in western sichuan), but this was not the desired reward after a hard day's work. i noticed if i stood directly in the center of the water stream it felt a little lukewarm, but everywhere else it was freezing cold. i was so relieved to finally finishing my shower and toweling dry.
i ate the leftover general tso's chicken for dinner. by that point it was 11pm. at least there was cable tv and internet. later in the evening i switched to CNN to see the result of the pennsylvania district 18 house seat special election between democrat conor lamb and republican rick saccone. the final result was too close to call, with lamb in the lead by several hundred votes, with just some provisional and absentee ballots left to count, but lamb is in a good position to win.
with our third'easter arriving early tomorrow morning, i of course found myself at market basket. before a snowstorm the last place you want to be is a supermarket. and to be at market basket, when on a normal day it's so crowded people are crying from the trauma, that's just insane. but here i was. surprisingly, it wasn't as crazy as i'd thought, but of course it was just late morning. after work, i imagine police officers will be stationed for crowd control, in case any of the shoppers get a little rowdy.
my 2nd aunt actually called me earlier, asked me to get some boneless chicken thighs for making curry, and to get some milk. i could feel my mind rebooting when she said that. milk? the day before a snowstorm? might as well ask me to get bread as well! those are two emergency food that always get sold out first. i had to tell her that maybe in a day or two, but there would be no milk today. having said that, i actually bought some milk, but just for myself, the last gallon of whole milk. i quickly hid it in my shopping sack, didn't want to start a fight over the last milk.
the sky was already a riot of different clouds, especially cumulus, which i don't remember often seeing during winter. something big was coming and we're just specks.
i picked up some things from home and left for the cafe, where i dropped off the chicken thighs. my 2nd aunt asked if i could help her hang back the clock she took down to adjust the time. "take down" is a polite way of saying she dropped the wall clock once again. that's actually my own clock, which i replaced after she smashed the last one trying to do the same thing. this one had a big crack on the bottom and she taped up a broken piece. fortunately i wasn't that sentimental about the clock.
and then went to my sister's place and rolled out the snowblower so i could spray some snow-jet non-stick polymer coating to the chute. this was something my father was supposed to do at the beginning of the season. of course we didn't have very much snow until these past two weeks, so there wasn't an urgency. and it also depends on the snow: dry snow is no problem, but the wet snow we had last week was hell on the blower. snow-jet requires two coats (drying in between) but hopefully one will suffice.
hailey was at my parents' place with the electric heater on (i gave my sister the go-ahead because today was a high production day). on the table my sister had gotten some general tso's chicken chinese takeout for me. she must've gotten it last night, because it was already cold, but even if she'd gotten it this morning it would've been cold anyway since i got back to belmont so late. although i appreciate the gesture, it also annoyed me, because i'd already planned my meal: leftover sandwich from yesterday for lunch, followed my a greek salad for dinner.
however, i decided to visit home depot first before eating. figured after i get all my errands done, i can finally sit down and enjoy a good meal and not have to go out again. i noticed the sunbug solar installers were back again, this time putting on the actual panels. out of curiosity, i went down and asked them the specs: 33x panels, LG 320 panels on angled on the lower level (wraparound balcony), canadian solar 300 panels on the upper room installed flat. i'm not sure why they didn't angle all the panels. i also don't know the count of each panels, but i'm guessing 12 canadian solars, and 21 LG's. that'd mean a system of 10.3 kWh. i didn't think they were installing at many panels, but seeing the house from the front i could see they actually have a pretty large flat roof area.
i went to home depot to pick up another T8 fluorescent shop light and to see if they had any japanese eggplant seeds (if not then i'll need to order them online). the T8 shoplight i wanted was actually kind of hard to find, as the store seems to be pushing the more expensive (though more efficient) LED lights. i actually had to log into their website, look up the light i wanted, and have it tell me where it was located in the store. it was actually where i was looking, just sort of hidden (a few boxes on the lowest shelf), and it wasn't on display either. along with the shoplight, i picked up a pair of warm white (3000K) T8 fluorescent tubes. i then checked out their seeds: a more extensive selection than OSJL, but still didn't carry the japanese eggplant variety i wanted. i did pick up a packet of blue columbines though.
