even though i woke up early at 8:30am, i didn't leave for boston until 9:50am. i was heading to chinatown to get a few things, then stop by the home depot at the south bay center to get some neem oil. i almost didn't go because it was getting late, and i wanted to get back by noontime to have lunch. my census assignment for the day told me to start at 1:30pm, but i planned on starting an hour earlier at 12:30pm just because i didn't want to start that late.
i ended up going just to prove to myself it could be done, that i could run down to chinatown and back in the morning and still have time to do my census work in the afternoon and early evening.
it took me just 22 minutes to arrive at ming's market. the workers there hassled me because i was using my own shopping bags, which i've always done. they said i had to leave them on the, not sure if it's because of coronavirus prevention or shoplifting deterrent. i told them i didn't feel safe using their shopping carts (lie) so somebody went and got my some gloves, which i ended up not wearing. i got some sea salt sunflower seeds, some candied tamarinds, and some knotted dried seafood and shacha sauce for my mother. i also picked up some lychees on sale, just $1.48/lbs. and they didn't look too bad.
shopping took me 20 minutes. afterwards i followed an access road along I-93 to south bay plaza. it was fairly straight forward but because i've never been there, i was nervous i might get lost. the home depot website said there were 4 bottles left of concentrated neem oil, but the shelf was empty when i got there. they might've had it in stock in the upper storage shelves, but asking someone for help would take more time, and i still had to get back home. besides, the place was packed, the employees seemed busy enough as it is. so i left empty-handed.
i returned home via a very straight-forward route but one that probably took the longest time: following mass ave back into cambridge. to do that i first had to get past the gauntlet of homeless drug users around the boston medical center area. it's one thing to be in the safety of a car you can roll up the windows and lock the doors; it's something else to be exposed on a motorcycle, people drugged out of their minds shuffling in the streets like zombies.
the trip home via mass avenue took 34 minutes, i didn't get back until 11:25am. after a quick shower, i started making lunch. i was going to just have some yogurt with granola but when i opened my container of yogurt it was all moldy inside. i had a container of potato salad, but since i'd be having pasta salad tonight, i felt like that was simply too much salad in a single day. instead, i just had an instant cup of korean kimchi noodles along with a smoothie.
according to schedule, i left by 12:30pm to begin my census assignments for the day. since they told me to start at 1:30pm, they only gave me 59 cases. they were all around the harvard university area, so relatively close, and it seems like it was sending me out in circles visiting mainly 4 streets.
today was hot - 90+ degrees again - but dry, so it was manageable. i think my body is also slowly adjusting to the routine and the weather conditions. i didn't even bother wearing sunblock, felt i have enough of a base tan for protection. i took the bike again; though the addresses were close, i needed the bike to get home for my 30 minute break, and i needed the bike again to return to my assigned area.
i managed to get into 2 apartment buildings just by hanging around outside and sneaking in when somebody came out. i redid a bunch of those cases since earlier i couldn't get in to leave a "notice of visit" form. i'm also learning to look for contact numbers and made a lot of phone calls today to get remote proxies. they were all unsuccessful with the exception of one case where a tenant gave me the landlord's number and i managed to clear 2 cases with the info he gave me. i continue to amaze people with my party trick of identifying plants they might have growing in their garden or on their porch. i impressed a helpful (and rather pretty) middle eastern girl when i asked about her jasmine plant which looked a little lacking for sun.
i had another great interaction, this time with a hispanic live-in housekeeper. the owners were out of the country until october, but they were all here in april (along with her school age daughter) and she had most of their info. i was asking her the basic census questions - name, birthdates, gender, relationship to one another - until we got to the ethnicity questions. when she told me she was peruvian, i had to ask her about chifa. i saw her eyes light up and we ended up chatting about chifa for a few minutes, temporarily forgetting about the census questionnaire. she told me that peruvians consider chifa one of peru's native cuisine, despite its obvious chinese influences. i asked if she knew any good chifa restaurants around here, she said no, but if i wanted to have good chifa, i have to go to passaic, new jersey. she didn't believe it herself until a friend brought her there. there were some chifa restaurants where people lined up for 20 minutes just to get in. i asked her what dish would she recommend. "arroz chaufa" she told me, which i know from my spanish and chinese that it's fried rice. she told me to get a special combination (i forgot the name) where it's every single meat you can imagine - chicken, pork, beef - along with a host of different seafoods. i told her i was getting so hungry and we finally finished up the survey.
final two hours of work had the census assigning me all addresses on the harvard campus, none of which were residential. they were either museums, or classrooms, or laboratories. when i entered the info into the app, it asked me to find 3 proxies for each case. that hour of the day, there was simply nobody around. none of the buildings were opened due to coronavirus. i had to look up numbers online i could call, a even though, 1-2 numbers at most, not 3. it got to the point where i didn't dare tackle any of those cases because they were such headaches. i ended up visiting each address and putting in the notes what harvard building it was. i ended the workday on a low and returned home by 8pm.
of my 59 cases, i still had 19 active, although a lot of those remaining were harvard buildings that weren't residential anyway, so that number is misleading. of those that i completed, 27 were still inactive.
