i biked to belmont around noontime, on a clear sunny day where the temperature was in the mid-50's. my father was walking around the house, still slow, but not the level of pain he was experiencing yesterday. he thought maybe it was sciatica, but we looked it up and his symptoms weren't severe enough to be that. my mother made me japanese noodles with leftovers from last night. i ate while intermittently watching myriad of critters coming to eat at the feeders: mockingbird, juncos, downy woodpecker, house sparrow, white-throated sparrows, bluejay, cardinal, mourning doves, squirrel. i've yet to see a nuthatch this winter though, we used to have them in the past.
i had grand designs to prune the backyard maple tree (especially on such a nice day) and do another BTi soil drench on our indoor houseplants, but i ended up not doing any of those things. i did bring my google quick charger, tested it on my father's phone which managed to get 1.5A of charging, compared to the 1.8A with his motorola turbocharger. i discovered whether a phone can quick charge isn't so much dependent on the cable or adapter, but rather just the charger itself. even an old microUSB cable with a micro-to-USB-C adapter charged better than the factory motorola cable (it had something to do with wire gauge diameter).
while i surfed the web and snacked on various sweets and chips, my mother knitted and watched her netflix shows, while my father rested in the bedroom and later took a nap. that was the extent of this sunday. my sister also came home briefly with hailey.
in the evening we did some night barbecuing. two slabs of ribs, first left to soak in a brine, before slathered with korean barbecue sauce 2 hours before grilling. by then the temperature had dipped into the 40's, a little chilly, but still warm by february standard. the sweet barbecue sauce did burn a little help, no help from the grease fire that suddenly flared up at the midway point, forcing my father to temporarily turn of the gas for fear of explosion. it was partly drippings from the ribs, but also leftover grease from our last barbecue, who knows when. after the grease had burned itself out, we put the ribs back on the grill for some slow cooking, applying some barbecue sauce back on the ribs. in all it was 12 minutes each side on grilling before another 20 or so minutes on slow barbecuing before the ribs were ready.
surprised we didn't hit 40kWh today, but 38.98kWh is a decent amount of production. i thought the sky was clear enough, but maybe the warmer temperature affected the solar panel efficiency.
i wasn't expecting much, but the brined ribs with korean barbecue sauce were actually pretty good. the sauce is very sweet, so even the blackened portions tasted delicious. even better: a dab of blue ribbon sweet barbecue sauce with eat bite. just ribs alone was enough for dinner, but my mother also added rice with some cabbage stirfry. when i finally rode home and weighed myself, i was up 4 lbs. more than my average.
there was fresh pee on the bathroom floor area when i went to bed last night. not immediately around the toilet, but in the corner, underneath the toilet paper stand. when i picked it up the bottom was soaked in piss. this, after i had to clean the bathroom twice - once in the morning, once at night - after finding more urine. so i decided to take the pedestal away, just leave a roll of toilet paper on the windowsill. when kevin saw it this morning, he put back the pedestal and install a fresh roll, not realizing one was already out. i figured he finally got the message.
that's why i was cursing when i came back home to use the bathroom tonight and found more urine on the floor, right underneath the toilet paper stand. i believe this is the 5th time i've had to clean urine off of the bathroom floor since thursday, what is wrong with this guy? so instead of leaving the stand in the bathroom, i simply took it out. from here all out, the area immediately toilet the toilet will be clear. if there's pee on the floor, it won't be pooling underneath the waste basket, or the toilet paper stand, or anything else. this is the new normal: roommates who aren't house trained.
kevin wasn't home so i took the opportunity to use the bathroom and take a shower. he came back while i was still cleaning, judging from the sounds it looked like he went on a grocery run. seriously, he goes at least 3 times a week. what will happen to his grocery runs when he ends up moving a mile away from the nearest supermarket? i said nothing about the pee situation, though the toilet paper stand was in the kitchen, he must've seen it.
later in the evening i contacted WWY, asking her for help in trying to migrate my QQ account when i no longer have the original number. she sent me a webpage with step-by-step instructions on how to transfer a QQ account when you can no longer receive text messages.
i was going to wait until tomorrow to check out the link, but i decided to glance over it anyway. though it's written in chinese, i could follow the screenshots, and i could see it wasn't going to help me out in my case because it went to the same verification page that asks for your chinese citizen id number, which i don't have. but the article did point me in the right direction, and using google translation, i managed to find something called "device lock" (设备锁). it was turned on, so i turned it off. and wouldn't you know it, just like that, i was able to log into my QQ account from my google pixel phone now, no security question answered.
only thing now though is i have a security risk because my QQ account is no longer device locked. when i tried to lock it back up it showed me my old china phone number; i decided to forgo locking up the account for the time being, no to accidentally lock up my account when everything seems to be working. this means however i can now fully migrate over to the pixel phone, and can erase the oneplus one phone and hand it down to my mother as a play device to replace her xiaomi redmi note 3.
an empty house is what i woke up to on this saturday morning. when i arrived in belmont around noontime, i was surprised to find my father at home while my mother was at the cafe. apparently they switched because my father was having lower back pains again today, so much so he could barely walk, and stayed in bed for much of the day. i told him to get up and walk around a bit, it's better for the back, and later after a hot soak in the tub, he felt a bit better. i had some meat buns for lunch.
