at around 1:30am last night i got my assignment for today: 63 cases, all around the inman square area, with a start time of 12:45pm. i browsed the list of addressed before going to sleep. when i woke up this morning, everything had changed. i now had 88 cases, with a start time of 2:45pm. how can the census assign me more cases yet tell me to start 2 hours later? that didn't make sense. all my cases from last night were there; they just attached an animal 25 cases, all around where i live. i guess they figured by some miracle i'm about to finish all 63 cases, i could come home and work some open addresses from where i live.
there was enough to eat in the house that i didn't need to make a grocery run. my morning project was replacing the sheered off bolt on my rear bike rack. i figured it was going to be difficult to remove, but once i loosened the washer and lockring and nuts, i was able to remove the broken bolt my hand. i replaced it with a spare, the bike rack was back to normal.
i put a chicken bake in the oven and studied my addresses while i waited for my lunch to finish baking. i noticed the same streets were scattered, some in the early afternoon, others in the late afternoon. i ended up pulling out the addresses and reordering them by region, so i wouldn't waste my time by doubling back on an area i'd already visited.
after i finished my lunch, i took a quick shower. i left by 12:30pm, taking the bicycle as it was too far to walk. today was a hot day, but actually kind of comfortable because it was also very dry. up until this point i've been wearing pants for work because i felt it looked more professional, but today was the first time i wore shorts, so that might've also helped with the cooling. never did i get hot enough that i needed to take a break, and by the time i finally took my break around 5:15pm, i hadn't even drank my ice cold water yet.
today was the first day of the new work bonus, which will last for the next 3 weeks. i need to complete 0.75 cases an hour in order to receive the bonus. i'm still not quite sure if completion means interviews or could also mean verifying vacancies or non-existent addresses.
afterwards i went back out and worked for another hour before returning home again for our weekly census conference call at 7pm. i didn't mind it at all, allowed me to stop working an hour early while still getting paid the same. there's always a few people who seem to hog up all the airtime on these conference calls while everybody else is forced to sit around and listen. i had my own question (mostly about the bonus qualification) but decided to ask them privately tomorrow.
by 8pm i still have 47 active cases and 20 inactives. that meant i managed to complete 21 cases. of those 21 cases, i think maybe only 6 were actual interviews, and another handful were proxy interviews, while the rest were wrong addresses. if we count completions as those 21, then i'm in good shape: if completion needs actual interviews, then i'm probably not going to get any bonuses.
highlight of the day was going to an apartment complex where i bumped into the building manager who also happened to be a census supervisor. she knew my supervisor and got a kick out of calling her and telling her that one of her enumerators (me) was actually working her building. i had 7 cases in her building, i did 2 interviews, left 2 notice-of-visit slips, and the rest she served as my proxy, the 3 remaining units vacant on april 1st.
for dinner i boiled a bag of frozen homemade chinese dumplings my mother gave me early last week but i never got around to eating because i had so much pasta salad. i'm trying to figure out what i'm going to be eating for this week. there's enough leftovers that i can probably survive off of that, but i also had enough ingredients for making some tasty salads. hot days like the ones we're due to experience all this week, i prefer cold foods.
i started using wireguard for my VPN, after receiving an e-mail from my service saying it was now available. supposedly it's better than IPsec or openVPN, faster, more secure, even less code. i tried it and didn't notice anything different, except it's new enough that netflix doen't know how to catch it just yet and won't try to block me for using a VPN. i figured that will eventually change but for the time being it looks like i can VPN while streaming videos.
this morning i went down to the community garden to water my plants. it's been more than 2 weeks since my last visit
. i also got a change to pick all the ripened tomatoes. when i returned home i also watered my own front and backyard, before leaving for belmont. along the way i saw a census worker walking his beat. up until this point i'd never seen another census worker with the exception of yesterday, but that was a group meeting. i'd just never seen an enumerator out in the field before until today. i waved to him from my motorcycle as i passed by, which must've confused him.
