i went to sleep late last night - around 3am - but couldn't fall asleep for some reason until after 6am. i think maybe because it was so unexpectedly cold in my room, kept me from falling asleep. i slept for just 3 hours before waking up.
since i wasn't working today (a saturday), i didn't receive any group encouragement text from my supervisor. i kind of miss those, especially the late evening ones where she tells everyone how many cases were closed today.
i started watching the 2018 ruth bader ginsburg's documentary. i realize i knew nothing about her, all her accomplishments and the things she did for equal rights for women and men.
i was going to take the motorcycle to belmont and was ready to go when the motorcycle wouldn't start. it was cold last temperature - with temperature dipping into the upper 40's - and the fact that i haven't been riding the motorcycle much were all contributing factors that resulted in a dead battery. i dug out my battery jump starter but it failed to jump the battery. i even removed the seat so i could connect to the battery directly, but it still didn't work. i think the problem is i haven't charged up the starter since last winter, so it was down to 75%. that should've been enough, but after a few attempts, the capacity level dropped to 25%. i took the starter inside to recharge and ended up taking the bicycle instead.
i got a chance to try some fresh soy milk. my parents had some waiting for me, a combination of soy beans and chinese red dates (jujubes). i could taste the sweetness and fragrance of the jujubes, but after i stirred it, the sediments on the bottom obscured the taste of the dates. my father whipped up another batch, this time a combination of soy beans and roasted peanuts; it tastes more of peanuts. soy beans have a very faint flavor that can easily be masked by other flavors. as for the joyoung DJ13U-G91 soy milk maker, it seems to be a very well-built machine. the thing that surprised me is how heavy the lid assembly is, which also contains the motor that drives the blender and microprocessor that controls the heating and cycling. it came with 2 lbs. of complimentary soy beans that arrived in a separate box, from an american company called laura soybeans. their prices are much cheaper than elsewhere ($12 for a 5 lbs. bag, with a $4.95 flat fee shipping), and their beans are advertised as 2019 crops, still yellow and vibrant, unlike the ones my father got in chinatown (though the chinatown soy beans are much larger). while searching online, i found an even cheaper place (also US based): soypro sells 10 lbs. for $35 (10 lbs. for $22) with free shipping.
my mother made some wonton soup for lunch.
in the late afternoon my father and i were outside doing some yard work. he was trimming the buttercup squash plants and pulling up any dead vines, along with any dead tomato plants. we also trimmed back all the vegetation along the western side of the house, where a bunny surprised us by hopping out of the foliage. i did some weeding in the raised beds and watered parts of the lawn. i also reseeded some foxgloves. later in the evening when i realized how could it was going to get tonight and the next few nights (lower 40's), we decided to move all our tender plants indoors: cactuses in the basement, jasmines and gardenia in the sunroom. after monday the night time temperature will be a more seasonal 50's and we can move the plants back outside again.
after dinner i pedaled back home. with my battery jump starter charged up to 100% capacity, i went outside and tried to start my motorcycle. it didn't work at first, until i realized i had to turn on the ignition first. the moment i did that, the smart plug led went green, i pressed the start button on the handlebar, and the motorcycle roared to life. so that proves it was definitely an issue with the jump starter. when i brought it back inside to recharge, i noticed it was already down to 75% (although the 4 led lights indicator is not that accurate).
game 3 between the celtics and heat was tonight. it was do-or-die for boston, as no team has ever come back to win a playoff series after a 0-3 deficit. the big news was what happened after game 2, when there was angry shouting coming from the celtics locker room and a rumor that players had to be restrained from fighting with each other. seems like the team was imploding under the weight of playoff pressure. the celtics started tonight's game with a totally different strategy: more aggressive, attacking the basket, increased defense. gordon hayward also finally rejoined the team after an ankle sprain injury. boston lead throughout and would end up winning the game. but it took a lot of hard work, and in the final minutes once again lost a commanding lead, allowing miami to get within striking distance. for the heat, their play seems so effortless, like they could score points at will if they wanted to. can the celtics sustain this intensity into game 4 next wednesday? at least they'll have a few days to rest and practice, formulate some new strategies. if they can win game 4, it'll be a brand new series, best out of 3, anything could happen.
the census assigned me just 14 cases today. that's to be expected, as work load decreases as more cases get closed. 3 of the cases were harvard housing which i'm not supposed to enumerate, so i really just had 11 workable addresses.
i started working the moment i got up, assembling my addresses and finding contact information. beginning at 10am i started calling, even sending an e-mail to one person using my personal e-mail when i couldn't reach him by phone.
i could've set out later but i went out at 11am. today was cold, temperature in the 60's, i wore a thicker pair of navy khakis and a long-sleeved shirt. my original plan was just to enumerate the one case near me that i could get ahold of a maintenance manager contact then come by and have lunch and go back out at 1pm. but once i was out, i decided to simply do all my cases (call it an early day), even though i hadn't eaten anything yet (i wasn't hungry).
most of my cases were in the harvard square area. of my case list for today, only 2 addresses looked closable, while the rest seemed bleak. but two of the people whom i contacted this morning actually got back to me, including the one i wrote an e-mail to. the woman who called me gave me the name of a possible longtime tenant for a proxy to enumerate two other cases in the same building as her unit. after some searching online (property records owner name that i was able to find a phone number for) i contacted the proxy who told me the addresses didn't exist. i also went back to another building to speak with the apartment manager; he told me his boss told him not to tell the census anything. i came back later in the afternoon and managed to get into the building; the apartment i was enumerating was empty still, but i found a neighbor whom i spoke to yesterday who told me today that the apartment in question had been vacant for a while, even before april, so i marked it as thus. i stopped by cardullo's and treated myself to some salty scandinavian licorice. i spoke with a construction supervisor would told me another address didn't exist anymore, and the whole building itself had been vacant prior to 2019. finally, using notes left by a previous enumerator (who took a deep dive contacting the deceased owner's lawyers and real estate agents), i closed another address as vacant.