after a shower, i filled a bowl with pasta salad and crashed on the couch with my dinner while watching shooter (2007) on tv. i ate half a bag of lychees, they were okay, not the sweetest, but they weren't rotten like i sometimes get.
i didn't mention it, but the census finally cut me my first check, it went into my bank account late last night. not too much because that first week was just training and i wasn't able to do a lot because a clerical error assigned me in the wrong zone. i did the math, they didn't seem to take off too much for taxes. or maybe i forgot how much i'm supposed to make per hour. but pretty soon i'm going to be thinking of things i'm going to buy with this newfound cashflow. i'm typically very thrifty, but i can also splurge with the best of them. still, i mind just spend it on more practical things, like a new coffee table, or get my clogged hot water pipes fixed.
close to 1am the census assigned me my case load for tomorrow: only 46 cases, all within walking distance. they want me to start at 2:45pm this time. i wonder if i'm being punished for being a sloppy census enumerator, or they're just pushing for a later time in the hopes of increasing the chance of people being home (2-8pm is optimal enumerating hours during the weekdays).
i had a weird dream last night. in my dream i discovered that my census device - an iphone in real life but looked more like a star trek tricorder in my dream - was able to make PPE if i fed it raw ingredients. give it some paperclips, a glass bottle, a toilet paper roll, and out comes a box of surgical masks. in my dream i wasn't as concerned that it seemed to defy the laws of thermodynamics and rules of logic (i never actually saw it work, so it was a dream rumor) but rather more annoyed that they didn't tell us this during training, would've saved me a lot worrying over proper face masks.
i woke up around 4am to use the bathroom again. by this morning, i was still irregular, but the tides were turning. if all my overseas travels has taught me one thing, it's that i have a strong stomach, able to eat the worst kinds of food without getting too sick.
because i said i wouldn't work past 6pm (based on the weather forecast, that's when the worst of the tropical storm would hit us), the census only assigned me 43 cases today and told me to start at 12:45pm. they were all located northwest of my location, with the exception of a few all the way close to davis square. they were also located in cambridge too, giving me a break from somerville where i predominantly work.
based on my what my supervisor told me, i didn't have to follow the prescribed start time, so i left at 12:30pm. i would've left earlier (12pm) but i wanted to watch the noontime news broadcast to hear the latest weather forecast before leaving.
the first few cases are always far for some strange reason, so i had to take the bike. temperature was in the 80's, overcast by the time i went out, progressively windier as the day wore on. i didn't mind the wind, better than the rain, and it kept things cool.
i returned home at 2:45pm primarily to dump the bike and go about on foot, as all the remaining cases were within walking distance, and i felt a few raindrops so i could carry the umbrella if necessary. it was just going to be a short break, but i ended up taking my 30 minute break instead.
highlights today include enumerating an elderly couple who just happened to be outside gardening. one of them told me they'd have opened the door otherwise. the wife was amazed that i knew the names of all her flowers. they had a weird situation where they used to have more apartment units in their home before they consolidated the addresses to just two, with one of them being vacant. i also enumerated an 95-year-old elderly man living by himself in a mansion (with a nurse) which insisted we speak face to face even though i was happy to do the interview from between the glass pane of his storm door; he got a chair to sit down and propped the door open with his foot as i asked him questions. i'm naturally biased because i live in cambridge, but cambridge folks seem nicer compared to somerville folks, i didn't get any angry respondents, and all of them were very helpful, even the proxy neighbors.
starting at 4pm it began to get very windy, to a point where i was a little concerned about my safety. around 5pm it started to rain, a little drizzle as first, followed by very brief periods of downpours. my supervisor sent everyone a text advising folks to go home. the rain only last half an hour at most, afterwards the sun came out and the clouds dissipated. i was going to stop working at 4pm, but pushed myself, and at 5pm i was going to stop working when it started to rain, but i kept pushing, and ended up stopping when i said i'd stop, by 6pm. truth to told, the weather was pretty calm by that point, i could've kept going to 8pm. there was a lot of small branches all over the roads, and occasionally i'd see a larger branch here and there, but no toppled trees. so much for tropical storm isaias.
i managed to do something i haven't been able to do since starting field work: finishing all my cases. granted, i started 15 minutes early, and i finished 15 minutes late past 6pm, but it was nice seeing zero. of the 43 cases i was assigned today, 24 were still inactive, meaning nobody was home or i wasn't able to get confirmation. that's more than half the cases but a lot better than my usual "batting record" which is feel is something like 75%+ inactives. so even though i could've worked more, i had no cases left, unless i wanted to revisit all the inactive cases. it was better to call it a day.
it seemed weird to be eating dinner so early, so i snacked on some nachos with guacamole as an appetizer. i didn't dig into my pasta salad until 8pm, watching a ronald reagan documentary on american experience. the salad was still good, but not as good as yesterday. i was also a little worried i'd be experiencing diarrhea again later tonight.
because i get home so late (8pm+) after a day of census work, i have to prepare my dinner in the mornings so i don't have to cook at night and not eat until 9-10pm. i decided to make a pasta salad that should last me for the rest of the week. i biked down to market basket in the morning to get a few ingredients and started making the salad when i got back. i was using the same recipe from september 2019, the last time i made it.