4 cups water
1/2 tsp hondashi powder
1 tbsp dried seaweed
1/3 cup gochujang paste
1 tbsp hot pepper flakes
1 tbsp karo dark corn syrup
1 lbs. frozen rice cakes
3 scallions, chopped
7 oz. fried tofu wedges
|make broth over medium heat 15 minutes combining water with hondashi and dried seaweed. discard seaweed, add hot pepper paste mixture, along with rice cakes and scallions. stir constantly to keep rice cakes from sticking to pan. midway through add tofu wedges. done when liquid reduced to shiny sauce (about 7 minutes).|
i brought the gochujang to make korean tteokbokki. my mother suggested we have that for lunch, since she already had a lot of dishes prepared for dinner. i first made the umami broth using 1/2 tsp of hondashi powder and a few sprinkles of dried seaweed that i washed first to get rid of the sand. after 15 minutes, i removed the seaweed and added the remaining ingredients: hot sauce, frozen rice cake, tofu wedges, scallions. i was going to cook them until the sauce reduced but my parents said it was already ready to eat and my mother tastes one of the rice cakes and said it was good to go. i added way to much gochujang, so it was pretty spicy. the recipe called for 1/3 cup, which is about 5 tbsp, but i probably scooped 7-8 tbsp easily. it was pretty good, easy to make. my father had a small bowl because he can't eat spicy like my mother and i can.
it was another hot day, too hot for gardening, so i stayed indoors for most of the day. i really out to be retroactively updating old blog posts, but i seem to never be able to do that when i'm at my parents' house. i received another census message today, clarifying that the enumeration bonus is actually $800: $100 if you work 25+ hours and make your quota, and an additional $500 if you keep it up for 3 weeks continuous.
ever since my parents tried a zero gravity chair at the acupuncture office yesterday, they've been raving about it and wanted to buy one online. we found the make and model - lafuma futura zero gravity chair - which sells for $200-225 ($300 for the padded version). seems kind of expensive for a glorified lawn chair. amazon also sells off-brand zero gravity chairs for just $100 a pair. the spendthrift in me couldn't bare to pay $200 for something i can buy for $50. of course there are built quality and material considerations. i told my parents to sleep on it, but my mother was pushing me to buy one online today. i discovered that no company has a patent on zero gravity chairs, that the concept was originally created by NASA for their astronauts. so regardless if you went with lafuma (a french company) or an off-brand, they both work the same way. so i pushed for the cheaper option. we could always return it if we didn't like it (though i'd have to pay for the return shipping), but most likely we just use them as fancy outdoor chairs. i even told my mother i'd pay for it, which was an additional incentive to try the cheaper option.
returning home after dinner, i saw another census enumerator crossing huron avenue. twice in one day! i recognized her as one of the woman from yesterday's meeting in the park. i wanted to get her attention, but i forgot her name, and didn't want to scare her by honking from the motorcycle. it was almost 8pm on a sunday on a hot day, i commend her for her dedication to the job.
i finally started watching warrior nun on netflix. the main actress looks like a clone of ellen page. the tone is a little jumpy, from the serious life-or-death good-vs-evil war against hell to a young woman coming of age story after being brought back from the dead through the use of an angel's halo. at times it feels like a WB show. it transitioned from gossip girl to buffy the vampire slayer. it also feels like it has a little bit of everything, which is netflix's forte when it comes to series development: give the people what they want. after the first episode i wasn't so sure, by but the second episode i was intrigued enough to want to see how it all plays out.
i had enough things to do this morning that i had to make a list, otherwise i'd forget something. i got up at 8:30am to do a load of laundry. that included all the sweat-soaked census clothes i wore this week (though my pants were okay, didn't need to be washed) as well as my bedsheet, which i've been meaning to wash for a while now. i didn't bother hanging this time around, as much as i like the free natural outdoor dehydration, clothes feel starchy afterwards, and something they have a weird smell, especially towels. i now know that towels must always be finished off in the dryer.