the bird feeder was empty but it looked like a squirrel had gone to town on it as it was covered with bite marks. later when i checked the backyard webcam footage, i saw a squirrel had attacked the feeder early thursday afternoon. it spent over 10 minutes gnawing at the feeder, trying to get access to the seeds, but i think it only managed to get a few crumbs at best, the squirrel buster served its purpose. i don't like all the damages but these battle scars shows that the feeder works in keeping squirrels away from the seeds. after refilling the feeder, i added water to some of the bird baths.
the strong winds from the past few days had tipped over the tall backyard step ladder. i leaned it back upright, but it managed to flatten a tomato cage and break off the lower branch of a nearby evergreen. elsewhere, i noticed a few crocuses along the western perennial bed, as well as a few emerging daffodils. seed-grown columbines also seem to be thawing out as well as lupines behind the garage. it's a little disconcerting realizing 1) how little snow we got this winter, and 2) how unusually warm it's been.
i started watching amazon prime's new show hunters about a group of 70's nazi hunters headed by al pacino. it's a fair bit of jewish escapism, and there were so many yiddish words being thrown about, i felt like there were a lot of jokes i simply didn't get. i'm also fully onboard the witcher bandwagon, up to episode 3 so far.
the nevada caucus was this afternoon. sanders won handedly, but buttigieg was 2nd in terms of counties won, even though biden seemed to be second in county convention delegates. once again, even hours after the caucuses closed, they still didn't have a final count. bernie won for sure, but who takes second place and by how much will determine if there's a viable challenger to sanders' frontrunner status. south carolina will vote next saturday, followed by super tuesday on march 3rd.
although i'm happy we achieved another 40kWh day, it wasn't anything exciting. we didn't hit 7kW, and during peak production it didn't match yesterday's record performance, which says something to the sky condition today. tomorrow looks to be another repeat.
one of these nights i'm going to go down to harvard square in the early evening to get some better night photography with the pixel night sight; that camera just wants to be taken out at night so it can show off its low light capturing capabilities. preferably on a rainy night, so i can get reflections in the puddles. in the meantime, i just have to settle for some glowing mason jar backyard shots.
my mother came home in the evening and immediately started making dinner. my father finally left the bedroom, pushing a walker. i turned on the heat for my roommate when i noticed he was home by 6pm.
leaving for home by 7:30pm (temperature at 32°F), i stopped by the huron avenue bridge to take a photo of the cambridge-watertown bike path construction. it was pitch dark, but it made no difference to the pixel night sight, which still managed to take a photo.
my google pixel fast charger arrived today. had i bought my pixel brand new, it would've came with the phone, but instead i had to pay $7.99 for it off of ebay. it was bigger than i'd imagined, and heavier too. it had a white face, even though all the ones i saw online had a black face. i plugged in my 6.6 ft USB-C cable. the lockscreen told me it was charing rapidly, and a check of the ampere app showed it was charging at 3A.
as part of my predict 2 study participation, i had to answer 5 questionnaires, with questions ranging from general health, gut health, medical history, and eating habits. one question it asked was what was my birth weight. i had to ask my mother, who still remembered after all these years: 3100g or 6 lbs. 13 oz. i was kind of a small baby. i also assumed i arrived on time, but my mother said i was overdue. the questionnaire also asked for the age of my parents at the time of my birth (22 and 26 respectively). when i finally filled out all the questionnaires, i received an e-mail with a link to the predict 2 app. it felt like i game, like i somehow unlocked a present in the form of the app. later i realized i could've downloaded the app anytime, since it was available in the google play store. with the app downloaded, now i wait for the arrival of my study pack. my new task is to scan the barcode once it arrives, like another step in this lengthy game.
just stayed home today because it was too cold outside. had another cranberry almond chicken salad on everything bagel for lunch, so good. did a lot of snacking, seems to be the thing to do. bleached the bathroom again after noticing it starting to smell like urine again. i finished watching beforeigners
, 6 episodes simply isn't enough, the season ended with a lot more questions than answers.
a clear sunny day means another new production record: 41.06kWh. we didn't break 7kW but slow and steady gives us more electricity.
kevin left for work this morning at 9am, came back by 6pm. he didn't cook tonight, just stayed in his room for most of the evening. i reheated some pasta sauce then boiled 2 cups of cellentani noodles. i ate while watching a joe namath documentary.
my pair of 6.6ft USB-C cables arrived tonight. unfortunately i can't do anything with them until my google quick charger arrives tomorrow.
when i went to the bathroom later in the evening, i noticed the toilet paper stand had been moved, the bathroom smelled of urine again, and feeling around the toilet bowl i noticed dried pee. i moved the toilet paper stand and there was a pool of urine underneath. it's been a while since kevin peed on the floor but looks like he had another accident. i spent some minutes clean the toilet area again with bleach.
i had a conference call this morning at 11am with somebody from the PREDICT 2 study team. i wasn't sure about the format and thought it might be a video call (because they sent me a URL to click on) so i put on a clean shirt and found a nice place to sit in the kitchen. i was actually disappointed when it ended up just being a voice call. i spoke with an upbeat young woman named jessica, who told me the call would last 30 minutes. she scheduled a time for me to start the study, which ended up being close to the end of march. that's going to be a busy time as i have census training that first week of april. she explained to me the schedule of events i needed to follow, from taking samples (blood, saliva, stool) to eating specially prepared foods (and fasting afterwards) to logging everything else i eat (in minute details, down to the weighted portion size and ingredients). there was a lot to follow, but soon i'd be receiving a booklet that would spell out all the steps and install an app on my phone that would remind me when certain tasks were scheduled to be performed. a nutritionist would also get in touch with me. true to her word, the call ended exactly 30 minutes later.
