i spent some time this morning cleaning up the house, in the possibility that my china relatives might want to drop by now that they're here in town (i saw them on the cafe internet webcam). for the most part the place was already clean - i didn't have time to untidy things up too badly since my last roommate's departure. when i moved some stuff down into the basement, i brought out the step ladder to check on the motion-sensor light on the side of the house which stopped working. weather had aged the ceramic housing for one of the flood lights and it was cracked. when i removed the bulb, there was spider webs clogging up the connections. after i cleaned it out the lights began to work again.1

i had oatmeal for lunch, my default breakfast food when i can't think of anything else to eat.

my amazon.com shipment arrived with a hodge podge of items: a d-link DES-1105 5 port 10/100 switch ($6.41), a kingston datatraveler 8gb usb flash drive ($7.99), a planet bike tail light rack bracket ($4.50), and an assortment of pens (to pad my order to $25 to get free shipping). i went to my bedroom and installed the switch (were i have 2 desktop machines and an internet printer). previously i'd been using a deactivated wireless router as a switch, but it seems like a waste of networking equipment. now that ethernet speeds can go as high as 1000, 10/100 switches are becoming dirt cheap. now i'm going to use the wifi router as a public announcement message board, which can only be seen when people search for open wifi networks.

around noontime i peeled the 12+ hours fermented dough from the pyrex bowl and prepared to flour and fold the thing for the 2nd rise. i was amazed by how much it transformed overnight, because when i first mixed up the dough it wasn't very impressive-looking. since that time it'd expanded in size to almost fill the entire bowl. i used a cheesecloth this time because the dough doesn't stick to it like the cotton towels. you can't really dust a cheesecloth with flour because it just goes right through. i did flour the board though, so the dough wouldn't stick to it when i folded up the sides. the dough was soft but still held a shape so folding wasn't a problem. it was also pretty active, i could see bubbles forming underneath the skin, trying to get out.

while waiting for the 2nd rise to finish, i rode the ross road bike to the cafe to greet my relatives. i brought along a jar of beef jerky for my mother. this was my first time riding the bike with the higher seat adjustment. even though it made stopping slightly more awkward (since now i can only get a single foot down instead of both feet while remaining seated), pedaling felt a lot more comfortable.

the brakes work but they're a little soft. i can try to get the brake pads closer to the rims, but the old wheels aren't 100% true (more like 98-99%) and it's not worth it trying to fix them (which could end up making them worse). i have 2 pairs of longer brake pads coming in from hong kong that're due to arrive any day now. i might try installing them and see if they work better. for the time being, i just have to pull harder on the brake levers to get the bike to a complete stop. it's not a big problem but since this bike is built for speed, it could become a potential issue. like how i almost ran into somebody today. granted, she crossed the street without looking, but i have to swerve around her because i couldn't stop in time.

having riden on a road bike, i don't know if i can ever happily go back to my mountain bike hybrid. i really like the speed of the road bike. i haven't been in any situation yet where i've had to overtake anyone, but i welcome the opportunity. the bigger 27" tires mean a farther distance traveled for the same amount of pedal work. i heard thin tires need to be well-inflated in order for them to really work (yesterday i pumped up both to 90 psi with a foot pump). they're great on smooth roads, but they hurt whenever i go over a bump, which is quite common, especially if i ride close to the curb. whenever there's no car behind me i find myself purposely riding in the middle of the street to take advantage of the better road condition.

when i got to the cafe, i said hi to bing bing's father, who was taking a short nap on the bed in the basement storage room. bing bing's mother had left with her daughter but returned to the cafe because she couldn't fall asleep, too excited about her first time in the US. my mother volunteered to take them to the nearest shopping mall. arriving from halfway around the world to go shopping! they're here for less than 2 weeks so they have a busy schedule. they're actually flying out to san francisco this weekend.

the relatives arrived bringing gifts, including an ipad 2 to go with the regular ipad they gave my parents back in the spring when my parents went to china. facetime is probably the only interesting thing on the ipad 2, but since it was still registered in bing bing's father's name, i wasn't able to use it.

at 2:00 i checked the dough, which had ballooned during the 2nd rise. i turned on the oven and after 30 minutes of preheating i dumped the dough into the cast iron pot. it was hard to drop the dough into the 450° cast iron pot from the cheesecloth while still making sure it was centered, so i ended up just plopping everything into the pot and peeling off the cheesecloth. that seemed to work pretty well. i saw the folded edges of the dough was already coming apart. hope that's okay. into the oven went the bread to be baked for 30 minutes.

i forgot to take the leftover noodles my mother gave me for dinner, so ended up returning to the cafe close to 2:30, right when my bread was supposed to be ready. i figured a few extra minutes of baking couldn't hurt. maybe i left the food on purpose just so i'd get more riding time! i quickly grabbed my container from the cafe and returned home. i ran into the mailman, who noticed the smell when i opened my door. "oh, i'm baking bread," i told him. he said his wife used to make bread all the time, fancy ones like braided strands, but not anymore.

the bread had been baking for 45 minutes when i took it out of the oven and removed the lid for an additional 15 minutes of browning baking. the final bread looked pretty good. about the same size as the bread i made on tuesday, maybe even a little bitter. it didn't have that large burst-at-the-seams fissure of tuesday's bread, but it did have a few minor fissures. while cooling on the rack, i could hear the crust cracking. the bread had a thin crust, with a very soft middle. another success!

it seems then that the problem with my failed bread isn't because of the flour, because i've used 2 different brands of flour and they both gave good results. getting the right amount of water then seems to be the critical factor, but should it really matter if it's exactly 1-1/2 cups or a little bit more? looking over my notes, one thing i did differently with my failed breads was i had a very long fermentation time, close to 24 hours. with these past 2 breads, i only let the dough ferment for 12 hours. maybe when they ferment too long they get too soft and sticky and don't rise anymore (all rised out). my failed bread attempts were also in may, when the weather was colder, which probably didn't help the yeast.

i ate two large wedges of bread, dipped with olive oil+garlic+salt.

in the early evening i went to star market and picked up another watermelon, along with 2 cases of snapple ice tea for my parents. walking home, i was afraid the cardboard cases of drinks would break open, one on each arm. fortunately that didn't happen.

i ordered a few things from drugstore.com. i've used them once before, back when i got a 20% discount because i was a first time customer. they're not really any cheaper than buying from your local pharmacy, and free shipping could only be had if you purchased more than $50. they've since changed their free-shipping limit to $25, and this week they're holding a 20% discount sitewide. i bought some hard to find items, like various soaps (castile, dial glycerin for men). but the most important purchase was 4 boxes of good earth tea! 25 bags per box at $3.49 a box, that's cheaper than most other online places (factoring in the shipping cost). i thought about ordering more but didn't want to get too greedy. i'll just have to wait until the next sale.

i fell asleep in the living room again, this time only for half an hour. for dinner i heated up the leftover noodles. i watched another patriots' preseason game, against the buccaneers. tom brady played for the first time, as well as chad ochocinco. they demolished tampa bay in the first half, 28-0. only in the second half, when they rested tom, did the buccaneers finally get some points. later i watched suits, which is now my favorite new summertime show.

1 actually, it's still broken. when i tested it in the evening, the lights didn't turn on. getting it replaced isn't too expensive, they run $25 (for a 180° model not including the halogen bulbs, which i already have). i never had any problems with it the 9 years i've lived at my place, it might've even been installed much longer than that. rewiring the new light might be a little tricky, i'll need my father's help just so i don't accidentally electrocute myself while standing on the ladder.