once i placed my wet laundry in the dryer, i biked up to the malden 88 super market around 9:20am to get a few things. that early in the morning there was little traffic and i made in there in just 17 minutes. my mother needed char siu sauce, which i forgot to get her when i went to chinatown via motorcycle wednesday morning. i also wanted to get some snacks for myself. i spent a little more freely now that i have some income; in the past i would've had to debate whether something was worth getting, but now if it looked interesting, i bought it. the total came out to about 2-1/2 hours of census work.
i returned home by 10:30am. the sky looked a bit ominous and i was worried it might rain, but it was all a bluff, since by noontime the sun was back at full strength again. i found myself sizing up houses i passed along the way, whether they'd be easy or difficult to enumerate. single family houses, i love them. multi-family houses with broken doorbells, i hate. apartment complex with cramped and hot entrances, i hate the most.
after folding my laundry (they were dried by the time i got back), i went out briefly to the dollar store to look for clamp jars. i've wanted to get them for some time now, and every time i'd go to that store i'd debate whether or not to get them. apparently i waited too long because they were all sold out. i wanted to get one to see if the lid would fit on the 4 liter fido jar i picked up a few days ago. instead i bought a few random containers (cereal tub, salad dressing dispenser) as well as a sewing kit.
i took the motorcycle to belmont around 11:30am. nobody was home - my parents were at their acupuncture appointment in framingham - except hailey who came out to greet me before she started barking to go outside.
i opened a bag of frozen french fries and was about to cook them in the air fryer for lunch when i noticed my parents were back. these frozen french fries are not as good as simply using raw potato slices. you would never mistake them for restaurant quality fries. my mother also made some rice noodles for everyone. i ate quickly, as i had a census face-to-face meeting at danehy park at 1pm.
it took me less than 10 minutes to get there from my parents' place. i could spot the census group immediately, as there were a handful of people standing around the parking lot underneath the shade of a tree. some were even carrying the census bag which meant they were still working today. i met my supervisor for the very first time, up to this point i only recognized her from voice. she sounded a lot like andrew's mother and a part of me was kind of hoping to see her that way, which was entirely not the case. we waited a few more minutes for people to arrive, in the meantime everyone texted their name to the group chat group as a way of introducing ourselves, take attendance, and allow people to match the number to a name and a face.
once the bulk of of group arrived (about 10 people out of the 20 or so my supervisor manages), we moved to a larger shady area of a nearby copse to have the meeting. someone brought a chair for himself but offered it to our supervisor. the meeting was supposed to be only an hour but ended up being 2 hours. i didn't mind as i was getting paid for my time regardless. i don't think i learned very much, or nothing i didn't already know from being out in the field enumerating for 8 days. it was just nice seeing other enumerators. i was a little concerned that some people weren't wearing their face masks correctly (mouth covered but nose exposed), including our supervisor.
an old man in a pickup trucker was eyeballing my motorcycle as i was about to leave. "750cc engine, goes up to 100mph," i told him, as he seemed to be interested. he and i both agreed motorcycles are dangerous. i told him about my accidents (road rash, broken foot), he was amazed i could keep on riding after that.
in the late afternoon my father and i took an inspection of the squash plants. he'd already removed one of the larger buttercup squash: not because it was getting too heavy, but because he was afraid it was stunting the growth of the squashes further done the vine. i found a few more vine borer eggs, and another possible infection site on one of the lower stems. the old stem where i injected Btk last weekend was a little soft, but still seemed to be holding together. i didn't notice any new frass, which is a good sign that whatever was inside the stem is now dead. i mixed a new batch of Btk solution, 5 oz. this time with 1/8 tsp of safer concentrated caterpillar killer. even that was way more than i needed. i wonder if it'd just be easier if i used the Btk solution undiluted, since i'm only injecting 1ml (1cc) at a time. in hindsight, i should've gotten a 3ml syringe instead (which was the size i used to have), but with a bigger capacity means thicker needle. the 1ml syringes have a very thin needle that goes into the squash stems without causing any damage.