that gave me a little bit of time to get ready and ride down to harvard to hear a 12:15pm lecture on "what's communist about the communist party?" by jude blanchette. i didn't have time to have lunch so i grabbed some chocolate instead, hoping it'd give me enough fuel to last for another 1-1/2 hours.
the lecture was interesting if you were interested in this fairly esoteric topic, which i was. the speaker didn't have any visual aids (i'd never seen that before) so it could've turned into a fairly dry lecture but he was animated enough that it kept me at attention, despite sometimes losing me on some fairly technical marxism-related subjects.
my last surviving grandmother had taken a turn for the worse in taiwan and has stopped eating. doctors want to force feed her, but my mother and her sisters are against the idea. in the meantime, my 2nd aunt is taking a flight to taipei tomorrow morning. they hope my grandmother can pull through, but if not, my aunt would like to be there for her final moments. my mother called me a few times while i was at the lecture. my phone didn't do anything because it was on "do not disturb" but my fitness tracker buzzed a few times. i called her back as soon as i got out, already knew what she wanted though: for me to go down to the cafe to help my aunt buy her ticket.
i went home first to grab my computer before heading to the cafe. although today was sunny and temperature in the lower 40's, it was very windy, which not only made it feel colder, but hard to ride when the wind is trying to blow you off. crossing a busy street, i stopped to move some empty trash cans that'd blown out onto the road. while i was at it, i also found an insulated canvas grocery bag from the whitehead institute. i lose a bag last week, i find a new one this week!
a 22 hour one way fare to taiwan with on canadian air with 2 stops (toronto, korea) cost $464, about slightly more than half the price of a roundtrip ticket. my aunt had already booked a flight to taiwan for late march; there's no way to cancel, but she thought about changing the itinerary so she could use the return portion of the flight. in the end we decided to wait and see.
afterwards my father drove us back to my aunt's place so i could fix the youtube channel on her smart tv. i kind of already knew what the problem was, she just needed to log back into her google account. it was simple, all she had to do was open the youtube app on her phone and the tv managed to find it and sync the account. i went back outside where my father was waiting for me in the car.
i had plans to do some shopping at market basket, but it was already so late my mother packed me some leftovers for dinner along with a fresh ginger scone my sister had made. i set up voice matching on my father's phone and we figured out how to successfully call people in his contact list via voice command. i finally left by 4pm. i hadn't eaten all day so that scone was especially delicious once i got back home. i'll go grocery shopping tomorrow. now that my aunt's gone for at least two weeks, my parents will only have sundays off so i'll have to fend for my own meals the rest of the week.
my pixel 3XL rubber case ($5.99) arrived today, 2 days ahead of schedule. i got it simply because it was the cheapest non-clear rubber case i could find and it was a US seller so i wouldn't have to wait weeks like i would with a cheaper china seller. the best thing i can say about it is it's adequate. i got it in matte black, it's completely nondescript, no branding, no fancy patterns or designs, just a black rubberized cover. it's not that well made, i can see the seams and fringes where the molding were pressed together. it's also a bit thick in the back, which now makes the formerly sleek phone just as bulky as my father's moto G7. it gives the phone some protection at least, now i won't have to be as gentle taking it out as i was before. just as i'd hoped, the case covered up that small nick mark i found over the weekend. it had a raised bevel around the screen, but it doesn't seem to be high enough to really protect the screen. thankfully i also have the glass screen protector in place, so i should be good. the thing to remember is to not drop the phone. i've dropped by oneplus one a bunch of times and it's survived unscathed, but it's always been in the house, onto carpeting or hardwood, from waist high. i don't want to test out the pixel 3XL. i may end up buying another case in the future, but in the meantime this one is fine.
i was disappointed we didn't break 40kWh today, but surprised we almost hit 8kW; there's been a few times this month where we almost go to 7kW, but today we went above and beyond. bear in mind that the theoretical maximum amount of electricity generated at a give time is 8.04kW, so peaking at 7.65kW today was pretty incredible. still, i would've preferred more production.
my sister still wasn't able to send me text from her computer, though it works fine from her phone. on either platform she can still receive my texts without problems, just that i can't hers when they're from her macos messages app. i learned the problem has something to do with the way apple records your phone number on their icloud server in order to allow their macos desktop app to send text messages. to fix it, i had to deregister my phone number from apple. it still didn't work, but the procedure seems sound, and it might take a few hours for the change to propagate throughout all the apple servers. this is a unique problem that occurs only when you switch from iphone to android.
kevin came home around 6:30pm. i opened the front door for him because it seemed like he was struggling with the lock. i quickly microwaved my dinner (2 minutes) before leaving the kitchen to kevin. surprisingly, he didn't cook tonight.
after a normal day of use, biking a few miles around town, taking about 3 dozen photos, my pixel phone was still at 44% battery by midnight. the past few days, i've had to charge it up in the evenings because i've almost exhausted the battery. i think it's just one of those new phone deal where i'm playing with it all day, quickly draining the battery. given a normal day's usage, the pixel 3XL battery is more than adequate to last the entire day if not more.