that last case put me close to my parents' cafe and i went there to take my 30 minute break before walking back home. i left with some food while i ate when i finally got back by 3:30pm. working a total of just 5.5 hours today, i managed to close 8 of my 14 cases. most were vacant or did not exist, 3 were interviews by proxies. even when i didn't think i could close a lot of cases today, i still closed out more than 50% of the cases they assigned me. so much of it still depended on luck. if i was a second late, or if one person didn't give me a hint of a possible proxy, i would be closing far less than i did.
afterwards i biked down to market basket around 4:30pm to get some food containers for my parents and mostly snacks for myself. lounging on the couch after i got back, i was so tired that i fell asleep by 5:30pm, didn't wake up until 7:30pm.
i watched a taped broadcast of patriots all access from youtube tv. as i was getting close to the end of the episode, CBS breaking news interrupted the broadcast with news the ruth bader ginsburg had passed away at the age of 87 from pancreatic cancer. her health had been deteriorating but there was no indication she was this close to death, even though it was announced recently that her cancer had come back. 2020 has been a terrible year for deaths. on top of the nearly 200,000 americans who have died from the coronavirus, we lost john lewis back in july, chadwick boseman in august, and now RBG in september.
ginsburg's death marks the beginning of a political fight between republicans and democrats. even though mitch mcconnell halted the nomination of obama's pick for the supreme court in 2016 (for nearly a year) when justice scalia passed away (on the ground it was an election year and the new president should pick the next justice), he already announced he will procede with whomever trump nominates as the next justice, despite it being another general election year (just 46 days to go), such is the hypocrisy of the republican party. a new justice won't get confirmed before the election - already a few republican senators said they wouldn't go along with it - but the big fear for democrats is during the lame duck session after november, when the still republican congress could push the confirmation through.
my supervisor sent one of her evening text, said we closed 77 cases today, but didn't say out of how many enumerators. if we can assume it was the same amount of census workers as yesterday (13), that means each enumerator closed an average of 6 cases. i still came out ahead with 8 closes, which accounted for 10% of all the closed cases today. unfortunately for the census i don't work weekends. i wish these enumerators all the luck over the next 2 days, especially since it's rosh hashanah, and jewish families might be praying during this new year, so it could be a challenge getting them to answer.
later in the evening i chatted with maureen for a few hours on the phone. we talked about hot smoothies and how ube is a purple yam not to be confused with purple potatoes, amongst other topics.
last night the census issued me 20 regular cases but 50 dangerous ones. i usually get one or two dangerous cases on my list, which can't be enumerated for lack of trying, they case files themselves can not be opened (so why do they show up on my case list? who knows). those dangerous cases spanned an area as far north as lawrence and as far south as needham.
those 20 cases from last night continued into this morning, and then the field manager manually assigned me 4 more cases for a total of 24 cases. i actually started working at 8:20am, doing my preliminary research. i stopped at 10:30am to take a shower, get dressed, and make my lunch. i had an english muffin sandwich with egg, ham, brie, and pesto.
i headed out by 11am. since i already worked 2 hours, that meant with the mandatory 30 minute break, i could be home as early as 5:30pm.
the first half of work was simply magic, as i managed to close every single case i touched. it started becoming ridiculous, as each subsequent case i'd think, "okay, no way am i going to close this one," and each time i managed to close. whether it's because i managed to find a proxy, or somebody i called this morning called me back, or have a maintenance manager or neighbor already in mind, or simply lucky by being at the right place at the right time. the most amazing coincidence was going to an address where i'd already called the owners multiple times with no answers, and i was trying to figure out what to do next, when a woman came out of the building. i asked her if she knew anything about that particular apartment. she said yes, it was her apartment. turns out she was the person i've been calling all these times! she was there to pick up her backlog of mails, couldn't have been nicer, told me nobody lived at her apartment on april 1st. but just the sheer coincidence of bumping into her was like winning the enumerating lottery.
another case was at this old abandoned looking house. i asked a woman walking her dog if she knew anything about the house. she said she's never seen anyone going in and out, but couldn't say for sure if it was abandoned. while we stood on the sidewalk trying to decide the status, somebody came out of the house. it was the owner, who managed to be my proxy for the tenant who had lived there on april 1st. the tenant was actually a famous astrophysicist, and the owner and i chatted for a while, talking about how cambridge has gentrified. he reminded me of a less crazy norm macdonald.
since i was close to my parents' cafe, i took my break there. afterwards i walked down to harvard square to enumerate the handful of addresses i had there. these were cases i'd never worked before but had heard horror stories of how difficult they were to get in. but i was just lucky as i managed to get inside and managed to close 2 cases.
i walked back in the early evening and managed to get home by 5:45pm. out of 24 cases, i managed to close 11 of them. 4 i couldn't close, and 9 addresses i didn't have time to get to them. i wonder if the census cares at this point that it could take me as long as 45 minutes to close a case. i think they're just happy to see closures.
i noticed my hot water had been unusually hot, which also happened to coincide with my upstairs neighbors being back for a few days. so i went down into the basement to check the hot water heater, and sure enough, it was set to B when i normally have it lower than A. but my attention was on something else: there was a bucket propped up against the side of the wall catching a leak that was coming from one of my pipes! there was also a pool of water on the floor. this was something either paul or steve did but they didn't bother to tell me about it. the bucket was already full, who knows how long it's been going on, i nearly broke my back carrying it out in the backyard to dump. at the rate it was leaking, it would probably fill up again in a few hours.