i received an e-mail from the census today, letting us know of enumeration bonuses for the next 3 weeks: $50/week bonus if you work 15-24 hours and complete 0.75 cases per hour; 25+ hours with a 0.75 case/hour completion rate gets $100/week; and finally, if you go an entire 3 weeks working 25+ hours and complete 0.75 cases/hour, you get a $500 bonus. the reason is because they're pushing to get the count done by the end of september, since it wasn't able to get an october extension. just what exactly constitutes a completion i'm not sure. does confirmation from a proxy that a housing unit was vacant on april 1st count as a completion? or do completions only mean completing a full census interview? our supervisor also told us during our afternoon meeting that she heard that the census might layoff people the closer we get to the end date, only to keep the enumerators with a successful track record.
after dinner i returned home, didn't get back until 8:20pm. a package was waiting for me on my doorstep, the plastic garlic bowl i ordered a little more than a week ago. it got here awfully fast for something that shipped out of china with free postage. first thing i noticed was it has a smaller storage space than my terracotta garlic keeper. i'll use this plastic one for the time being, but at some point i'll just buy a new clay garlic keeper.
i also received a census letter with my invoice for week one. they'd already paid me, but i could finally see how they broke down the withholdings. i discovered my hourly rate is actually a little higher than what i thought it was; the topic of money was only brought up one single time during my initial phone interview before i was hired and then never again. anyway, actually a little more than 8% of gross income gets taken by the government: federal withholding, medicare, FICA, and state withholding. working freelance and not having received a paycheck with deductions in a long time, i'd forgotten just how painful it is to see how much the government takes out from each paycheck. hopefully i can get a little of it back come tax season next year, gives me an incentive to file early.
a shower, then spent the rest of the evening surfing the web and watching edge of tomorrow on TNT.
my census work assignment for today came late last night, almost 2am (typically new cases are handed out before 1am): 68 cases with a start time of 12:45pm. they were still located to the west of my location, the bulk of which along mass ave between porter and harvard square. my random distance cases were not too far away, an 18 minute walk, but i'd be taking the bike today.
when i woke up this morning however, my cases ballooned from 68 cases to now 103 cases, a 50% increase. a lot of new cases were repeat, like it was forcing me to revisit all the addresses i wasn't able to close. fortunately they were all at the end of the new cases, and most likely i wouldn't even get to them.
i spent an hour in the late morning fixing the front brakes on my bike. the pads had worn down to the point that it was scratching the rim whenever i tried to stop. it took a while to adjust the new pads so they wouldn't rub up against the rim. while working on the bike i noticed one of the bolts that held my rear bicycle baskets in place had sheered off. it was still help in place at 3 points but better to repair it soon (just not today). i finished with the bike by 11:40am, coming back inside to take a shower and had some lunch. i ate less than half a container of potato salad then a pluot.
i was out by 12:30pm. the first address i visited had 4 cases all in the same apartment building with about 15 units. it seemed like a dead end because i couldn't get inside the building, just the main entrance with the intercom. i tried all 4 addresses without success, and left the main entrance to make my report in the census app.
that's when i realized each one of those addresses needed 3 proxies, for a total of 12 distinctive proxy attempts. how could i even find that many? there was a sign for the building maintenance company with a phone number. i called them first, hoping somebody there could at least tell me if any of those units were vacant on april 1st. i called the number, which transferred me to a receptionist, who transferred me to the property manager. he was very helpful, said he could give me some contact info, but would have to go look it up first. that was one potential lead. so one maybe proxy, 11 more to go.
out of ideas, i called the census supervisor hotline (my own supervisor had the day off today). the person i spoke with wasn't the least bit sympathetic. after listening to my situation, she told me the solution: try every single buzzer on the intercom until somebody lets me in. that seemed a little illegal, but if this was the official policy, who am i to argue against that?