i ordered a fast charger and some USB-C to USB-C cables online. i searched long and hard before settling on the ones i ended up picking. for the fast charger, i ended up getting google's original USB-C 18W charger off of ebay for $7.99. that seems to be the going price for one of these, which somebody just simply took from the box when you buy a google pixel brand new. just the 18W fast charger, no cable. since i'd use it to recharge my pixel phone, i thought this was the safest option. there were other brands of fast chargers (with faster charging, though the pixel phones can only go as fast as 18W), and i might get one in the future for traveling, but for the time being, this one will serve me fine. elsewhere on the cable front, i bought a pair of 6.6ft JSAUX brand USB-C cables for $8. i only needed one cable, but the price of a single and a double were about the same, so i got a pair. cables will arrive on friday, the charger saturday. but honestly, i only really charge my phone when i got to bed, in which case it has 6-8 hours to fully charge the battery, plenty of time, so a fast charger is overkill. i may leave the fast charger in the living room for those emergency cases when i need to fill up my phone battery quick before it goes dead.
i started watching the norwegian series beforeigners, a joint production with HBO. in the US it's yet to air, but it'd already aired in norway, so i was able to find it online for downloading. the premise is pretty slick, about time traveling scandinavians from the past (think vikings) suddenly mysteriously showing up in modern day present. it's an analogy to the refugee situation in europe, which also touches on the clash of new immigrants, with a buddy cop drama thrown into the mix as well.
i woke up this morning at 9am; kevin left soon afterwards. i thought there'd be snow outside but it was dry though overcast. the rain wouldn't come until after 12pm and i thought about making a quick grocery run but there was still enough food in the house so i opted to wait until tomorrow. my father called me while i was making lunch. i didn't hear the phone ring but my xiaomi fitness tracker was vibrating. my father didn't call me the regular way but rather via voice dialing from his dashboard mounted phone. i also did a load of laundry, washing my bedsheets as well, just to use up every last drop of tide detergent before throwing out the old container.
i tried the digital zoom feature on the pixel 3XL. at midrange zoom (5x) it looks surprisingly good given that it's actually just software trickery. i read the google camera app uses photo stacking as well (just like in night sight) to bring out the details instead of just cropping and resizing, which was how zoom used to be done. zoomed on the way in (10x) and the image is usable but subject has that overprocessed halo look.
kevin came home at 7:30pm. he must not have eaten lunch (or went out for food) because he came back and microwaved something and went to eat in his bedroom. later around 8:30pm he came out to make dinner, after i'd already taken out my frozen lasagna brick from the oven. while he was finishing up, i asked him for help translating the QQ account transfer directions. he didn't tell me anything i didn't already know, but said i could probably call QQ to get this issue resolved. unfortunately i wouldn't know the first thing about troubleshooting something like this over the phone, but i was confident there was a solution. the sooner i can get my QQ account ported, the sooner i can give my old oneplus one phone to my mother.
one thing i will miss about living in the apple ecosystem is being able to text message from my computer. now that i'm no longer using my iphone, i can no longer do that. fortunately google has a browser-based text messaging service (messages.google.com). it requires turning on the "messages for web" option in the google messages app and scanning a QR code to pair the phone to the browser/computer. it's not as elegant, and connections would repeatedly drop, but it works, and with browser notification turned on, it behaves similar to apple messages. i tried testing it with my sister - who's on an iphone. i wrote her from the browser app, she replied, but the messages showed up in my apple messages, which somehow seemed to be rerouting the messages. i couldn't see any of her replies on my phone. i ended up fixing the problem by deactivating my imessages account, so all text messages would be forced to go to my android phone. that seemed to have fixed it. this is a peculiar problem that only happens when you migrate out of the apple ecosystem and switch from iphone to android.
gone was kevin this morning, but he left the kitchen lights on and a dripping bathroom sink, all minor annoyances i've learned to live with, not worth it bringing it up with him.
when i arrived in belmont around 12:30pm, my father was in the middle of relocating his amateur radio station to the bedroom, so he could continue charging up the battery with the 50W solar panel from the southern facing winter. but he seemed to have hurt his back and went to lay down. even though there was sunlight in the room, it wasn't enough, and the meter only showed 1.5W worth of generation. so i decided to move the battery outside and charge it out in full sun. the 50W panel managed to generate around 30W. when i switched it out with the 100W panel, it made 60W. throughout the day i would go outside and relocate the panel so it was always facing the sun.
i had a plain zongzi with sugar for lunch. earlier i'd filled up the feeder and birds were coming back to feed. i saw a goldfinch again, not sure if it was male or female, could be the same one i saw last week. juncos, white-throated sparrows, mourning doves, cardinal, and house finches all visited. one white-throated sparrow did something i'd never seen before: it crouched down and started making an alarm call, that momentarily drove all the other birds into a tree. not sure what it saw to get it so distressed. there was also a squirrel that somehow managed to get onto the suet feeder. i went outside to chase it away.