returning to belmont, i finally had breakfast/lunch around 2:30pm, eating the leftover ham & cheese croissant and a bagel nugget. my 2nd aunt also gave me some scallion pancakes which i ate a few slices while i watched MSNBC.
one of the first things i did when i arrived at my parents' place was to check the electronic mouse trap underneath the counter in a cabinet. the almond butter apparently wasn't enticing enough, as i noticed fresh mouse droppings but no dead mouse. fortunately i bought a jar of real creamy peanut butter and after cleaning out the almond butter, smeared a pea-sized glob of peanut butter. i also smeared a little bit by the entrance to the trap.
solar production wasn't bad today, given all the thick clouds floating overhead. we managed to produce 25.3 kWh. at this rate however, march might not beat february in production. the 2 nor'easters plus this this one coming later tonight really put a damper on total monthly production. but it's hard to say, trying to predict solar production is a lot like trying to predict the weather.
the rest of the day i surfed the web on my computer while trying to keep warm: the thermostat was only turned on to 55°F but i had the electric space heater running until the late afternoon when production fell below the operating threshold. my sister came home in the early evening after her catering gig, changed into some new clothes, then went to her friend's house for dinner. i was in charge of feeding hailey and feeding myself, warming up half the portion of general tso's chicken with rice for dinner.
before i ate however, i had to clean up all the mouse droppings underneath the steel kitchen shelf. it was my sister who first noticed it, but while i was using the microwave, it bothered me so much that i had to clean before i could eat. it seems like it'd been there for a while, and maybe the mice were living there at one point. i kept trying to find what they could be eating but everything we had we kept in plastic bins ever since we discovered mice had gotten through a bag of instant oatmeal mix. hopefully these were old droppings. cleanup wasn't so easy however. i tried vacuuming, but the vacuum head couldn't reach the bottom of the shelf, so i had to empty the shelf and pull it out. then i scrubbed the floor with bleach to disinfect it. it got me so mad i'm tempted to get some sticky traps instead of just that one electronic trap, humane kill be damned. hopefully these mice are just passing through, because i went through the kitchen putting away anything they might eat, even going as far as dumping out hailey's water so there's nothing for them to drink.
my sister came back after 7pm. i told her my plan for tomorrow: walk down to the cafe in the early morning and wait until there was enough snow to use the snowblower. i'll do two passes, once at the halfway point, and once when the snow has nearly finished falling. afterwards, i'm taking the bus to belmont to begin shoveling out my parents' place. i'll stay there overnight, and come wednesday morning, with the storm hopefully gone, i'll get up on a ladder and clear the snow off the solar panels. i was hoping my sister could give me a ride, but she wanted to put away her car at the alewife station parking and not have to worry about digging it out, which i understand. i'm also thinking about digging out my aunt lili's place, but that won't be until wednesday morning, provided i have enough energy.
the worst part of all of this is the long range forecast calls for yet another nor'easter - the fourth'easter - scheduled for early next week. the snow total kept on climbing every few hours that i watched the news. the 6pm broadcast said 10-15", but the 11pm broadcast said 16-20". the peak of the storm will be from 5am to 3pm. the only good news is this will be a drier snow, which is easier to clean versus wet sticky snow.
i biked back to cambridge, savoring this final ride, since i don't expect to be riding much after we get blanketed with snow tomorrow and possibly next week. when i went to go put my bike away in the basement, steve and paul had pushed a stack of chairs where i usually park my bike. it got me a little angry and annoyed, because that's my side of the basement, but maybe it's just temporary, so i found a spot to wedge my bike. i'll have plenty of opportunity to rearrange the basement when they leave for martha's vineyard come mid-may in 2 more months. i'm actually surprised they're not down there today, keeping an eye on their island property. it'd be the ultimate irony if their summer home got damaged and they have no place to live during the summer since they already rented out their condo.