so i gathered up my courage and prepared to seriously prank that apartment by ringing each doorbell. but i realized i could record each attempt as a proxy (even if nobody answered), with the only caveat being that i would run out of units before my proxy quota was fulfilled, but that was a later problem.
while i was in the entrance ringing the doorbells, the mailman came in to fill the mailboxes. i asked him if he knew anything about the units in question on april 1st. surprisingly enough, he did. 2 units were vacant, 1 was occupied, and 1 was bought by somebody else in the building. i thanked the mailman for the leads. the property manager had called me but i missed the call. i went back outside to call him but he wasn't there. i left a message, said i got some info from the mailman, and would call him back if i needed more help.
i went back to the entrance to ring the owner of one of the other units. it takes people a while to come, and while i was getting ready to ring more buzzers, the owner came out of the building. she told me that unit is just a studio, and no one lives there. so she helped me crack one of the cases.
i then continued with my bell ringing, not really expecting to get into the apartment, but rather to accumulate proxies. i did eventually get a live one, he let me in the apartment. i searched notice-of-visit papers in 3 of the units. that's when i also realized that the census had secretly added 2 more addressed in this same building to my case list, so i had to enumerate those as well (nobody home).
when i was finally done, i went back out and called the property manager again. this time i managed to get ahold of him, he gave me the owner's name and contact info for the 3 of the units (but not the 2 new ones because i didn't ask him about those as they were new to me too). by that point i'd already spent 2 hours at this one building. not wanting to waste anymore of my time, i just put the numbers in the case notes, hoping the next enumerator will be more determined to contact the owners and get more info.
it's like, how far down the rabbit hole do you do want me to dig for the answer? earlier this morning i was pulling up cambridge property records, using that to find owner's names. there's no phone number but if the name is unique enough, it's not too hard to find their number online. i mean, did they hire me as an enumerator or a private detective?
a lot of my cases today were 2nd or 3rd attempts. while trying to enumerate one address in another large apartment building, i arrived right when there was a fire alarm and everybody was outside waiting for the fire department to check and call it safe again. i managed to get into the building along with the flood of people returning to their apartments. i also got a lot of cases were the address simple didn't exist. references to nonexistent unit numbers, or references to apartments when they were just single units. i had 7 in one place (i called back the property manager who also managed that building), 13 in another. that 13 one was torture; i had the info, but it took me a long time to go through each case, answering the survey question that the unit doesn't exist and input my proxy's info. it was also in that same building where a woman who was answering my census questionnaire was threatened by her intoxicated boyfriend with physical violence if she didn't go back inside the house.
i finished by 8pm, a dusky glow to the landscape, capping off a week of hard census work. i end each workday a little numb, don't want to do anything but take a shower, eat some dinner, and veg out in front of the tv. i finally finished the last of my pasta salad, then ate the rest of my lychees.
the census assigned me only 46 cases today - the least i've ever gotten - with a start time of 2:45pm. they were all addresses to the west of my location, in a tight 8 block radius. with such a late start i could afford to sleep in but i still woke up before 9am. ever since i started doing census work, i've been waking up early. i don't know what it is, maybe some minor anxiety before each day's work.
i biked to the cafe to deliver a few things i got from chinatown yesterday as well as 3 shirts for my 2nd uncle that arrived at my house. i ended up staying and doing some "yard work," pulling up all the weeds along the edge of the buildings, along the sidewalks, and the perimeter of the parking lot. i returned home by noontime with some food my mother had prepared for me. before i got home though, my mother called to warn me that the rice might be uncovered and told me to cook my own rice instead.
i noticed my supervisor had left a message and i called her back. she said one of my cases got flagged again, when she read me the address, i knew exactly what it is. it was the harvard divinity school, the ghost town of a location, where i couldn't find any proxies and i had to search online for places to call. in fact, i texted her this morning regarding these exact cases. she told me that unless i can actually speak to someone on the phone who can definitely tell me one way or another, they don't count as proxies, which need to be face-to-face.