so i shut off the water supply to the leak pipe. originally i thought it was for the hot water but turns out it was the cold water for the shower and the toilet. it's not a big deal, because i normally don't even turn on the cold water when i shower, since i have the hot water adjusted just right. the only annoyance is the toilet doesn't work now, but i can still flush using a bucket. dripping from my bathtub must've dripped down onto the copper pipe and corroded it. when i took the pipe, i could see a fine mist of water coming out, i'm just glad it didn't completely burst. the pipe itself seems easy enough to fix with some DIY plumbing, but i feel like i want to get a professional involved, to fix a few other plumbing issues, like a leaking shower/tub diverter, low hot water pressure on my sinks, and replace a few shutoff valves. and while that's happening, might as well replace my hot water tank, since it's already at the end of its service life (12+ years old) and makes scary sounds in the basement that i can hear from upstairs.
i already knew that a significant part of my census salary would be going to a plumbing repair. i'm estimating something like $2000 to get everything fixed, including all the material and labor cost. i told my father about the leak, he said he'd try to contact their HVAC guy tomorrow to see if he's available (he actually did my original replacement 12 years ago). even though, he'd only do the hot water tank replacement, i still need to get a plumber to do the other stuff.
so a pretty good census day was slightly spoiled by the news of my plumbing issues. i finally settled down to eat some dinner my father had dropped off on my doorstep earlier when i wasn't home. i ate while watching game 2 between the celtics and heat. boston ended up losing again, even though at one point they had a big lead. there seems to be a size issue - miami is just a lot bigger - and celtics continues to have shooting woes, or maybe the heat can shoot just as well as the celtics can. game 3 is going to pivotal. if celtics lose 0-3 the series is pretty much over. i can't believe a team that could beat the raptors in 7 games can't win at least one game against the heat.
my supervisor sent out another evening text tonight. yesterday we had 16 enumerators and close 125 cases. this morning we were 98.78% complete with only 945 cases remaining. today there were just 13 enumerators in the field and we close 92 cases. that averages out to 7 closed cases per enumerator, but i had 11, so i'm still ahead of the curve. but these cases are getting harder and harder. a few i still might be able to work, but some are just total dead ends, if the owners don't respond, and we can't find viable proxies, there's no way we can enumerate them. hopefully most of them are vacant units anyway, and won't affect the accuracy of the population count. my supervisor also singled me out along with 3 other enumerators, letting us know we could work overtime if we wanted for friday and saturday, we just have to let her know. it's hard enough working 8 hours, i couldn't handle anymore work.
late last night the census assigned me 13 cases. 10 of those cases were at forest street apartments, which were as good as closed as i have my maintenance manager source there. that meant realistically there were just 3 other cases. when i woke up this morning i figured it'd be an easy day, maybe even finish in 1-2 hours. i started making plans for my nearly free day. i sorted the addresses and printed out the checklist. that's when i realized my case list had ballooned to 36 cases. i've seen this happen before, but usually from night into day, not in the middle of the morning. it annoyed me because i had to redo my check list, but also it meant it'd be a full day. after a printed out checklist v2, i sync'ed the census app again and saw the case list change again, this time i only had 24 cases.
start from 8:40am, i spent all of the morning just go through the case notes, consolidating the contact info, and making phone calls to owners and property managers. i finally stopped at 10:30am, i still hadn't used the bathroom yet, nor take a shower, or had breakfast. after finishing with the bathroom, i decided i'd have a cup of noodle soup because it was the quickest food option. when i grabbed the box, it realized i bought packaged ramen instead, not the cup kind. i ended up having simple ramen. the packaged variety doesn't taste like the cup variety, and even though both said beef, it tastes more like a savory salty flavor than anything natural.
i managed to leave the house by 11am, heading first to the forest street apartments. i went to the maintenance manager's office but i could hear he was on the phone, so i waited outside his office until he was done. he must've had a security camera somewhere, because after a few minutes he opened the door like he knew somebody was outside. he hung up his call so he could help me enumerate 10 addresses. i invited me into his office, with his white boards with unit listings, which ones were vacant, which ones people were moving in, which ones people moving out. he lives his life following these units, so wonder he knows everything about them. i actually managed to stump him today, he had to look up some info on his phone. i was curious where he was from so i asked, discovered he's originally from haiti.
i then spent the next hour filling out the case reports, one after another. i discovered i only had 8 cases, and 2 of the cases had disappeared from my list even though i already collected the info to close them. i ended up sending my supervisor the notes so she could forward them to whoever had those cases today so they can close them. so not only was i closing my own cases, i was also closing the cases of other enumerators!
so out of 24 cases today, i managed to close 18 of them, a 75% closing rate. i'm not even sure how i did it. but if we're speaking honestly, about 13 of them were freebies: 10 because i had dealt with the buildings previously so i had a maintenance/property/rental manager to call, and 3 that were harvard housing units that were closed after checking with my supervisor. that still meant 5 addresses closed the hard way.
i spent my break at michael's, chatting. i told him it'd be another week or so before i can get my prescription, because when i called my eye doctor, they said because it's been more than a year since my last visit, i was due for an eye exam before they would issue a new prescription.
my last 2 cases of the day took my close to my parents' cafe, so i went home to pick up a few things. the road crew had finished paving the street, neighbors were outside admiring their handiwork. i told beth that it looked like a mullet, business on the sides, party in the middle. apparently it made quite commotion, shaking all the houses on the street, even worse than yesterday when they were stripping the road. i went out again, this time via bike. after finishing the 2 addresses (neither of which i closed), i went to the cafe. my parents' were there, along with my sister and her godmother. i then made my way to belmont, where i could get a free dinner, but more importantly, to pick up the lawn aerator that arrived yesterday at home depot.