my newly-replacement bathroom halogen bulb has started flickering again. a brand new bulb, so i'm beginning to wonder whether the problem has something to do with the light fixture itself, maybe a broken starter that needs replacing. when i took out the bulb, i noticed corrosion on one of the prongs. i just flipped over the bulb and reinserted it back into the fixture and now it's bright again. maybe it's moisture related, but i've had this light from the very first day i've lived here, don't know why it'd suddenly start acting up now. but when i get the chance i should take apart the fixture and see if there's anything wrong inside.
i was momentarily confused this morning when i looked at the clocks. although my phones automatically adjusted the time for daylight saving, all the clocks in my house were still an hour behind. i went around the house adjusting the times (microwave, kitchen wall, bathroom, living room).
the floor guys came by my sister's place this morning at 9am to apply one final layer of polyurethane. she'd sent hailey to my parents' house. when they finally finished with the floor, my sister called asking me if i needed a ride, because i told her yesterday i had to go to the cafe to defrost the freezer and then to OSJL to get some seeds and potting soil.
my sister she came by around 10:45am and we went to the cafe first. it'd only been 3 days since i last defrosted, and there just was a little bit of ice build-up in the freezer. i was expecting 20 minutes with a blowdryer but it only took a few minutes to clear what little ice had formed on the radiator fins. my sister had gone out to buy some breakfast, so i took the time to water the plants as well.
heading to belmont, my sister told me she turned on the space heater earlier to keep hailey warm. i didn't know that since i also turned on the heat via nest thermostat. fortunately it was a sunny day and we were generating enough kW of power. today was a good production day, the productive day this month, at 34.76 kWh. like yesterday, the morning production was strong, but unlike yesterday, today we maintained a high production until the afternoon when enough clouds began to form that production took a sharp nosedive. but by then we'd made enough electricity to be 30+kWh at least. had there been no cloud interruptions today, we would've reached 40 kWh for the very first time in production history.
it was my sister who first noticed that the tall neighboring pine tree seen from our backyard had snapped in half. i of course was happy because that meant less obstruction and more sun for our panels. the biggest tree obstruction however is a gigantic oak, perhaps the largest tree within many blocks. the fact that nothing's ever happened to that tree before is a testament to its strength/health. i'd imagine should even one branch break off, it'd damage a lot of neighboring properties.
i had my sister help me upright the collapsed fence. it's a two-person job, my sister to hold the fence up while i tied a rope from the fence to a tree to keep it upright. it's not the most elegant solution, but at least it'll keep the snow off until we can replace the broken posts when my father gets back.
the electronic mouse trap caught nothing, but i knew there were still mice around because i saw some fresh droppings in the below counter cabinets. how exactly are they getting in? anything, i decided to switch out the bait. the large crumb of dried peanut butter from an expired reese's pieces cup was not enticing enough apparently. my sister had some expired almond butter she let me use. it was not good, the liquid and solid had separated, the mixture too hard to stir. we tried our best and she managed to get out enough to form a small ball which we placed back in the trap.
we went to the waltham OSJL. i was there to pick up some new seeds as well as potting soil. originally i wanted to go to home depot, but the price difference was just a few cents, not worth the extra trip. it took me a while to find the soil. they seemed to have a limited supply (unlike the mulch and garden soil, bags of which were piled outside the store) and only a few bags were left, seems like i'm not the only one growing my own garden plants from seeds. as for the seeds themselves, there was a 40% off sale (typical of OSJL), mostly park seeds. they changed the packaging, and now there are also organic seeds, which cost more, and i don't think it makes any difference, because whether or not your vegetables are organic depends on how to raise them, not the seeds themselves.
there was a loud chinese man, who just happened to come across a chinese woman working at the store. he wanted to find LED light bulbs, and purposely sought her out for help in chinese. if it was me i'd just pretend i only spoke english, especially since the guy was obnoxious and used her as his personal valet simply because they're both chinese. at first i didn't even think she was chinese, because when i meet an asian person, i don't automatically assume they can speak mandarin. later we saw the man again at a checkout line, who just happened to get the same chinese woman now working the register. he seemed to be haggling with her over price, holding up the line, enough so that those behind him switched to different lines. of course he thought nothing of inconveniencing others, and even joked with the woman that chinese people are better at math.