it took about an hour, from cooking the pasta, letting it cool, and mixing it with the other ingredients. as i chopped the vegetables the ingredient list seemed to growing, until i was using a total of 18 ingredients including what i put in the homemade dressing. i had some cherry tomatoes and a shishito pepper from the garden so i threw that into the salad as well. you're limited only by your salad making imagination (like the first time i made pasta salad, i had beans and corns, 100% vegetarian
). i was finally finished by 11:50am.
|pasta salad italian dressing|
1-1/2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp dry oregano
2 tsp dry basil
mix all ingredients in food processor.|
|18-ingredient pasta salad|
1 lbs. tri-color rotini
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
6 oz. feta cheese
8 oz. ham steak, cubed
1 cup olives, chopped
1 cup fresh arugula
1 cup pepperoncini, chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 shishito pepper, chopped
cook pasta. let cool. mix with remaining ingredients including dressing. serve cold.|
the census assigned me 64 cases today, with a starting time of 12:30pm. most of the cases were local, around where i live, except a few were down by inman square and south of harvard university.
i had my first low-income housing visit today. a man sitting in the back of a mini-van called me right when i was about to sneak into the building behind some tenants. "what're you doing?" he asked. i flashed him my badge. he shook his head and wished me luck. a kind superintendent let me in after i told him i was with the census. i was assigned about 10 cases here, i managed to contact 4. it went from one extreme - a mother of three very nicely volunteered to answer all my census questions - to another - where a very angry man swore he wasn't going to answer any questions and warned me not to leave anything under his door. on a different floor, another man answered the door but said his lady usually takes care of things like this, and i got a little girl who told me her mother was sleeping.
i had a few cases that were repeats when there was nobody home the first time around. i even saw my old notes. none of those cases panned out.
i took my government-mandated 30 minute break at 3:15pm, knowing i had a conference call with my supervisor at 6:30pm. i was going to take my break later, maybe right before the call, so i could have a whole chunk of time where i was at home, but it was just too hot (another 90+ day). originally it was just going to be a short break, but i extended it so it became my official 30 minute break instead.
i was right around the corner when i returned home for the 6:30pm meeting. it was a conference between between my supervisor and all the enumerators under her care, about 20 of us. she wanted to give us some tips - many of which i actually worked out with her, seems like i was one of her first enumerators out in the field. one thing i learned was we didn't actually have to start on the time assigned to us because somehow the scheduling component is broken, so we could start earlier or later; basically, work when you want. afterwards there was a Q&A. that got a little messy, as people were talking over one another, asking their questions. a lot of questions i'd already encountered out in the field, but just my 4th day of enumerating, i felt like a seasoned veteran listening to rookies.
after the meeting was over (around 7:20pm), there was still enough time (and more importantly daylight) for me to knock out a few cases before 8pm, my official stop time. the last case i went to was an in-mover (rather pretty asian girl with broad shoulders) who didn't know the status of the tenants living at her place before she moved in. this was a house i enumerated before so i was familiar with the landlord, whom she took me to see. even the landlord wasn't sure, with coronavirus some tenants (mostly students) had decided to return home. he did give me the contact info for the person that actually lived here during april, i called but i didn't leave a voicemail message. i did leave her name and number in my notes, whoever gets the case can close it out by calling. before i left, i chatted with the landlord about his mother's beautiful garden. her cucumbers and tomatoes were free of bacterial wilt and blight, an amazing feat during these disease-heavy times. he said his father used this soap to spray on the plants to keep them healthy. he also pointed out the fig plant and told me that they're not supposed to survive this far north - i already know this! they also had a plum tree, and a sour cherry tree, and black berries the size of quail eggs.
i normally look forward to coming home, but more so tonight because i had my pasta salad waiting for me for dinner. after a shower i ate a large bowl of salad. it was so good after a hard day's worth of work. afterwards i had a good baby, but still enough room for a green pluot and some ice cream.
before going to bed, i felt rumbling in my stomach and quickly ran to the bathroom. i had a bout of diarrhea, and immediately thought it was the feta cheese i ate. but then i remember there was also an onion recall because of salmonella, but later when i checked the sticker my onion was safe. usually if lactose intolerance is going to get me, it happens quick, like an hour after ingestion. the stool also had a (gross) pudding consistency, like all that olive oil i ate emulsified everything.
for the past several years i've lived my life where everyday was the weekend. so it's somewhat of a novelty to experience a weekend where it actually mattered. but like most people, the weekends are spent running errands. it was a while after i woke up that i remembered i needed to wash my clothes. today was the day to do it because it was both sunny and dry, two important criteria if i want to hang dry my laundry outside. i didn't have as much dirty clothes as last time, which prevented my laundry from bunching up and not drying properly. i also washed some bath towels and pillowcases.
i left the house at noon, getting some gas for my motorcycle before arriving in belmont. my parents were at my mother's acupuncture appointment in framingham. hailey was home alone, i let her outside to sit in the sun while i toured the backyard. my mother made some wontons for lunch when she returned home.
while inspecting the climbing buttercup squash plants on the western side of the yard, i detected some vine borer holes near the root stem of one of the squash vines. this is most likely a death sentence but there's one potential solution: injecting Btk solution in the hollow squash stems. i've done it in the past (as far back as a decade ago), though it's hard to confirm whether i was successful or not. i bought a fresh supply last month, so this was my best chance to retest Btk applied intravenously.