my pixel 3XL glass screen protectors arrived today. after having used the frame method of applying a screen protector on my father's moto G7 phone, i bought a kit that used a plastic frame as well. while cleaning the phone, i noticed a small nick mark on the left side. this damage most likely came when i smacked my phone with the set of keys hanging from my belt clip. i remember checking the phone at the time but didn't see any damages, but apparently that wasn't the case. it's only on the bevel, not the screen, so there's no danger of crack propagation. i think once my case arrives (friday apparently) i'm hoping it'll cover up the blemish. as for the screen protector, i didn't do a good job and still managed to get some dust grains underneath the glass film. i used the guide stickers to secure the protector before lifting it back up and used the dust absorber sticker to remove most of the dust. there was still a few small pockets but i did an adequate enough job to live with it. as for the screen protector, it's exactly the same size as the screen itself, so just a tiny fraction of misalignment causes the edge of the screen to peek through. it's only noticeable if you take a very close look, shouldn't affect daily usage.
in the late afternoon when there was no more sun to be had to further charge up the battery, father relocated all his radio gear to the bedroom, where one of the few southern facing window in the house could continue charging up the battery the rest of the week. with a full battery everything seemed to be working now and we didn't experience the same problem we had before where the charge controller would shut off from the current surge. 12.4V seems to be the bottom limit before the amperage would overcome the controller. so all seemed fine until my father was playing with the TYT tranceiver radio and managed to overload the controller again. so whatever problem we had before was still there. maybe the controller was busted. wasn't the end of the world, radio would still power if we directly connected to the battery instead of through the controller. weird thing was it worked before, but not anymore. my father continued testing the radio and discovered 2 things: with the radio now connected directly to the battery, the controller was still showing a current draw whenever he transmitted; and transmitting at high enough power still shut off the controller, even though the radio wasn't connected to the controller anymore (though the controller as still hooked up to the battery). it was my father who finally figured out the problem. earlier i noticed the nearby LED clock would flash 12:00 whenever my father was transmitting on high power, the radio was generating enough interference to mess with LED clock. so could it also be interfering with the electronics inside of the controller? this whole time we'd been setting up the antenna right next to the controller. to test this theory, we relocated the antenna so it was further away (10ft). sure enough, when we transmitted on high, the controller didn't shut off like before. so it wasn't a current surge issue, and had nothing to do with the battery itself, it was also because of interfering radio waves.
although it was a sunny day, and the graph line was a perfect bell curve, there was a faint trace of hazy clouds that capped our production by a few kWh. tomorrow looks to be a day of rain but after that we should experience 5 continuous days of sunshine. it's already the 17th and we've yet to reach the 300kWh mark (we're currently at 296.49kWh for the month of february). at this rate, i'm not sure if we can beat the february record which was set last year 2019 with a production of 656kWh. we'd need at least 9 days of 40kWh+ production to beat it and with just 12 more days left in the short month of february, that's going to be a real challenge.
at 5:30pm kevin came home. i turned up the heat for him, after making sure he didn't leave to go get groceries. with the leftover pizza from
when sunset came around, i went outside to test the night sight capability of the pixel phone. the non-night sight photos were more accurate, but the night sight ones were more dazzling, bringing out details the eyes couldn't see. especially the sky, which was a dusky blue, but seen through night sight it almost looked like daytime.
after dinner i returned home by 8pm. from the outside i noticed all the lights in my kitchen were turned on. turns out kevin was still making dinner. he always makes two portions, neatly packed into plastic covered containers he got from the dollar store. i finally asked him about it tonight, he said one is for lunch tomorrow, the other is for later tonight. apparently he practices some sort of casual fasting where if he isn't very hungry in the evening he'll forgo dinner. that's why sometimes around 8-9pm i'll hear him back in the kitchen microwaving something. apparently that's his dinner.
there's hasn't been a sunday where kevin's stayed home, so today was no difference, as he woke up by 9:30am and left for the office around 10am. the sound of backpack zippers closing gave me confidence that he would be gone soon. i went back to the bathroom to use the facility in peace before taking a shower. i walked to the supermarket to get a box of green mountain hazelnut coffee for my mother before biking to belmont by 11:30am.
after lunch my father did some antenna testing with the box of adapters i brought over from my house. around 1:45pm we left for binbin's place in burlington to pick up the mail and check to see everything was okay. we managed to coax my mother away from her netflix and come with us with promises of visiting the bedford OSJL.
with driving and holding a phone becoming illegal in massachusetts next week (not just texting), i bought a phone holder which arrived yesterday. my father installed it in the car attached to the windshield and was using the android auto app as an onboard gps. we also tested its ability to both receive calls and text. text was particularly special because it seemed to be able to read the text back to you. my father also made a phone call to me using voice command, but it wasn't able to recognize my mother's number. later on in bedford we saw a police office chase down a vehicle and pull it over. not sure exactly the reason (the car wasn't speeding and didn't seem to violate any traffic laws), but maybe it was for using the phone while driving.
the first thing we noticed when we got to binbin's place was how cold it was inside. that's always the case however, the lower floors are cold while the upper floors are warm. while my father went to go start up the car in the driveway, i checked the thermostat which was showing a low battery warning. i went through the house searching for AA batteries, opening a few electronic toys. all of them were either the wrong size or rusted/leaking. so i disassembled the electronic door lock i installed last month and took out those batteries to test. no matter what we did, it kept displaying the low battery warning and nothing else. maybe it needed better batteries. with a few very cold nights later in the week, we thought it'd be wiser to fix the thermostat before leaving. so we drove to the nearby gas station and i bought a package of duracell AA's (2) for $5.20.