we stopped in belmont to pick up hailey before my sister gave me a ride back to my place. she asked if she could drop hailey off at my house for a few minutes while she went to the neighboring thai restaurant to get some noodle takeout. i myself had a hankering for general tso's chicken but decided against it since it was a different restaurant. while my sister was gone, hailey was anxiously waiting for her in the living room, crying a bit and looking out the window. when my sister came back so also brought an order of satay chicken for me. i waited for them to leave before digging into my meal.
as we get closer to the next nor'easter, the forecast gets more accurate. it looks to be a large dumping of snow, possible a foot, possibly more. i heard it's going to be a dry snow, which will be good, not as back breaking. it will start late monday night, snow for the entirety of tuesday, and finally stop sometime wednesday morning.
that satay chicken i had for a late lunch was so filling that i wasn't hungry for the rest of the day. in the evening however i made some baked potato wedges. i made it last fall but forgot about it, until i saw the potatoes on sale and rediscovered the recipe. it involves a 30 minute ice bath, following by 45 minutes at 450°F in the oven, flipping them at the midway point. i didn't eat until after 10pm. i used some of the leftover peanut and fish dipping sauce from the satay chicken.
around this time of the year is when i bring up all my closet grow house equipment from the basement: fluorescent lights, plastic trays, leftover growing containers (plastic cups), and gravel. i'd forgotten that every year i've been replacing an old T12 fluorescent shoplight with a newer more efficient T8 light. so far i have 3. every year i also weigh the idea of upgrading to LED lights, but in 2018 they're still not as cost effective as T8 fluorescents (more expensive, less lumens) so i'll be getting another T8 shoplight sometime soon, so i will have only T8 grow lights this season (with the exception of one LED light panel).
there was reason to be optimistic this morning when i saw the solar production graph line skyrocket to 6kW by 9:15am. but that excitement was short-lived as the production began to plummet after 9:45am. clouds - the bane of solar power - won out the day. nevertheless, by day's end we still managed to produce 25.66 kWh, the second most productive day of march so far.
the weather was unsettled, even hailing little snow pebbles at one point. i thought about going to haymarket but the temperature was a little cold and i didn't really need anything. in the afternoon i biked to rite aid to pick up some dove sculpting paste then market basket for some groceries. it was busy, the aisles were crowded, but there wasn't a lot of people waiting in the express lines and i checked out pretty fast.
afterwards i went to star market to stock up on frozen stouffer lasagna. there was also a sale on cabbage (29¢/lbs.) and potatoes ($1.99 for a 5lbs. bag of white potatoes) to coincide with st.patrick's day festivities. however, after i paid, i realized there were mistakes on my receipt. for one thing, my cabbage was rung up as lettuce. they also didn't give me the discount price for potatoes. i went to customer service where not only did they take off the wrongly priced items, they also gave me the cabbage and potatoes for free. i'll be turning that cabbage into some sauerkraut.
when i was in china i discovered this hair styling wax that was pretty good. i could only find it in the carrefour supermarkets, and when i was last there i got a new container. but since that time the wax has dried up and no longer usable, so i'm in search of a new styling wax. growing up in the 80's, i've experimented with all sorts of hair hold productions, from hair spray, to mousse, to gel. in recent times gel was my preferred option, but it has a tendency to hold too hard and leave crusty streaks if i'm not too careful. i happened to have a coupon for a dove men care sculpting paste so i got a container. i noticed hair styling products have gone up in prices: this dove paste was $8.50 but i paid $7 after coupon. i've yet to try it.
some ebay purchases arrived in the mail. i got an HDMI adapter for my pizero, but unfortunately i got the wrong size, micro HDMI instead of mini HDMI. not a big deal, the dongle itself cost less than a dollar. i also got a replacement light switch dimmer cord. i don't really need the wires, i just need the switch itself.