unfortunately i couldn't find the syringe i normally use to inject Btk. i've used the same syringe all these years, as it was sort of an ordeal getting it in the first place. so in the late afternoon i rode down to the new watertown CVS to see if i can buy a syringe from the pharmacy. luckily they weren't busy and the pharmacist looked chinese, so he didn't hassle me as much after i told him what i needed a syringe. unfortunately they had to be sold in packs, but it was just $4 for a package of 10. i got small (1cc) insulin needles since i'd only be injecting small amounts into the squash stems.
today being the first of august, a lot of people were moving and there were piles of discarded stuff everywhere. on my way to CVS i saw a free standing oscillating fan somebody had tossed out. when i got back i told my mother about it and my sister gave me a ride back to the site so i could retrieve the fan. it looked practically brand new, i was surprised the owner didn't manage to sell it.
when i plugged in the fan back at the house, it was obviously why it was tossed out as trash: it didn't work. completely dead, not even the faint sounds of the motor trying to work. but my father has a passion for bringing dead fans back to life (usually they just need some lubricating oil) so we took it apart to see if we could fix it. at first we thought it was the 4-way switch. a similar problem happened to a ceramic heater we managed to fix once we replaced the broken switch. but we tested the continuity on the switch and everything was working. the only other thing it could be was a mysterious small black rectangular box. turns out that's the motor starting capacitor, it functions in a similar way that a car battery is necessary to start the engine. i was tasked to look for a replacement part on ebay so we could try bringing this dead fan back to life.
* losing housekeys
got my case assignments last night: 63 cases starting at 12:15pm. one thing i don't get is why the start time is always different. is it for variety? maybe to keep you on your toes? it just seems weird. i'd prefer a fixed start time. the census tells us it's because the cases are assigned based on the time most likely the respondents will be home, and as such, start is variable since it's based on predicted respondent occupancy times.
it's only day three of my enumeration work and i can't help but to get philosophical. i was thinking about other jobs where you go from house to house. mail carrier. delivery truck driver. but those jobs are different in that you welcome the mail or a package. most people don't seem to welcome the census. we also deal with a lot of rejections, as most addresses i've visited have been empty, and of those that do answer, occasionally they refuse to have anything to do with you the moment they realize who it is. mail carriers have it rough, they also do a lot of walking, visiting house to house, even if it's raining or snowing. but their job usually doesn't require their customers to be home, it's mostly non-contact. not so with the census. added to that the additional stress of the coronavirus, it can be challenging.
it'd be nice to get some kind of end date, just so i'll know how long this temp work will last. it will also let me better budget my hours, whether to work as many hours as i can because the project will end in a few weeks, or pace myself if it's going to be months. i also know they probably won't have an answer, because it depends on how many non-contacts they received, and how many they have to go back and try again. i remember reading or was told that it could last anywhere from a few weeks to possibly 2 months.
my cases keep on getting farther and farther. a handful of initial addresses are all the way down by sullivan square. i had to take the motorcycle there since it'd take me 18 minutes to ride the bicycle but just 8 minutes by motorcycle. i don't mind, at least for today, since it's not raining. the remaining cases are closer, but still beyond union square. the motorcycle will allow me to get home in time to take my 30 minute break and get back to work for the second half of my shift.
my supervisor called me, said i got flagged for not attempting to find eligible proxies. i explained to her that none of my cases were proxy-eligible, but the app will still ask me to find a proxy if i think the house is vacant or abandoned. i always do try, but if i knock on a neighbor's door and nobody answers, i don't record that encounter, since i thought i was only supposed to record proxies that were successful. i also asked her why my cases were getting farther and farther, she didn't have a good answer for that, i might ask her again if it continues. i told her i had to drive today (didn't mention the part about the motorcycle) because some of my cases are too far even for a bicycle. she understands that it's easier riding a bicycle because it's more maneuverable, but census cases are assigned assuming you have access to a car; she told me the difference between biking and driving in my case are negligible and i could still ride if i wanted to, even if it does take a bit longer than driving.
i spent the rest of my morning checking the map to see where i was supposed to go today and practice a few cases on the training app.
when 12:15pm arrived i rode out to my first cases all the way by sullivan square. i made the terrible mistake of going through union square. google maps said it was okay but it was definitely not okay. i was tempted to doing a u-turn and find an alternative route but i stayed in traffic. i think it would've been faster by bicycle, honestly. the turn from somerville avenue to washington street was completely blocked off. the detour was all the way to mcgrath highway. once i got there the traffic cleared and i made my way to the washington street underpass.
the far away cases weren't too bad. i left behind a bunch of notice of visit and even got to enumerate someone who had recently moved in but knew that the apartment was empty before he arrived. i then biked back towards union square, hitting a few addresses in between. when i did get to union square, i parked the bike at several places while i cleared cases. the weather was temperature and dry, actually kind of comfortable. my body has also slowly adjusted. i had cases where the address looked abandoned, and i followed the rules this this and tried to find 3 proxies before the case would close on its own. these kind of cases are the worst, because they take longer than any other cases as i ring neighborhood doorbells trying to find anyone who can vouch for the occupancy or vacancy of said residence. when i do get somebody, they know a little bit, but reluctant to confirm, which means the case stays open.