my father and i went to home depot after i arrived at the house (with the car, even though they left after me, they still managed to get home before). coming back, there was a hazy sun setting in the sky, courtesy of the west coast wildfires.
my father tried out the aerator immediately, it serves it purposes, glad we only spend $20 on it and not the nearly $40 the nearest cheapest coring aerator on amazon.
after dinner i biked home, getting another opportunity to use my powerful headlight. it keeps on slipping from the extension bar, i have to find a better way to mount it. maybe it's as simple as tightening the rubber strap. i didn't have my helmet and felt a little risky without it.
my supervisor sent us another nightly summary text. only 16 enumerators are left working cambridge, but we managed to close 125 cases today. that means the average close rate per enumerator was 8 cases. i managed to close 18 cases, not counting the 2 others i closed but ending up going to another enumerator. i was personally responsible for 16% of all the closed cases today!
today i started work with my 3rd census supervisor. she sent everyone a message last night, welcoming new enumerators to her team. i had to contact her this morning because i had a harvard housing address in my list of just 13 cases. she too had the harvard master list of occupancy and names, and was able to pass the info to me. she also told me to close it soon, because the field manager was going through the cases today and closing any remaining harvard housing cases. i accidentally closed the wrong one case and had to text her again to let her know. she said it was okay, didn't think it was a big deal, even though closed cases can't be reopened again.
since i just had 13 cases, i didn't have to start as early, and decided to go to work at 1pm. the city was supposed to start repaving our street yesterday but they never came. but they came this morning though, a convoy of heavy equipment and dump trucks started beeping and rumbling outside starting at 8am. they had this vehicle that looked like a dragon with a long neck, and instead of feet it had 4 tank tracks. it'd tear up the top layer of the road as if it was nothing, then spit out the crushed asphalt from the long chute into waiting dump trucks.
around 8:50am i took the bike to market basket to get some groceries. i came back half an hour later. the stripping was finished, the construction guys were mostly cleaning up now, using a backhoe to scoop up the extra asphalt the dragon machine wasn't able to clear away with its chute. they were done by 10:30am. the weird thing is they didn't strip the entire road, leaving the sides unstripped, where the cars would be parked. i don't think they did this so cars wouldn't have to park on the stripped surface; they did it to save money, since the sides of the street aren't as beat up as the middle of the street. in front of the house though, because it's on a turn, there's more traffic and they ended up stripping everything. i'm assuming they'll be back tomorrow to repave the surface of the road. i look forward to smell hot asphalt the rest of the day.
i went to the porter square star market around 11am because they had another sale on fried chicken. i returned home and ate some chicken, before i went out to the 12pm neighbors meeting in renee's backyard.
the meeting was kind of stupid, i wish i didn't go, but i always get dragged into these things. the topics were invasive weeds and rats. take one look at renee's cluttered backyard and you can see a dozen places were rats could be living. removing a kayak from underneath her porch, she found rat droppings mixed with bird seeds. her trash cans are all chewed up. she blamed it on her tenants but her backyard was always a cluttered mess. i learned nothing from the meeting that i didn't already know, my upstairs neighbors didn't even bother to show up. it did however give me an opportunity to take to renee about the pile of firewood piled next to my house. she said her tenants did that, to make more room in the backyard. her tenant actually came out and agreed to move the wood, but the way he said it made me think he was being sarcastic. especially after renee told me they're finally moving out in some passive aggressive act of defiance because they think renee is being too bossy with them. renee keeps on wanting to gossip about her tenants all within earshot of them, i want nothing to do with that dumpster fire.
i had 15 minutes to relax before finally starting my census shift at 1pm. i wasn't hopeful about my closure rate for today, but of the 13 cases, i ended up closing 10 of them. i would've closed 11 but i didn't realize you could use proxies for reinterviews so missed out on an opportunity to close one more case. now that they have me "off leash" and can use whatever methods at my disposal to close cases, i've gone deep down the rabbit hole tracking down tenants. now instead of just ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door, i find out who lives there and call them, whether its a home number or at work. more often than not i never hear back from property managers when i leave a message, so now i try to find the owners instead (in condos that are independently owned). there are a lot of properties in cambridge where its a second home or a rental unit, and the owners don't realize they're supposed to let the census know if nobody lives there.
for example, i had a case today in an apartment building where the intercom was keyed to names not unit numbers. our cases just have the address, we don't know the names. there was a for sale sign outside with a website, when i looked it up it was only for a single unit. that made me realize that units in the building were independently owned. i pulled up the property record for the building and found the owners of the unit in question. i then found a phone number online but when i called it said it was no longer in service. i thought i hit a dead end but i remember the intercom was keyed to names, so i found the name and dialed up the apartment. it's one of those intercoms where it actually dials a phone number, and i managed to get in touch with the owner. unfortunately the intercom was not very clear, and the call kept getting cut after 30 seconds. i called the owner 4 times before she finally understood i was calling from the intercom and gave me a number so i could call her back on the phone. once i did that i was able to speak with her; she told me they only occasionally live in that unit. i closed the case, marked it as vacant, seasonal usage.