back at the house, my mother sat in the car while my father and i went back inside the house. we figured all we had to do was replace the batteries, but our worst fear was realized when nothing happened, it still only showed the low battery warning. i popped out the fuse, thinking it might be broken, but the fuse was fine. i finally went online to download the instruction manual. i was looking for info on a tiny button i saw inside the thermostat that looked like a reset button but i just wanted to make sure. once i got confirmation, i hit the button, the LCD flashed, and the normal display started showing again. we set the thermostat to manual and put the house at 55°F. i also wanted to turn off the gas fireplaces after i realized they were still on (when we touched the fireplaces last time, they were slightly warm) but my father said to leave them on, so there'd still be a tiny amount of heat in case the thermostat malfunctioned again.
outside we bumped into tom's girlfriend frances. we chatted briefly before leaving, just to let her know everything was fine with the house.
from there it was a 10 minute drive to the bedford OSJL via route 95. we've never been here before: i thought it was smaller but my mother said it was bigger than the other two OSJL we occasionally visit (everett, waltham). at the very least they had more stuff, my mother said they carried things she never saw at the other stores. we left with $40 worth of merchandise, including a bag of bird seeds. we left by 3:40pm, took us 20 minutes to drive back to belmont.
after dinner i left for home by 7:15pm. i wanted to get back before kevin. i passed by his workplace and on the road back i didn't see him, so he was either still at work or already home. turns out he was still in the office. i used the bathroom and showered, turned on the tv by 8pm to watch the NBA all stars game. kevin didn't get back until 8:30pm, carrying with him a large onion and ham pizza. he'd already ate with coworkers, but bought a pizza as well, which was already cold. we both had a slice, i taught him how to warm up the pizza on the stovetop using a frying pan and some tinfoil.
i set the heat for 4:30am this morning, so kevin wouldn't wake up to a cold house. when i woke up at 6am he was already gone, but left the kitchen lights on, which i closed before going back to bed. my mother called me around 9:20am while i was still sleeping. i didn't realize what it was at first because i didn't recognize the default google pixel ringtone, it was pleasant. my mother asked if i needed a ride since it was so cold outside (14°F). rain and snow might be an issue, but cold temperature has never stopped me from biking, not even extreme cold. i take it as a personal challenge, a bad of honor.
i left by 11:30am, gave the weather a chance to warm up. by then temperature was in the mid 20's under a bright sun. the body experiences new sensations when riding in the extreme cold. i was bundled up but i felt it in my legs first, a slight chill (i just wore my flannel khakis, no thermal underwear layer). i was unfazed, knowing after a few minutes of pedalling they would warm up. i had on my wool mittens which kept my fingers warm but my thumbs starting to hurt towards the end, all by themselves. i don't think my eyeballs were freezing but the cold had crept behind my eye sockets and gave me a touch of ice cream headache. i could feel the area between my nose and mouth starting to freeze up, bits of stubbles turning to ice, along with the hairs inside my nostrils. i took it slow, the cold already takes a toll, no need to further exert myself.
i was late arriving in belmont because i was trying to log into my QQ account on my new phone. QQ wanted to verify who i was but the only way to do that was by sending a text message to my old china number from 2016, a number i've long since abandoned. to login with a different number i had go through a more thorough security check, one that involves giving them my US number (which they didn't accept) and providing my chinese identification number which i don't have because i'm not a chinese citizen. all of this was in very technical chinese writing which i had to decipher using google translate. finally i gave up. it still works on my oneplus one (OPO) phone, and i can also access it through a mac os app, but it requires the OPO to verify. so much for handing down the OPO to my mother. i'll tackle the problem again some other time, maybe get my roommate kevin to help. i don't use my QQ very much anymore, but i still have it for purely sentimental reasons, and it's my only connection to a large group of people i befrieded when i worked in china.
good news though: the nest app on my pixel phone finally worked. this after i spent over an hour last night texting with the nest technical support department. i was just glad there was somebody there i could chat with, and they even escalated me to someone higher up, who wasn't able to fix my either. they finally told me they'd hand it off to an engineer who would get back to me next week with an answer. i wasn't hopeful it'd work, so i was happy the problem just sort of fixed itself this morning. unfortunately, while trying to figure out a fix, i accidentally broke the "works with google" link so i can no longer control the thermostat using the google home mini speaker. i think i have a fix but i'm in no hurry.
it's been so cold there's still a little bit of snow on the roof, though nothing on the panels (i made sure of that on thursday). there was just a small piece of suet in the feeder so i dumped it out for the squirrels and put in a new one. with the suet feeder situated in such a way that it's pretty much squirrel-proof, the only critters that feed on the suet are birds (primarily woodpeckers) and they're light eater so i single block can last a month or two.
it's been nearly 24 hours since i've had the google pixel 3XL, i've played with it enough to get a feel for it. here are my observations and gripes:
- i had a chance to listen to the audio this morning, i wasn't impressed. maybe the sound has too much bass, for me it didn't seem very clear. could just be i'm so used to the sound on my oneplus one, the sound on every other phone seems weird to me.
- the screen using P-OLED. are they supposed to be better? because when i view it from an angle, it loses its brightness. compared that with the IPS screen on the moto G7, which is bright uniformly regardless of the viewing angle, likewise with the oneplus one, which also uses IPS. so because of that, i run the pixel with a screen brightness around 85%. it probably drains the battery, but anything less looks too dim.