i was on a roll approaching the late afternoon. i probably could've kept working, didn't even need to use the bathroom as all the fluids had left by body in the form of sweat. but around 4pm is a good time to stop and i was out of water anyway so i finally stopped for a break by 4:30pm, speeding back home on the motorcycle.
my at-home break routine is this: use the bathroom, take a shower, refill my water and drink plenty of water while i'm at it. i could probably guzzle down a whole 40 oz. of ice cold water easily. i drank so fast it give me an ice cream headache but i didn't mind.
by 5pm i was back out again, for my final 3 hours of work. i took the bike this time, as it was close to rush hour and google maps calculated that bicycling was just a few minutes slower than taking the motorcycle. all the remaining addresses were conveniently located close together. i think that's by design.
my supervisor called me again, said i had two cases from today that was flagged as noncomplete. i remember those cases clearly, i told her i even searched for proxies for each of those cases, i didn't everything by the book. i asked her if any other enumerators were having the same problem, it just seems to be me for some reason. or maybe i get assigned all the tough cases. but my supervisor was on my side and said she would let her supervisor know that there seems to be some kind of glitch in the census app.
census assigned me 63 cases this morning; i'd only completed 27 by that point. but since these late afternoon early evening cases now were grouped closer together, i didn't have to walk as much, so i cleared 27 more cases before 8pm. i could've cleared even more, were i not stuck chatting briefly with a few respondents and proxies. a lot of neighbors just like to talk, they're happy to chat. i've discovered that i'm really good at interviewing people because i like asking questions about them because they genuinely interest me. highlights of the day includes clearing a few wrong address cases because i was able to find the landlords, the definitive source for occupancy info. one of my final cases i spoke with statistician who hard done work for the census so he was especially interested in what i was doing. we could've talked more but i had cases to clear. i helped him clear a wrong address case at his house and he helped me proxy his neighbor which cleared 3 cases.
i still had enough energy in the tank to go another hour or two, but it was starting to get dark, time to go home. i saw a sunset but because there were no clouds, it wasn't as dramatic as yesterday.
back at home i ate the rest of my fried chicken after a shower. i'm not working this weekend so i have two free days to look forward to.
today marks the last day of july. to my surprise, we managed to slightly beat out last month's total (1222kWh versus 1215kWh), but that's to be expected given that june only had 30 days to work with. it was the lowest production for july we've had so far.
this morning i figured out the pattern of my life for the next few weeks: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of free time. that's probably the normal pattern for a lot of people, expect if they have to commute, it could be 10+ hours of work and just 6 hours of free time. it's hard to appreciate your free time until life starts encroaching on it. i woke up at 9am this morning just so i had 4 hours of free time before i had to start my census work at 1pm.
i didn't do much, taking comfort in not doing anything since there'd be much to do once work began. i did bike down to the porter square star market to get some fried chicken and ice cream, both on sale. for lunch i ate a chicken salad bagel sandwich and made myself a smoothie to use up the overripe bananas i had to put in the fridge to protect them from fruit flies.
i took a shower, got dressed, then headed out by 1pm. i went via bicycle today, for the first half at least. a few of my early cases took me around union square, and walking that distance would waste too much time. i wore the same grey hiking pants from yesterday, but wore a navy polo shirt instead of the white one. it was still hot though, and i debated whether to put on the sunblock, but thick clouds were rolling, and spotted thunderstorms were in the forecast, so i figured the clouds would give me some cover.
enumerating for the census gives me the opportunity to visit nearby neighborhoods i wouldn't normally visit. i've seen some really beautiful houses, and seen some really dumpy ones as well.
a good night sleep got rid of most of my back and feet pains. there was a cool breeze last night, perfect sleep conditions. i think my body just needed time to adjust, it didn't hurt as much today, just maybe my shoulder, because of the bag strap.
checking a few cases near market basket, i took a quick stop instead to get a bottle of cold ginger ale, as my water supply had ran out. i was tired at that point, but i powered through and worked another hour before returning home briefly at 4:10pm for my 30 minute break. used the bathroom, took a shower, replenished my fluids, then i was out by 4:40pm.
for the second half of my census work, i decided to walk as all the cases were closer. there was a bug in the census app and it wouldn't accept a case where the respondents were in-movers (that's census jargon for somebody who moved into a house after april 1st) but didn't know whether or not the house they moved in was previously vacant or occupied. i contacted my supervisor, we tried to troubleshoot the problem with the training app, which was doing the exact same thing. finally we decided to skip it.
i spent a long time trying to enumerate a house that had partial vacancies but was also on a street corner with it's own private street so it had 3 different addresses depending on which direct you were facing. it was a real headache trying to figure out if people were home, broken doorbells, and trying to find proxies to vouch for apartment vacancies. i hope i don't get reassigned those cases.
i also managed to get into another apartment building that was supposed to be locked but the front door was partially open. it had a really weird configuration, narrow shared carpeted stairwells that were not at all air conditioned and i was sweating like crazy working a few cases.