it was in the same apartment building where a woman wouldn't let me in even though she kept saying she understood how difficult my job was. she also brought up the fact that she was black, and if black people aren't allowed into the building, she wouldn't let others people in either. but i did manage to get in anyway when a tenant exited the building. i was enumerating when the woman came back home and saw me and was angry that i somehow defeated her firewall. who appointed her head of security? she ended up standing next to me while i was attempting a proxy, said she would take me to one of the trustees who would know the answer to my question, like somehow she was punishing me, but if there was somebody in the people with knowledge about who lives that particular unit, please by all means take me to her. this woman was very passive agressive, and kept suggesting things i can do to find the person. "checked linkedin. check the white pages. did you try searching online?" i've been enumerating for nearly 2 months, i think i have a pretty good idea how to do my job. the trustee ended up knowing nothing, and because the woman kept talking about privacy and covid, the trustee wouldn't give me her name either. finally i was escorted out of the building, but not before warning them that since the case wasn't closed, the census would keep on sending people to this address.
my final case of the day was all the way on the other side of harvard square. it was an address where the notes already had all the info to close the case. but i decided to walk to the address anyway, just so i could use more time. and aren't i supposed to be closing cases at the actual physical address anyway? it took me 40 minutes of speeding walking to go there, close the case, then walk back home by 6pm. i tried cutting through harvard yard but they have a new policy where it's closed after 5pm, only students with id can go in.
13 cases i ended up working 5-1/2 hours.
back at home i showered then settled in with some fried chicken dinner to watch game 1 of the eastern conference final between the celtics and the heat. i started drinking my pearsecco (6% alcohol) before eating my chicken and by the time i finished i was almost fall down drunk. as for the game, it was a battle, the score was very close, tough to watch. it went into overtime, but boston ended up losing. kemba had another off game, but made his shots when they counted. i blame fatigue, miami only went 5 games in their previous series, while boston played 7 games. but the celtics need hayward to come back, they could really use his fire power.
my census supervisor sent out notice to everyone tonight. i think she's the kind of boss that's always trying to find ways to motivate her workers, and morning and evening greetings seems to be her thing. she told us that 17 enumerators were working the area and we closed 108 cases. that means each enumerator averaged a little over 6 closed cases. but i closed 10 cases today! so i'm definitely head of the class.
i went to bed thinking i just had 15 cases, and maybe only had to work half the day, but when i woke up this morning, i found out my cases had doubled to 30 addresses. given the level of difficulty for each of these close out cases, 30 cases is enough to fill an 8 hour shift, so there would be no rest today.
i spent 1-1/2 hours this morning just doing the ground work: reading the case notes, writing down the contact info, finding new ones through online searches. i also organized addresses into regions, helped me better visualize where i'd be going. i ate breakfast while i worked (yogurt and granola), and barely finished before it was time to leave at 11am. because of my morning work, it meant i could come home early at 6pm. it'd be a short day.
i started with a bike ride to enumerate two addresses in somerville, before returning home to work the rest of my day on foot. i closed out a few tough cases that'd been on my list for a while, all because i got lucky and either managed to speak with the respondent or got a property manager willing to gave me some info. 2 of my cases were harvard property, which i closed easily after consulting with my supervisor.
today was the start of a new policy where we don't attempt any cases that we can't close. any attempts would simply be logged in the case notes. that made organizing all the addresses a mess as attempted cases would be mixed together with active cases. instead of following the case list on the phone (which i haven't done in a while anyway), i used my checklist instead to track my progress.
the weather was nice today. a little cool in the morning but by the time i returned home from my bike ride, i changed into a pair of shorts because it was getting warmer. temperature was only in the 70's with a strong sea breeze.
i had a weird experience where i went to enumerate a few addresses in a chauncy st apartment. the nice woman who let me into the building turned out to have an encyclopedia knowledge of everyone in her building. a few neighbor nearing census talk came downstairs as well and corroborated all the info. it was like having two proxies fighting to see who can give me the most information. i wish every apartment could be like that.
i returned home around 3:45pm for my break. for the 2nd half of my shift i took the bike again because i only had less than 2 hours to work and i wouldn't be able to cover all the ground on foot. even with the bike, i still had half a dozen cases left before it was close to closing time. i was in harvard square and biked home from there.
my supervisor sent us e-mail in the early evening that he was leaving to enumerate the navajo nation tomorrow, and that we'd be transferred to a new supervisor. later i found out when i personally texted him that he's been to that part of the country before, just not in navajo nation. white people are not usually allowed without invitation, and he'll have an indian chaperone the whole time that he's there.
at this point we're just faceless numbers that get passed around from one supervisor to the next. there's no time to build any relationships, unlike my original supervisor, where he had weekly conference calls and face-to-face meetings to meet the other census workers on the team. the new team i got transferred to, nobody from my original group was on there. are those original enumerators even still working? there's so much i don't know. the way i see it, there's only just 2 more weeks left of census work, since i don't believe we'd be working those last week of september, those final 3 days. not counting today, that's just 9 more days of work.
there are rumors that maybe congress will extend the census deadline, but i hope not. whatever the case may be, it won't affect cambridge, since we're already close to 100% completion. the extension would affect other parts of the US where they're still very much undercounted. i believe the vote will be on thursday.
out of 30 cases today, i closed 16 of them. that's a closure rate of over 50%, and there were still a half dozen cases i didn't get to yet. my supervisor sent me info later in the evening to close another case. i joking said it'd add to my closing average, he said my average is pretty good, the very first time i got some positive feedback about the quality of my work. i don't know what my average is, but ever since we're gone into those closing phase and we work the same addresses day after day, i close about half of them every day, even the repeats. half of that is luck, half is just knowing how to search for info online. property databases and name lookups are your friend. anything can be a clue, from a name on a mailbox (the more unique the name, the better chance to find a working phone number to call the tenant), to a package left on the doorstep (means the person is currently still living there), to knowing how to talk to property managers (always ask for their help, and thank them effusively afterwards, even if the info they gave is paltry).