- i like the nearly all-screen design of the pixel (if you can disregard the big notch), but the edge is so thin, i often accidentally open an app along the edges when i grab the phone. it's a little annoying, and something i've tried to counter by increasing the icon layout margin using the nova launcher settings. i think it'll be better once the protective case for the phone arrives, which will add more padding along the edges.
- even though the screen is bigger (6.3" versus the 5.5" of my oneplus one [OPO]), the pixel is about the same size as my OPO, just a few millimeters longer. i got used to the longer screen right away, but was startled to discover just how long it really was when i was setting up the phone and rearranging the app icons on the home screen. including the dock at the bottom of the screen, my OPO could fit 6 rows of icons; on the pixel 3XL i can fit 7 rows. the extra 7th row i didn't know what to do with so i temporarily put a search bar there.
- i like the thinness of the pixel 3XL. it may just be because it currently doesn't have a case yet. it's the same thickness as the moto G7 (0.31 inches) but when i hold the G7 in my hand it feels much thicker (it also has a case). when my case arrives next week i'll be able to see if it adds any considerable thickness to the phone. the 3XL also weighs more than the G7 (6.49 oz. vs 6.07 oz.) but the G7 felt heavier.
- battery life on the pixel 3XL isn't so great, even though it's listed as a 3430 mAh Li-Po battery. i wonder since the phone is an "amazon renewed" if maybe the battery is just old so it doesn't hold as much charge anymore. but if you ask me, i couldn't tell the difference between a new pixel and a renewed pixel, it looks completely brand new, not a scratch, not a dead pixel. the only way i could tell is because it simply came in a cardboard box and didn't include a lot of the google accessories that'd come with a brand new phone, just a knockoff amazon charger and USB-C cable. anyway, started using it this morning for 9:20am onwards, by 7:30pm it was down to 13% and was already giving me the low battery warning. so not even 12 hours. maybe i'm doing stuff that's draining the battery so i got rid of the animated background (even though it looked cool) and chose a darker wallpaper. it'll take some more time to figure out if anything else is draining too much juice.
- i'm too used to the customization options on lineageOS, like changing the placement of the menubar clock and choose a different battery status icon, things i can't do with the default google android ROM, not even with nova launcher as the user interface. it's not a big deal but makes me better appreciate how much better (at least in terms of customizations) lineageOS is.
- i don't like the placement of the volume and power buttons: power above the volume rocker all on the right side. every phone places their buttons differently. on my old oneplus one, the power was on the right, the volume rocker on the left. there must be some theory behind why they put the buttons where they did. maybe easier for predominant right-handed users? i'll learn to adjust eventually.
- the pixel is faster than my OPO, but it's not something i can really sense since i thought my OPO was already fast enough. the one thing i noticed though is when i browse the reddit app, videos and gifs always play now. on the OPO, after a period of surfing, videos and gifs will partially play or stop altogether.
- the pixel 3XL has a large notch on the top of the screen to make room for the phone speaker and 2 selfie cameras. because of the notch, there's very little menubar real estate, so at most it can only display 3 notification icons. i hardly notice the notch but most phones these days do away with it, or get creative by having a small teardrop notch (like the moto G7) or just a small round cutout for the camera.
- something that's very simple and useful and cheap to add but is somehow missing on the pixel is any indicator LED light. on my oneplus one, the indicator would glow or flash different colors depending on different notifications. it was just a small thing but one that's very useful and i kind of that on the pixel. i did however set my mi band 4 to vibrate whenever i get certain notifications (like calls or text) so that's my new way of receiving notifications. i do miss the glowing led light though.
- the main reason why anyone would choose this phone over something else that's just as comparable and cheaper (like the moto G7) is because of the camera. not so much the hardware (though the optical stabilizer definitely helps) but rather the software intelligence that goes into improving each and every photo. i'm just constantly floored by how clear and sharp and colorful the photos are. night sight is amazing, i imagine every phone will have something similar in the near future, unless google opens up its camera app magic, despite the fact that the app itself has already been ported to many other phones. it definitely makes me reconsider whether or not to take my dSLR with me everywhere, when the pixel camera works perfectly well, and sometimes even better. the one thing i don't like about the pixel camera is the image is flipped in selfie mode. i think they do it because it feels more natural to the phototaker, but i actually hate it for many reasons. for instance, if you have any words in the photos, they appear reversed. not sure if it's something i can change in the settings, but i can easily fix it in photoshop.