if the respondent is chinese i can usually talk them into responding. being of the same ethnicity really greases the wheel. a few of them own dogs, and for some strange reason it's always a shiba inu. not so much today, but more yesterday, more than one respondent (general respondent) asked if they could also add their pets on the census. i told them it was a good idea, maybe in the future.
in census training they taught us about making a connection with the respondent by noticing something about them and making a comment. yesterday, somebody was watching big bang and i could hear the interstitial loop music and i told him i also watch that show. today, some guy wore a tardis t-shirt and we chatted briefly about the new emperor dalek. of course if they have a garden, i could talk garden all day. i surprised one respondent by correctly identifying the cardinal climber seedling he had growing; he said i could have some cherry tomatoes if i wanted (are census enumerators allowed to accept gifts?).
towards the end of the day into evening i figured most respondents would be annoyed with a census visit, but i had some good luck, a lot of my good cases happened around that time. one in particular stood out: i had to get a proxy to validate that there was no such address for a particular location. i rang a few doors, no response, until i got to one hidden house that looked like it was out of a horror movie. there wasn't even a door, just a cloth screen. i rang the doorbell, afraid of what i might find, and this very friendly guy came out, couldn't have been nicer. you can't just a person by the scary house they live in.
i didn't even realize it was so close to 8pm when i stopped working. i was on a roll, knocking out cases one after another, but it was getting dark, and i didn't want a repeat of yesterday where i was still walking around after sunset.
i walked back home by 8:15pm. tired yes, but not as exhausted like yesterday. there was also a beautiful yet sinister sunset, a perfect way to end day two of enumerator. after a shower, i dove into my bucket of fried chicken. by that point they were all soggy, but i was so hungry i didn't mind. they had no flavor, just some saltiness, which made me worried that i might've contracted the coronavirus since i started working, but the virus doesn't work that fast.
i'm going to try and get to bed early, not to sleep, but to rest and read in bed. still waiting for the census to contact me regarding my cases for tomorrow. where will they send me this time? i'm also thinking about a quick chinatown run in the morning if they start me working late again like today (1pm).
i went to bed last night content knowing that at the very least i wouldn't have any census work today. it'd be like a free day, where i could do whatever i wanted until my work started. that's why i slept in late, waking up sometime after 10am. i casually checked my census phone and did a double take: i had work waiting for me starting at 12:45pm, 74 cases. there would be no easing in transition period, they were going to put me to work immediately, exactly 24 hours after i finished the last of my training.
all my fancy plans of taking a bike ride into chinatown and getting some snacks were now just dreams. in less than 3 hours i had to get myself ready to start my first official day of census work. i went through the list of 74 addresses. thankfully they were all nearby, and all within walking distance. i even saw a few addresses i recognized, surprised my neighbors hadn't filled out their census survey yet. i tried opening the training app to do some practice runs, but it was locked out for some reason, maybe because i was finished with training. so trial by fire it is.
i prepared my census bag, the forms i'd need, my id. the bag could use a redesign, for instance maybe a drink pocket. instead, i put my insulated tumbler full of ice water wrapped in a small towel so it wouldn't spill. i also packed a small package of kleenex, a bottle of sanitizing gel (the one the census gave me), and my battery pack phone charger, in case i needed to juice up in the field. it was a hot day, so i also packed my bucket hat. i realized i ran out of sunblock so quickly biked down to walgreens to buy some. everything was $10+, i was hoping for something cheap, i ended up getting some spray-on sunblock since it was easier to apply. as for facemasks, the census provided two cloth maskes, but they couldn't my nose completely, so i opted for my surgical masks.
i ate a chicken salad bagel sandwich for lunch before showering and finally leaving by 12:45pm. i called my supervisor earlier but she was in a capstone meeting, so she called another supervisor to call me and answer some questions. i noticed some addresses had no apartment designation when i knew for a fact they were apartments. she gave me suggestions that seemed helpful at the time, but once i started working, they didn't make much sense.
my very first case was textbook perfect. the man lived alone and stopped his zoom meeting to answer my questions. he answered everything, didn't put up a fuss, asked some census questions which i was able to answer all. after that it was mostly downhill.
i visited a lot of addresses where there was nobody home. but i could tell whether there were genuinely nobody home or they saw me and for whatever reason decided not to answer the door. i also had a few cases were there was flat out refusal to answer, like they saw i worked for the government and noped the door closed right on my face. census training says not to take those personally but it's hard not to. i also visited a few student housing, they were all empty, all the students having fled home during the coronavirus pandemic. there were people who would only answer partially, and even one man who made me erase his entire survey after it was nearly complete because he had a change of heart. you use a lot of people skills, trying to read into people reluctance, maybe find a way to sway them. a con man smooth talker would be a perfect census enumerator. i am not that person.
did i mention it was hot? i put on my hat immediately, even though i thought it looked ridiculous. i stopped a few times to take some cold sips from my tumbler. i even had to take out the towel and wipe the sweat from the back of my neck. it got a little better later in the afternoon, when the sky clouds up, but then i was afraid it might rain and i didn't have my umbrella. all the while i smelled of sunblock, which always reminds me of hot summer days at the beach or watching a parade.