for dinner i finished the last of my frozen meatballs to make another sub. when i came home i noticed steve's SUV parked outside. fortunately they weren't very noisy tonight, though at one point i heard the rattling of the 2nd floor toilet flushing.
with my upstairs neighbors returning to town this week for a few days (the reason: becaue one of them needs to get something fixed at the apple store), i thought i better clean up the backyard, less they accuse me of neglecting the house again. i swept the front steps, the sidewalk, and the backyard, my little exercise for the day.
my fitness tracker reminded me that today was the cambridge carnival, or would've been had it not been cancelled due to the pandemic. i heard they were going to hold a virtual carnival, but it seemed more like an event for participants than observers. tomorrow would have been the rescheduled boston marathon, which has also been cancelled. they do have opted for a virtual marathon, but sure how that works.
i rode my motorcycle to total wine & more in everett. i got there right when they opened at 10am, there were already a bunch of customers doing their sunday morning liquor shopping. i was there to get a bottle of taiwanese kinmen kaoliang ($38) for my mother. i was surprised when i found it on their website, even more so when they had it in stock. they actually had several bottles, not just one. i appreciated that it was placed in the whiskey aisle and not with the japanese sake and plum wines. i also picked up another bottle of wild turkey 101 for myself. i really like the taste, reminds me of chinese baijiu yet at the same time a kentucky bourbon. i grabbed a six-pack of woodchuck pearsecco as well, their bubbly dry hard cider made from pears.
i made it back home by 10:30am. it was early enough that i decided to take it easy, use the bathroom, take a shower, before leaving for my parents' place by 11:30am.
my father was home alone, my mother went out for a walk. i showed my father the bottle of kinmen kaoliang, he immediately went online to check and if it was a vintage bottle. but there was a stamp on the bottle that read 2020.03.09, so barely 6 months old, not an old bottle at all. my father told me that alcohol in taiwan are typically sold in 600ml sizes because it corresponds to the chinese weight measurement of 1 liang which is roughly a pound. 750ml is more of a standard western wine size.
my father made these crispy egg pancakes for lunch, along with some snow fungus (ying'er) soup and sweet papaya. we also made another batch of sour plum drink, measuring out the ingredients and then simmering them in a gallon pot of water for about an hour.
this sunday marks the start of the NFL football season, coronavirus edition. actually the very first game was thursday, but the patriots play today against the dolphins at 1pm. it was the start of the cam newton era under center. it wasn't that weird to see him quarterbacking for new england, since we've had QB's other than brady (matt cassel, jimmy garoppolo, jacoby brissett). i'm still not entirely sold on newton. i don't deny his talents, but his personality just doesn't fit the patriots way. i feel like it's just a matter of time before the prima donna comes out. maybe things are different now, maybe it's a kinder gentler belichick. the game felt more like a preseason match, and i never felt the patriots were any real danger of losing. new england beat miami, 21-11, cam newton even ran 2 touchdowns into the end zone. don't know if it's true or not, but i read can newton had more rushing yards in one game equal to tom brady's total rushing yards for 13 seasons.
besides the patriots game, the other game i really wanted to see was the buccaneers vs saints match at 4:30pm. seeing tom brady and rob gronkowski wearing uniforms other than patriots was disorienting. i immediately found myself rooting for brady to fail, like his 20 years of service to new england was suddenly forgotten. it's one thing if the team decided to fire him, but it felt more like brady wanted to leave. and because of that, it felt like a betrayal, not to mention he took gronkowski with him. so yes i took some fiendish delight when tampa bay eventually lost 23-34 against new orleans. there was tom brady sitting on the sideline with that look on his face that i've seen before, that look he gets when he's about to lose. and that look used to make me feel sad, but this time around i was kind of happy to be honest.
in my mind brady will realize his mistake, leave the buccaneers, and return to the patriots to finish out his career. that's not going to happen, and brady's at an age where his skills will begin to diminish more and more. as much as he (and we as former fans) wants to deny it, there's no escaping the ravages of time. i did feel sad for brady towards the end of the game, him sitting by himself, not a friend on the team, like the new kid in school. i know there's something to be said about a change of scenery and getting a bigger paycheck and going to a place where people appreciate him more, but there's also something to be said about a place he's played at for 2 decades, a place that's familiar, a place that's home, where fans feel so close to tom terrific he's practically a part of the family. nobody will love brady as much as the people of new england. and now fans like myself are feeling these weird feelings, where we're rooting for brady to fail (maybe not a lot, but a little).
after dinner i finished watching the end of the buccaneers-saints game before leaving. since they're starting paving work tomorrow morning, my street was mostly empty. i parked my bike down the side street, in one of two emergency spots where i can always find a place to park. i feel bad for those with cars, they must have to park their vehicles blocks away.
i readjusted my chin-up bar tonight because i noticed it was slightly crooked. that turned out to be a big mistake because when i tried to remove the bar, i discovered it had firmly attached itself to my doorframe. i did eventually manage to remove the bar, but not before stripping the paint from the wood. if that was the case, it would've been easier to install one of those simple screw-in chin-up bars, i think those would've done less damage. i can repair it, but it involved sanding and repainting the door frame. i reinstalled the chinup bar so you can't see the stripped paint, but if i ever want to remove the bar, i'll need to repair the cosmetic damage.
i had a little bit of wild turkey 101. it's nice to take a little sip before bed, because it immediately makes me feel very tired and ready for sleep. my census cases for tomorrow arrived early (12:30am), i already know i have 15 cases.
there is a great joy knowing i didn't have to wake up this morning and go do census work. but weeks and weeks of enumeration have turned me into a morning person, and by 8am i was ready to get out of bed, had to force myself to sleep another hour.