i wasn't going to start 2:45pm, and my supervisor said i didn't have to start at that time either. originally i thought maybe 2pm since there weren't that many cases, but i was already finished with lunch by 1pm so i decided to head out at 1:30pm, figured i could clear my case list and get home early by 6-7pm.
temperature today was moderate and dry. i hardly sweated, which made me want to go on a bathroom break by 3:30pm after i drink so much water before i left the house. that was also the time when i noticed something with my case list: the census had secretly added 20 more cases on top of what i already had. so it was going to be impossible for me to finish my list today and go home early, which is a good and a bad thing.
prior to my break, i found a 4 quart mason jar, minus the lid. it was stuffed with used badminton shuttlecocks, which i threw out when i got home since i only wanted the jar.
once my break was over, i went back outside, but was intercepted by renee, who wanted to gripe to me about her first floor indian tenants. they were probably listening because i saw the rustling of the living room curtains, and renee only has an outside voice, incapable of speaking quietly. these tenants have turned out to be nightmare tenants, storing used mattresses in the basement (which renee said probably has bedbugs, but i think she was overdramatizing the situation), and threatening her with a health inspection. renee was asking me if i had any ideas, and thought she could shame them into behaving, because somehow indians are more susceptible to public shaming. "if only they were chinese, you'd understand them more," she told me, a little racist. i told her to kick them out, but she said there's a moratorium on evictions due to the coronavirus and with so many people without jobs. i get the feeling she actually needs them to stay for the rental income, since it's very unlikely she'll be able to find renters this year with so many nearby universities doing distance learning.
today i got good at revisiting inactive cases, i didn't realize you could do that until probably yesterday. i also called a few landlords and maintenance associations to get info on their tenants from back in april. if i ever encounter another in-mover who doesn't like the status of the previous tenant, i will ask them for their landlord's contact info so i can call them to find out, since they would know better short of asking the previous tenants themselves.
i don't think i had any memorable census encounters today. i got some old cases, a few of which i managed to close. one woman whom i enumerated asked me to sit down with her on a bench on her porch; even though we were wearing masks, there was no social distancing and i felt a little uncomfortable, to the point that when she went inside briefly, i stood up so i couldn't have to sit next to her again. later i had a few cases where i managed to get into a locked apartment building. the last case in that complex was the penthouse apartment. a woman answered from behind the door, she said i don't want to come inside. i assured her we could do the census with me outside and her inside. she told me she had covid. i said i'd leave a notice-of-visit outside her door. who knows if that's true or not, she could just be lying to get me off her case. but i put a note in her case log with a red stamp, "respondent said she has covid."
i didn't think i had the endurance but i ended up working until 8pm. one of my last cases was pretty memorable, a chinese girl and her friend were about to leave their apartment when i caught them. she said she filled out her census, but when i started questioning her, she wasn't sure, but agreed to do the census survey with me. we had a playful banter, i was a little punch drunk from being a bit tired.
the moment i stepped inside the house i started cooking 3/4 cup of rice with 1-3/4 cups of water. the lunch i made for lunch (1/2 cup of rice) had too little water (3/4 cups of water) so the rice ended up sticking to the pot. besides using more water, i also greased the inside of the cooking pot with some oil. after that, i stripped out of my clothes and hopped in the shower. i had the rest of my leftover lunch for dinner once the rice was cooked (it didn't stick this time).
my supervisor scheduled a face-to-face meeting this saturday afternoon at a local park for those who can attend. at first i wasn't going to go - i prefer all my census duty on weekdays so my weekends can be free - but figured if i was going to get paid, that's an extra 1-1/2 hours of additional census income, so i told her i'd be attending.
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. they didn't look too bad. finally, i bought 2 boxes of facemasks. the price has gone up, $6.99 instead of $5.99 for a box of 50 masks, but still much cheaper than elsewhere. i figured i could wear a fresh mask everyday that i work the census, since a mask can get awfully dirty with all the sweating i do while i walking my census beat.
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