our cases have to be followed in the order they were given to use. we were told that the time they were assigned were carefully chosen to coincide with the best time the respondents would be home. i'm curious as to what algorithm they used because by the time i got to the middle of my case list, it brought me back home. federal law says i must take a 30 minute unpaid break after 5 hours of work. would they mind if i took my unpaid break after 4 hours of work? regardless, i stopped working at 4:30pm, used the bathroom, took a shower, reapplied sunblock, and replenished my fluids. i was out again by 5pm.
during my 2nd outing, i connected the census phone to the rechargeable portable battery because the battery level had dropped down to 48%. once the phone was up to 70%, i untethered the cable.
it wasn't all lowlights, there were some highlights. a random woman who saw me started asking friendly questions about the census, i was able to answer all of her concerns like a pro, even though it was just my first day. my crowning achievement was somehow getting access to a fancy new air-conditioned apartment building where there were about a dozen households that didn't fill out their census survey. it was a farcry from the apartment i visited earlier: cramped, stuffy, hot, and for some reason none of the apartments were numbered. not sure how long i stayed at this fancy apartment, but i cleared a bunch of cases, all the while enjoying some free AC. by the time i left it was well past 7pm.
not sure when i was supposed to quit, they didn't assign me a stop time, just a start time. but as census enumerators we're told not to work beyond 9pm at all cost. like, they would fire you if you did that, perhaps my census phone would turn to dust and all my data would be lost. i worked until 8:30pm, it was already dark. if i knocked on doors, nobody was going to answer, and if they did answer, the respondent would be angry and i'd have to apologize profusely, because i hate it when people knock on my door when it's late, and certainly wouldn't want to do that to others. i also knew it was time to go home when i start seeing rats going to work, as a skinny one scurried past me towards some garbage cans.
by that point i was already close to my house, so i simply went home. i was exhausted. my back, my feet, were all in pain. it felt like the sort of pain i get spending a whole day at the museum, not like i was doing anything strenuous, but those long stretches of standing and walking can really take a toll on my body, especially when i'm not used to it, made worse by being such a hot day. luckily i had some leftover pasta sauce from last night. after a hot shower to wash off all the oily sunblock i sprayed on myself, i warmed up the meat sauce and boiled a cup+ of cellentani for dinner. i didn't have dinner until 9:20pm. i was so tired i didn't even feel like eating, just stared at my food.
i was assigned 74 cases today. by day's end i'd visited 55 cases. but of the 55 cases i cleared, 34 were listed as inactive, which meant they were incomplete and needed to be re-enumerated at some point, either by me or somebody else (i'm hoping somebody else). looking back, there were definitely some cases i'd do differently, after having a day's worth of field experience under my belt. the field app could still use a little fine tuning, i think by census 2030 it'll be a lot better, given that this is only v1.0.
one thing i did was to readjust my work times. no more 9am to 9pm, now it was 10am to 8pm, and no weekends, i need them to recover.
when i checked my census phone after midnight, it'd zero'ed out my cases for the day and said i had no work scheduled. but a check a short time later (12:40am) revealed new cases (just 59) and a start time of 1pm. they were all in somerville, and all new addresses, none of the ones on my street. some were a little far (all the way to union square), i may need to bike down there if i plan on taking a break (bathroom/drink) back at home. i actually prefer a little distance from where i live, prevents me from awkwardly running into a neighbor and explaining what i'm doing.
i had a hard time sleeping last night, a combination of anxiety over this morning's final census training conference call and the fact that it was still very hot outside. usually i can count on the fact that even if it's hot during the day, at least it's cool at night. last night was not the case, temperature was still in the 80's, and i woke up covered in a thin layer of sweat.
the conference call was at 9am, i had everything set up on the coffee table, ready to go. two supervisors were running the conference call. people said their names as they joined in, and a roll call was taken once the conference began. i thought there'd be a lot of interactions but the call was essentially a verbatim reread of the capstone self-study guide i spent 2+ hours yesterday going over. the only interactive parts was during the handful of roleplay exercises, and volunteered were asked from those attending the conference. i volunteered to roleplay a census reinterview. there was also a last minute covid-19 section that was recently added, i picked up a few good tips, like having the option of calling the respondent from outside the house if they don't feel comfortable answering questions face to face with social distancing. afterwards there was a Q&A. i asked if we could leave notices in the mail slot, but learned that as a census worker we're legally not allowed to touch anything mail related (so the answer is no).
the whole conference call took nearly 3 hours. the supervisors admitted to us later that we were actually their first capstone conference call, normally this would all be done in person. afterwards back on our census employee portal, there were two new items in our training, a short quiz testing everything you learned, and a survey of the training itself. i wonder if the quiz questions are randomized, but they were easy questions, mostly common sense stuff, and i managed to score perfect (all the other online quizes i've taken i usually get at least one question wrong). while doing the training survey, it crashed on me while filling out of the questions. nothing i could to get it working again, so i texted my supervisor. she told me to wait a few hours and try again, maybe it might fix itself. i finally solved the problem by logging into the census portal using firefox instead of the chrome browser, that seemed to work and i was able to complete the survey.
once the survey was complete, when i logged back into my census employee portal, there was no training modules, they simply disappeared. i didn't even get a chance to say good bye!