i took the motorcycle to my parents' place in the late evening. people were flying kites again in the park, i stopped to chat with some of them and take photos. a woman even let me fly her kite though i did a terrible job and crashed it a few times before handing it back to her. several of the kites were flying on their own, the kites themselves dots in the sky. hanging from their lines were colorful windsocks that seemed to be undulating in the air like magic.
the new grass on the strip of sidewalk lawn is coming out nicely, the blades are about an inch tall now. my father told me he accidentally left a hose to the rain barrel open for 24 hours and had drained all the rain that'd accumulated during the storm on thursday. with no forecast of rain for the next 10 days, it's going to be a while before we can use our rain barrels again. we did a quick backyard inspection but i didn't go back out after that. it was a cool day away, temperature in the 60's, felt more like the start of fall than the end of summer.
i had some stewed pork and tofu for lunch, along with a small sweet potato that tasted a little bitter. i ordered a few things off of amazon for my parents, including hibiscus flower (for the sour plum drink), toners for the cafe's samsung printer, and some underwear for my father.
we also spent some time researching soy milk makers. my father had been asking for one for a while, ever since my parents came back from taiwan earlier this year. he asked me to look up the joyoung DJ12U which amazon was selling for $98. the capacity seemed a little small (1.2L, about 1/3 gallon), so while searching for a larger sized model, we came across the joyoung DJ13U-G91 (chinese language version). at 1.3L it's only slightly larger than the previous model we looked at, but it featured a 4-leaf blade (as opposed to just 3-leaf on the DJ12U) and a grinding skirt for even smoother blending of the soy beans. it retails for $288, but huarenstore.com was selling it for $145. even better, if you visit the chinese language version of the website, there's a $10 off labor day coupon that's good until 9/15, for a final price of $135 including free shipping. so we ended up ordering one, supposed to arrived here in 2-7 days from flushing, NY of all places. turns out the joyoung DJ13U-G91 was the model my father wanted to get when he was in taiwan; the taiwanese version is known as DJ13M-G1, exactly the same except the buttons are in traditional chinese. these soy milk makers besides making soy milk seem to be able to make other foods as well: rice paste, porridge, nut milk, and juice. they're essentially just heated blenders, like an electric kettle with a built-in immersion blender. from some of the videos i saw online for the joyoung, it seems like it can do everything, which is a common claim for all these new fancy home appliances, from instant pots to air fryers. how did we ever cook without them?
i did some vacuuming later in the afternoon. it not only keeps the house clean, but also good exercise. i love it when the brush head is pulling itself on the rug, like the vacuum is on automatic. simply vacuuming the living room rugs generated another cupful of dust. the house does smell cleaner now, which could just be a placebo effect. my mother said we have to wait for a humid day to see if the pet odor is still remaining.
after dinner i returned home. it was a little bit chilly but i wore a long-sleeved shirt which kept me warm. there was plenty of parking as neighbors scramble to find more long-term parking for their cars away from our street since it's going to be repaved all next week.
there was a lakers-rockets game, but i wasn't interested, waiting for the celtics-heat game on tuesday night instead. i did watch the final half though, when i suddenly remembered playoff rondo was playing (for the lakers no less), which is fun to watch. there were a few former celtics players on both teams. los angeles ended up winning the series, 4-1.
16 cases today, on the low side but i knew how to make it last. because i had so few, i had time to go through each one and do some legwork before heading out, calling owners and property managers. since there wasn't a lot of work, i didn't plan on going out until 1pm. for lunch i had an instant cup of noodles.
i discovered that i could qualify for pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) because i was supposed to start my census work back on april 1st but due to the coronavirus, that work was postponed until the end of july. i filled out the form online and was surprised when they accepted my application immediately. i'm not sure how much i could get, and that amount seems to be based on what i made last year, not what i'm supposed to make this year. worth a try though, any amount would be a bonus.
i watched a pavement company put up no parking signs around the neighborhood since they're going to resurface the road next week. yesterday i saw them paint dotted white lines on the road where they're going to rip up the pavement. honestly, it's long overdue, but that means parking will be even harder to find. i have a motorcycle so i can always find a spot, but it's going to be a pandemonium.
the weather was grey and cool for much of the day, though the forecast said it'd clear up by the late afternoon, with some sunshine. it was cold enough that i wore pants and a long-sleeved dress shirt that i rolled up the sleeves. i never tried this before, but i used google map to connect my case addresses so i could see the route i'd be taking today, a loop of 3.7 miles. a lot of the cases i'd already gathered the data in advance, it was just a simple matter of going to the location and closing the case with the gps coordinate.
i chatted with a nice elderly man on beacon street named daniel (he was wearing a bourbon st new orleans baseball cap) who worked the 2010 census. once again, another person recommended i take my census skills and look for a new job afterwards: daniel recommended i could become a professional investigator, as he was impressed with the extent i went through in order to find information about houses that haven't done their census survey yet. after he left, i realized one of the addresses on my list was actually in his building. i looked for him but he was already gone, and i ended up not being able to enter the apartment complex.
passing through harvard square, i stopped my michael's shop to chat briefly. we made plans to meet up again so we could chat further (there was a customer in the shop at the time) and he'd get new lenses for my glasses.
i bumped into a few more enumerators. first there was labor day liz, when i saw her sitting on the street corner. this time around she was enumerating a residence on story street. we chatted briefly, she was on the phone, i continued on my way while she left a voicemail for the property manager. and nearly home, i saw that same enumerator from yesterday who didn't see it. once again she failed to spot that i was behind her, and she was talking with a neighbor so i didn't bother her. it's weird though, i thought i'd enumerated all the addresses on my street, maybe it was a reinterview. i overheard her pitch to the neighbor, it's strange seeing another enumerator in action. i think because of her age (she has white hair thought she looks much younger) people treat her with more politeness.