i got a greek salad from market basket and had that for dinner. i felt especially healthy afterwards. later in the evening my father contacted me via wechat video. they were in shenyang, having arrived late yesterday afternoon riding the high speed train from beijing. matthew told me that he's still able to access google services from china with his google phone if his uses his US data instead of local wifi to get online. apparently the google fi network does some kind of automatic encryption of its data communication that it can bypass the great firewall of china (or maybe the GFW is simply ignoring it for the time being). nevertheless, i taught matthew how to use my torguard VPN, first getting him to down the APK from my website, the app disguised as a harmless baidu map extra. i gave him my username and password and he was able to successfully log into google using the local wifi.
my right shoulder blade started hurting today. so much so that it was hard to move around, i could barely turn my body without hurting. i took a pair of ibuprofen but it didn't seem to do anything. this is troubling because we're expected to get another nor'easter in 3 days (tuesday). how will i be able to shovel 3 different properties if i'm in so much pain? hopefully i can recover in time.
i went to bed early, as tonight was the start of daylight saving time, and we'd be losing an hour of sleep.
my sister called me at 6:36am, told me she was coming to pick me up at 7am. i had just enough time to get dressed, use the bathroom and pack up my things for a day of dogsitting. unlike yesterday, at least i'd gotten an extra hour of sleep, having gone to bed at 2am. as soon as i got dropped off in belmont, i went outside with the roof rake and the ladder to see if i could clean the snow off of the sunroom solar panels. i immediately regretted not cleaning the panels completely yesterday. there was a lot of melting yesterday but every frozen overnight. the snow that was on the roof had a sublayer of ice and a dense top layer of heavy wet snow with a frozen crust. there was nothing i could do at that point but wait until later, maybe the sun could soften some of that snow.
a house two doors down from us (the latest mcmansion on the block that was on the market for a very long time) was getting solar power this morning. i saw a bunch of contractors waiting outside the house. i noticed some of them was on the roof, and saw the sunbug solar sign on the van. i contacted sunbug solar back in may when i was doing my first round of solar installer shopping. i'm a little hazy as to what exactly happened to them, i never met with an agent, but somebody did send me an estimate after i provided him with some numbers. i never got back in touch with them which is my fault, but after contacting 9 different solar installers, sunbug solar was actually the 2nd most expensive though they were willing to install LG 330W (we ended up getting LG 335W panels).
i actually had a suspicion that home might be going solar last week when i noticed contractors on the roof. since it's a new house, they weren't there for a new roof, so the other option was solar. locationwise it's not bad, and since it's a mcmansion, it's taller than all the houses around it. the only problem is the house has a modern style with a flat roof instead of pitched, and what roof is available is small (the other flat area is a walkaround balcony, maybe they're going to install panels there as well). with flat roofs you need to pitch the panels themselves otherwise they just get buried in the winter when it snows and you always have to manually clean them off. that's sort of what we're doing now with our own solar install, but at least we have varying degrees of slant that snow do slide off on their own eventually (although we like to help out when we can).
today they only installed the racks; if they're working tomorrow they'll install the actual panels. i wanted to go out and ask them the specs for the system: what panels, what size. i saw the contractors spending a lot of time just shoveling the roof. they left by early afternoon.
there's not much to be done with dogsitting. i don't even have to walk hailey, just periodically let her outside to go to the bathroom in the backyard. usually she tells me, but i think it's because she wants to go out and either chase squirrels or have me throw snow at her. the rest of the time she's sleeping, sometime in the living room, sometime in my old bedroom. the most i have to do is if i end up staying late, i'll give her some dinner.
my parents got in touch with me via wechat video from their traditional-style beijing hotel room. i'm a little leary using a china app for personal communication. i'm usually not paranoid, but i assume everything we say is being recorded by the chinese government. i asked my father if the torguard VPN was working. he wasn't sure, but said some of his photos were uploaded to his google photo account, which is a good indicator that it worked (though google photos might not be blocked by the great firewall of china). they went to the forbidden city today, did so much walking their feet hurt and they took a nap and decided to skip dinner. tomorrow afternoon they take a high speed train to shenyang.