my supervisor called me in the early evening, congratulating me for completing the training. she asked if i'd put in my work availability hours, and that i could be assigned cases as early as tomorrow. she told me if i wanted to take a short break before starting, i could go back and change my availability, just to get a breather. she also answered a few more questions i had that i didn't ask during the conference call. like if we're assigned to work at 9am, we should simply leave at 9am, we don't have to be at the first address by 9am. i also noticed that typical enumerating times were rather late, since that's when people would most likely be home. i asked what happens if i knock during dinner, and she said the survey comes first. if the respondent refuse to answer, that just means the census will need to come back at another time. she said cases are assigned overnight, and i would know by morning whether i had work or not, either way they'd let me know.
i went out after my conference call, to take a short walk in this blistering heat and to visit star market to buy some portabella mushrooms on sale. i hade a chicken salad bagel sandwich for lunch. i spent the rest of the day intermittently turning on the AC. it was so hot today, by mid-morning temperature was already in the 90's.
for dinner i made a meat sauce and had some pasta for dinner. i'm better at portion controlling my pasta, just one cup, and 4 scoops of sauce. the mushrooms were for the sauce, wanted a little variety than just ground beef. while making dinner, i accidentally knocked the lid off of my terracotta garlic keeper, smashing it into tiny pieces of the ground. later i went onto ebay and found a plastic garlic keeper, less liable to break, let's hope it can keep the garlic just as fresh as the terracotta pot.
i dug up my honeywell enviracaire 11520 air purifier and ran it in the living room on top of the coffee table. i was hoping the circulating fan would somehow cool the house at the same time purifying the air (i noticed the most was getting a bit dusty). it did feel a bit cooler, i could feel the cold air on my feet, but when i checked the temperature, it was 80 degrees outside but 84 degrees inside.
after midnight i checked my census app and it showed me a message that i don't have any census work for tomorrow because not enough workload. that means i essentially have a free day tomorrow. most likely i'm going to take a trip down to chinatown or maybe the malden 88 if i want to get in a motorcycle ride.
i woke up this morning ready to cram the rest of my census training so i could be ready for the capstone conference call tomorrow. i was done with 2 hours worth of study when my supervisor contacted everyone in a group text with the phone number to call for the conference. later she informed us the conference call would happen a week after first orientation. for me that meant tomorrow, but because i got my online training material late, i got an extension to friday. but i didn't want to be held back, so i crammed throughout the weekend, finish studying in less than half the time in what was supposed to take 6 days.
i didn't know if my supervisor wanted us to respond to her privately but i just replied to the message, ended up texting everyone in the group. i learned something though: a lot of people who texted back, they all had conference dates later in the week, none had it on tuesday. my supervisor also called me minutes later to confirm i'd be ready for tomorrow (i told her i just had a few more hours of training left to go) and told me she ran into problems again when she tried to schedule me for the call and her supervisor told me i was in zone 5. she straightened everything out though, i'm on for tomorrow morning 9am.
i rode the motorcycle to belmont, meant i wouldn't be drenched in sweat on another heatwave day like i would if i biked. after some fried zucchini pancakes for lunch, i spent another 2+ hours finishing up the rest of my training. i imagine tomorrow's conference call (scheduled for 3 hours) will involve some role playing to get us ready for field work.
with the temperature so hot today, nobody felt like cooking. for dinner we just ordered a large hawaiian pizza from domino's. it's our first time ordering pizza since the pandemic. they have delivery-to-car but i went inside and picked it up.
on a cloudless day in the middle of summer with the temperature so hot and humid, it's impossible to break into the 50kWh ceiling. with just 4 more days left this month and the weather forecast as it is, we're not going to break 1200kWh but we'll come close. it's going to be our lowest performing month of july. on a brighter note, SRECtrader contacted my parents today, said they sold two more SREC's on their behalf, $260 each. it's on the low side, but free solar money is free solar money.
back at home, i took a shower then relaxed in the air conditioned living room. like always, as soon as i turned off the AC the room started heating back up. i fished out my stainless steel insulated takeya thermos from my cupboard and filled it up with ice water. freezing cold water is my drink of choice during the summer, i'm surprised it took me this long to remember to start using it again. while in the kitchen i noticed a few moths. in fact, the pantry moth trap has doubled in trapped moths since the last i checked. maybe they came in when i had my back door open (attracted by the pheromones), which doesn't close properly and still allows some bugs to get inside the house. i have to be more careful about that. i went several weeks where i didn't see any moths to now seeing them again. at least they seem to be pantry moths, my cloth moth trap hasn't had any new visitors.
i started reading lovecraft country (2016) by matt ruff after seeing the HBO trailer for the new series starting in mid-august. at first i thought it was sort of gimmicky: marrying traditional lovecraftian cosmic horror with topical 1950's racial tension in the US. but it's a mashup that makes sense, that institutional racism is in itself a kind of cosmic horror. then i learned it was a book, so figured i could get a jump on the show (looked intriguing, i'm definitely watching) by starting on the book. after a few pages in i was already hooked; the writing has a clarity and simplicity that makes it easy to read. the book also has a cool cover, done up in a pulp novel style, cthulhu tentacles that are also KKK robes.