i thought the work would go quick, but i was outdoor enumerating for nearly 4 hours before i had to race back home for a last minute 5pm conference call. by that point i just had one remaining case anyway, a proxy reinterview. i figured i'd do that afterwards.
the call was just to let everyone know that we are now not supposed to open any cases unless we can close them. cases that can't be closed should be left in our case list, in which point it will show up again until it can be closed. i call this the nightmare phase. there were also new job opportunities: the census want volunteers to enumerate the homeless population of middlesex county. they'd provide training first before pairs of enumerators (for safety purposes) would go out and do the interviews. with the coronavirus on top of the opioid epidemic, this seems like a risky assignment. and i thought regular enumerating was difficult! the pay's the same, but they kept harping on the 10% night differential, which makes me think the job involves working nights.
ever since i learned i could qualify for PUA, i'm more likely to quit now. having said that, i've become quite adept at closing cases. it's all about the preplanning and groundwork. i use a combination of property database (for cambridge and somerville) and an online people finder website. the people search is genuinely scary, i'm amazed by how accurate and detailed the results were.
i went out after 6pm to try that one address. i rang the doorbell, nobody was home, i came right back. i finished my shift with just 2 inactive cases, closing the other 14. the closer strikes again!
for dinner i made myself a meatball sub. i still haven't figured out a good way to reheat frozen meatballs. i've been using the microwave but the result is always a messy splatter of pasta sauce.
later in the evening i watched game 7 between the celtics-raptors. it was a close game, i almost couldn't bear to watch. but boston simply outmatched toronto, a managed to get the lead in the 4th quarter. the raptors came back and nearly tied it but their players seemed to run out of steam, especially after kyle lowry fouled out with less than a minute left in the game. the celtics held out and outlasted the raptors to win the game and go onto the eastern conference finals against the miami heat. boston is the higher seed at number 3 while miami is number 5.
my dream of having a free day today wouldn't be realized as the census assigned me 34 new cases last night. maybe "new" is not the right word, as these are old cases that previous enumerators (including myself) have tried on multiple occasions with no closure. crap cases as i like to call them. good thing they were all within walking distance, all in cambridge. and there was enough cases i could milk it for a full 8 hours of work.
i left the house briefly to pick up my prescriptions at walgreens. i came back and had some yogurt with granola for breakfast.
i also spent the morning doing some census ground work, sort through the addresses, figure out the managing companies, look up owner info and find their phone numbers. right when i was about to take my afternoon break, a bout of heavy downpours hit the area. i had an umbrella but it was the small one, which was no match for the downpour. i made it home anyway, clothes and shoes slightly damp.
for the second half of my shift, the rain had stopped, but started back up again once i left an apartment complex. i managed to get 2 full interviews there which was a surprise: one with a girl who was an in-mover but didn't fill out her census back in brooklyn so agreed to have me enumerate her, the second was with a chinese girl who previously never responded to the census but opened her door this time and once i broke out the mandarin she answered all my questions about her and her two roommates.
for the most part i was doing well. as these cases were "new" to me, there was a lot of discovery, like finding out the management companies for places i wasn't familiar with. i should be able to close more tomorrow, if i can get ahold of the property management companies that is. i ran into another census worker while she was crossing the street. i yelled out "hey census worker!" and she turned every which way except towards where i was standing so she didn't see me. she was on the other side of the street by then so i didn't bother trying to catch her attention.
i was 30 minutes before finishing up my shift when a woman saw me on the street and asked how my census work was going. i told her it was okay, the cases were getting tougher. it was only then she revealed that she's actually the field manager for our area, in charge of the supervisors. so this was technically my boss's boss. i actually know her from the comments she leaves in case reports, things like "try again" or "work more." from her comments you'd think she was a stern task master but she seemed very nice in person. she told me most likely our work here locally will be finished by the second to last week of september, so just 2 more weeks maximum. so at least now i have a tentative deadline i cam look forward to. she said people will start getting laid off, starting with the less efficient enumerators. she said she wish she could keep everyone onboard until the end, but this decision comes from her own boss higher up.
after my chat with her the rain started up again, some heavy downpours. my heart just wasn't in enumerating anymore, especially these final cases i had were all complicated ones that required finding proxies in apartments i couldn't get into. i decided to try calling the management company tomorrow, and take it from there. i waited until there was a slight lull in the rain and fast walked home, clutching my census bag so it wouldn't get soaked, never mind my wet shoes and socks.
i had 11 cases still active out of 34 i was assigned today. just 6 were inactive, which meant i managed to close 17 more cases, not including that one in-mover interview i did. somewhere in brooklyn a census worker will suddenly see one fewer address in his/her case list as it magically gets completed 250 miles away.
as difficult it is to get all these crap cases, it could be worse. at least i'm still getting work, and local work at that. they haven't had to move me elsewhere, like medford or everett. i still don't know how they decide who gets what cases, and i have no idea how i measure up compared to other census workers. am i worse? am i better? the fact that i'm closing cases that other enumerators had a hard time working makes me think i'm doing okay. there's just no way to gauge your progress. if they ask me for feedback when this is all over, that's something i'd like to bring up.
i cooked up another pair of burgers on the foreman grill, stank up my kitchen a little bit despite running two fans to blow the smoke out the window. i paired them with a can of black cherry seltzer and finished it off with a mango popsicle.
tonight was the start of the NFL season, an opening game between the houston texans and the kansas city chiefs. everyone picked the chiefs to win and by halftime they were well on their way. i had the game in the background while i did other stuff.