around 9:30am, with the sun shining outside, i decided to go out and check the solar panel snow condition. though the snow was still fairly dense, the ice shell was gone so i went to work. first, i cleared the front edge of the sunroom with the roof rake standing on the platform step ladder. i learn from yesterday's mistake that the front edge needs to be cleared in order for the snow avalanches to slide off. i was careful to only rake off the snow and not accidentally scratch the panels.
once that was done, i got on a ladder from the right side of the sun room and began working the snow on the lower edges of the panels first with the foam rake. pieces broke off, landing on the strip of roof i'd just cleared. i went back to the step ladder and cleared the snow again with the rake. now there was a portion of exposed panels on the lower edge, which acted like a slide. it got progressively easier to create snow avalanches, as i tapped on the snow with the foam rake. it was also somewhat strenuous, and i stripped off my jacket as i found myself getting sweaty from exertion. eventually the large sliding pieces of snow got enough speed they'd launch themselves off the roof without getting stuck. i also removed some snow from the side of the roof, there seems to be an uneven gap between the bottom layers of panels and the row directly above it, and it was easier to slide the snow sideways instead of straight down. occasionally i'd switch back to the step ladder to clear the snow stuck on the edges, but from that one side position alone and with the extending foam rake handle i managed to clear all the snow off of the sun room panels.
i then did a little touch up work on either side of the main room, where 1-2 panels were still partially covered in frozen hard snow. and with that i was done an hour later. by that point the sun had mostly disappeared, blocked by high-medium elevation clouds.
i don't know if i felt more pain this morning, i just felt them more sharply. yesterday i had aches i couldn't really locate, but today i could point them out. not too bad, nothing debilitating, and this may sound masochistic, but the pain makes me think i got some good exercise. now that i think about it, i do have some new pains. for one thing, my sternum hurts when i press on it, which is probably related to shoveling strain (i shovel left sided).
i cooked up a pot of instant xi'an yangruo paomo for lunch. when i told my parents earlier, they were leary, because it was an old package and most likely expired. but i'm all about eating expired food, though there was a lot of paomo and i tossed away the final few bites because i just couldn't eat anymore.
i was going to eat a lemon cookie from the opened box of girl scout cookies on the dining table until i noticed two dark mouse droppings. mice in the house! now that nobody's around, they've gotten bolder. my mother noticed droppings in the kitchen drawer, and today i saw some as well. it got me so grossed out i wanted to go out and buy a mousetrap. we got a victor electronic mousetrap last year, but it seemed to have disappeared (i think my father gave it to my sister but she said she never got it). it actually worked pretty well (we did catch a mouse) and i like that it's more humane than snap traps or sticky traps. i looked on the home depot website to see if they had any in stock and the one they carried didn't look like the one we got. apparently they upgraded the design. it now has a more trapezoid shape instead of rectangle, and the electronic half and the trap half can be separated.
while browsing the victor pest control website, i saw they had a new mousetrap. and here i thought the electronic mousetrap was the pinnacle of mouse trapping technology. no, they have something now called the victor smart-kill™ which is essentially an electronic mouse trap that will text/notify you when a mouse has been trapped. i was almost tempted to get one but it's 2.5x more expensive ($50). they're making it so that it's almost fun to kill mice, which is a little creepy (though i think the device is cool).
so i went down to the watertown home depot to buy a new mousetrap ($19.97). i also got: a pair of porcelain lamp holders with outlet ($4.28/each), before he left my father and i were talking about upgrading some of the basement lights so we can have extra outlets (there's a dearth of receptacles in the basement); made two copies of the cafe back door key ($1.97/each); and a pair of plastic bubble window well cover ($9.98/ each), the one next to the garage got trapped by contractors at some point (or maybe it was weather damaged).
sister's floor sanding and finishing
victor electronic mouse trap v2 (redesign):
chinese takeout for dinner:
thanks to my diligent solar panel snow removal maintenance and a little help from some unexpected strong bursts of afternoon sun, we managed to produce 17.85 kWh of electricity today, the 2nd most productive day in more than a week. the two nor'easters we've experienced put a damper on overall production. now the latest word is there might be yet another nor'easter due to arrive monday/tuesday. but tomorrow looks to be a sunny day, and with all panels cleared, i'm hoping to get some good production for a change.