- another reason for updating my phone (besides just replacing some outdated equipment) is finally consolidating my phone's call and texting capability with my online experiences. i didn't start using a smart phone until 2014. yes, i was a late adopter, and probably the impetus to get me to upgrade was because my sister had a spare iphone 5s. that year i spent in chongqing though, i did buy a simple smart phone (ZTE V975); just because everybody had one (i was using a nokia candybar phone up to that point) and i got it mainly to qq chat with a girl there. but i had a simple data plan and only used the phone sparingly, connecting onto wifi whenever possible.
when i came back home to the states, i did my research and bought a oneplus one phone; i knew it wouldn't work with verizon, but i was hopeful i could get my family to switch our phone service to t-mobile. fast forward 6 years later, we're still on verizon (my sister is the lone holdout, threatening to remain on verizon on her own even though her single verizon plan bill would be nearly equal to our group family plan bill if we switched to t-mobile).
but ever since i had a smart phone starting in 2014, i've always had 2 phones: the iphone 5s for calling/texting/gps and also photography (once i discovered how good the camera was) and the oneplus one for web surfing. the fact that i'm at home most of the time meant i always had wifi access so it wasn't difficult to live with 2 phones. but if i was going out, couldn't i just leave the oneplus one at home? i tried that a few times but discovered it'd mess up my gps tracking history because google thought i was at two places at once. so for the sake of gps accuracy, i always have to carry both phones no matter where i went.
it'd always been a dream - 6 years dream - to consolidate my phone devices. what if i could have just one phone that could do everything? and i wouldn't have to carry 2 phones all the time? i probably would've stayed with the status quo for a few more years, but when i switched our family plan to unlimited last month, that got me thinking about a phone upgrade. plus my father's moto G4 plus started malfunctioning, so i had to shop for a new phone for him anyway.
i wasn't going to get myself the latest flagship; upgrading from a 2014 iphone and android phone, anything made within the last 1-2 years would be a far superior upgrade. my one criteria is that the phone needed to have a good camera. i'd heard good things about samsung phones in terms of photo quality, and i briefly checked them out, but i didn't like the fact that i couldn't unlock the phone if i ever wanted to change the ROM at some future date.
that left just the google pixel phones, which from reviews was touted to have one of the best camera phones if not the best. i knew they could be expensive, with the latest pixel 4 iteration starting from $530/$610 (depending on if you want the regular or XL version). but they also had the more wallet friendly 3a series, with a brand new unocked pixel 3a 64GB selling for $320. in the end i decided on the amazon renewed pixel 3 64GB for $260, risking buying a refurbished phone just to save a few extra bucks. phone was great, looked brand new, but the screen was too small, so i replace it with a piel 3XL for $280, just $20 more but with a larger eye-friendly screen.
anyway, long story short, i'm still getting used to having just one phone that does everything. when i carrying the pixel 3XL around, i keep on thinking, where's my other phone? but i like the simplicity now, and having an unlimited plan means i never have to worry about data ever again, i can go online whenever and where ever i want.
if i was excited about yesterday's record production then today i'm doubly excited. yet again we had another day of record production, this time a perfect bell curve under a cold crystal clear sky. the sky did get a little milky in the late afternoon, but by then the panels had already done most of the work. we also reached a new milestone, something i could see was about to happen since yesterday: we broke the 40kWh mark with a final production of 40.49kWh.
we had beef and tofu stew for dinner, served with mantou buns and bread. afterwards my father helped me fill up the sichuan paocai jar. traditionally, once the fermenting brine has matured, it can be reused over and over again, just adding the necessary ingredients to keep it going. my mother had already dredged out all the pickled vegetables last weekend, so the jar was waiting to be refilled. i was afraid there wouldn't be enough brine so i whipped up a batch of extra using 3 cups of water with 1 ounce (weighed) of salt. my father helped me chop up the vegetables - chinese cabbage, carrots, daikon radish, tender ginger - while i sacrificed my right hand and used it to stuff the vegetables into the jar. we did it in layers, each layer then getting a sprinkle of sichuan peppercorn and thai hot chili peppers. we ended up not really needing the extra brine i created, but still used up about a cup to top off the jar so all the vegetables would be submerged. we then left placed it on a tray (to catch any leaking fluids) and left it to ferment. given how ripe the existing brine solution was (the jar opened up with a loud pop as waste carbon dioxide was released), it shouldn't take long for the vegetables to be ready to eat. but i like my paocai extra sour, give it a few weeks at least if not longer.
i went outside to the backyard to test the night sight on my pixel camera. it made the dark sky look like it was dusk and showed the stars. i wanted to see if i could try the astrophotography setting, but there's no way to choose that option, it just triggers automatically when the app senses you're outside shooting in the dark. i tried the google camera app on my father's moto G7 and it was able to take advantage of night sight as well. my father came out to try out the camera app himself, hoping to get a photo of the orion constellation.
i returned home by 8pm. kevin still hadn't come back from his ski trip. based on his schedule, i figured the earliest he'd be back would be 8:30pm (leave ski place by 5pm, 2-1/2 hours to drive back, another hour to have dinner), which gave me half an hour to use the bathroom and take a shower in peace. afterwards i tried the playground option on my pixel phone, interacting with augmented reality characters. amazingly enough, kevin came home almost exactly at 8:30pm.
this morning was one of the coldest days this winter, but kevin said there was no wind on the mountain top, just a lot of sunshine. he tried the beginner and immediate slopes on mt.cannon, but wasn't daring enough for the advanced slopes. his group - 9 total - actually left early by 3:30pm; this was because the ski place actually closes at 4pm, to reopen later in the evening for night skiing. they drove back and stopped in concord to have dinner at some american steak/seafood place. kevin ended up getting a burger, and was baffled as to how to eat it. i also discovered that everyone else who went skiing were non-chinese; kevin tried to get one of his chinese coworkers to come but he was afraid of injuries. it makes sense though, up until kevin, i never met a chinese graduate student who skied, it's not a popular hobby in china because they don't have many good skiing mountains.