not sure what the official temperature was, but according to my own outdoor thermometer it was -10°F in cambridge this morning. from my living room window i saw bundled people walking the streets going about their business.

my father came to pick me up early in the morning so we could go to the nearest verizon office and pick up an updated cable box. when he called to make sure i was up, i could hear murmuring in the background, so i knew something else was going on. that something else turned out to my parents' furnace, which broke down this morning on the coldest day in half a decade.

when i arrived in belmont i saw the damage for myself. it wasn't just the fact that the furnace broke down, but it blew out a valve and sprayed a portion of the basement in black furnace water, releasing enough steam in the process that my father said he couldn't see a thing when he went down into the basement to shut off the intake. it's a miracle my parents were actually home, since originally they'd planned on going down to NYC this weekend.

they estimated that maybe the valve had been leaking for about 10 minutes. my father only noticed it because it was making a loud high pitched noise. hailey noticed it as well, but instead of alerting everyone to the danger (like in the movies, she was cowering upstairs). even in that short period of time, the broken furnace managed to spray its ink-like fluid all over the basement. in that way it's probably more damaging than the occasional basement flood. the good thing was it wasn't oil, but rather some sort of naturally-occurring oxide byproduct. although it looked like it'd stain permanently, everything comes out clean in the wash after some pretreatment. that's good, because i had a plastic bin of old clothes that was soaked. white t-shirts that were turned pitch black came out looking as good as new after a turn in the washing machine (i have my sister to thank for this laundry magic trick).

clothes were salvageable but things like books and magazines were beyond saving after getting drenched in furnace pipe water. in between mopping the floor, my parents and sister also threw out half a dozen trash bags worth of damaged goods. everything from blankets, to bags, to cardboard boxes, to old electronics not worth saving.

with heat on such a cold day could've been a major inconvenience, but fortunately my parents have a large collection of space heaters. there were at least 4 upstairs and 1 in the basement. the basement model was one of those old-fashioned death traps with the glowing coils, so we gave it a wide clearance so nothing would accidently catch on fire (a busted furnace and a housefire would've been just too much to deal with).

this wasn't how i expected the day to go down. originally we were going to pick up an upgraded cable box in anticipation of the new HDTV that would be arriving in the afternoon. not only were we waiting for the delivery guy, but we were also waiting for the furnace repairman. plumbers must've been busy today, because my father called the repairman at 7:00, but he didn't show up until after 2:00, and that was only to inspect the damage. he ended up sending another guy around 6:00 to do the actual repair. my parents also planned on making a chinatown grocery run (never happened) and i was supposed to go with my mother to do some clothes shopping at the arsenal mall (maybe next weekend).

my sister and i went down to moody street in waltham to pick up the replacement HDTV-compatible cable box (an additional $4/month) while my parents stayed home waiting for the delivery man and plumber. i ended up behind the steering wheel because my sister didn't want to drive the honda element. she only came along because i was afraid i wouldn't be able to find parking and would need her to stay in the car. that turned out to be an unnecessary precaution since there was plenty of empty spots in the municipal lots. i discovered that my parents were mysteriously signed up for a free 3-month trial of showtime and starz, something that they only discovered by pure coincidence this morning when just randomly channel surfing.

now officially confirmed that we'd have extended movie lineups for the next 3 months (instead of just one of those random 3-day free trial deal), i channel surfed like a kid in a movie candy store. the starz/showtime/encore package itself costs $16/month, less than the price of HBO ($17/month), but with something like 30 movie channels. a dozen were in HD, but technically only half since each channel has a complimentary west coast broadcast twin which i believe is just on a 3 hour delay. of the remaining channels, there were a dozen encore channels which show mostly older movies (a decade or more). i caught a glimpse of fluke, a 1995 family drama about a father (matthew modine) who dies and reincarnates as a lovable dog who moves back in with his surviving family, including a wife (nancy travis) and son. it's a little weird, especially scenes where the dog husband is eyeing the wife. later i caught ed and his dead mother (1993), starring steve buscemi as a grieving son who somehow manages to resurrect his dead mother, who returns as an endearing homicidal zombie looking out for ed's best interests. buscemi is an interesting choice as a lead actor (to put in mildly), but the reason to watch this movie is to see sam jenkins as the sexy neighbor looking to seduce ed.

the HDTV didn't arrive until 3:20, even though we were told specifically to expect a delivery window between 12-3. we were expecting some kind of professional home delivery outfit but it was just a mexican man driving a uhaul truck. despite his size, he was stronger than he appeared, easily picking up the 46" TV single-handedly with one arm perched over his shoulder. he said normally there'd be two guys but his company didn't want to pay for the extra help. i noticed he had green eyes. he opened up the box so we could check the tv wasn't damaged before leaving.

the new samsung LN46C630 HDTV looks pretty awesome in my parents' bedroom. now they won't have to fight with my sister over the HDTV in the living room. 46" fits perfectly, i'm glad they went with that size instead of the 40" which i was suggesting at one point. after watching tv on the 46", the 40" seems so much smaller, like a baby's tv (never thought i'd say that). one thing i didn't like on the new tv is the 120Hz auto motion plus feature. it eliminates blurring by interpolating interstitial frames (at least that's how i think it works). it's kind of impressive, but it gives movie playback too much clarity to the point of distraction. it really does look like you're watching something live instead of on film, which is kind of unsettling. i wonder if this happens on all 120Hz tv's, since i never noticed it on the 60Hz 40" set in the living room.

the repairman didn't finish fixing the furnace until almost 7:30. he replaced a pump but still needs to come back tomorrow to replace the temperature sensor. what probably happened is the previous sensor broke, so it wasn't able to prevent the water in the heating pipes from becoming steam. pressure built up and eventually it broken one of the valves in the water pump, thereby spraying the basement this morning.

before he left, the repairman taught my father and me how to bleed the radiators. apparently anytime you drain the furnace, air gets trapped inside the heating pipes, which needs to be release in order for the hot water to work its way into the radiator and convey the heat. this involves opening a screw and waiting for the water to dribble out. we did some before dinner, then finished the rest afterwards (all 10 throughout the house). i found out the hard way that the screw only needs to be opened a tiny bit otherwise you might get a face full of dirty furnace water.

with all the furnace drama happening at my parents' place, i was anxious to get back home, worried that i too may have my own issues. alas, forced air heating is reliable as ever, and i came home to a quiet house. there was however a foul odor coming from the kitchen sink; this happens from time to time when i don't use it in a while and don't rinse out the drain of trapped foods.