i received an e-mail from the census asking everyone to return their equipment within the next 3 days. this was the call to action i was waiting for, that were were finally ending our enumeration work, and not just sitting around doing nothing, logging our available hours every night when there hasn't been work in weeks. instead of coming to use to collect, we all had to go down to the area census office in waltham to drop off our things. since i wasn't doing much today and the weather was nice, i figured i'd go down this afternoon, get it over with sooner than laster.

i had another chicken salad prosciutto arugula bagel sandwich for lunch. it looked delicious, but the sweetness of the salad contrasted in a bad way with the saltiness of the prosciutto, and the peppery arugula also wasn't a good fit.

i left for the area census office soon afterwards, traveling via motorcycle. earlier i'd packed up all my census equipment and put them in my saddle bags. they wanted everything returned, including census id, iphone, and bag. even the used earphones they wanted returned. the bag they wanted because they didn't want anyone impersonating census workers, it wasn't a very good bag anyway, wasn't worth keeping. i didn't save any souvenirs other than some used notice-of-visit forms.

the area office was located on the border of belmont and waltham, in an industrial park that used to be a party supply company, a sichuan restaurant, and an asian supermarket. even after reading the directions on my phone i couldn't find it. i saw a small line of people standing outside a loading dock and i slowed my motorcycle down. i asked a woman, "is this the census return?" and she nodded. after parking my bike, i got in line. there was no mention that this was a census office, i forgot the reason why they do this, somebody told me it was prevent job seekers from randomly wandering in, but that sounds like a weird excuse. the only thing i saw that had census on it were paper signs taped to the glass doors, and everyone who was waiting in line was carrying a census bag.

somebody came out and told us we could be processed inside. i follow the guy who was ahead of me and we went into the building. inside looked like a call center, desks and chairs and phones and a lot of people moving around. a man wrote down our names from our census id and asked us to wait in the lobby, which was just the space in front of the entrance, already crowded with two people. i decided to wait by the entrance foyer but that was a tiny area as well, before i was called back inside. it seemed very disorganized, which is the 2020 census in a nutshell. the pandemic took a major hit, and trump's meddling in the count was another.

i sat down with a woman at one of the empty tables. she had a form where she marked everything as it was being returned. she collected my id, took it off the lanyard and threw the lanyard away. she took my iphone along with the box it came in, plus all the accessories. she took my census bag including all the unused forms along with the clipboard. we even had to return the clipboard! she gave me a copy of the inventory list. she then asked me if i'd entered my hours and mileage on the phone before coming in. i said i didn't, and asked her if i should. she said no, she'd process my work hours, a lot faster than doing it on the phone, since chances are i'm not even assigned to a supervisor anymore. the time i spent coming to and from the census office to return my equipment were all billable, even the mileage. i told her it was 6 miles from my place. she didn't respond and later i realized she was trying to do me a solid. "how long do you think it took you to get here? about half an hour?" i thought about it, "yeah." she wrote down 1 hour. she also wrote down 20 miles for my mileage. so i'll probably get $25-30 out of this little trip, not too bad. with that she gave me a receipt for my hours and i was all done.

i didn't really feel anything when i left. maybe a slight sense of relief, since i no longer had to enter in my available work hours every night anymore. i'm not 100% done until they send me a termination letter saying that i was left go because lack of work. that's the proof i need to collect unemployment insurance. once i get that letter, i will be officially done with the census.

overall, it was an interesting experience. the work was hard at times, but i got better at it as the weeks wore on. it also paid well for a job that basically needed no experience, and i still managed to get paid even when i was working due to pandemic relief insurance. and now even when the job is over i can still collect unemployment while i look for work.

i returned to cambridge, stopping at the cafe. i was here to rewire the nest thermostat in the cafe and to reroute the power cable to an outlet at the back of the wall. when i changed the wires, nest equipment detection said there was an error at Rh, but that's actually normal when you hack the nest thermostat by powering it with an external 24v transformer. i forgot about that little detail so it freaked me out at first until it seemed to be running fine regardless of the equipment error. unfortunately the pilot light on the furnace wouldn't stay lit. this is most likely a thermocouple issue, and replacing it ought to be something we can do on our own, but my father insisted on calling xiaowu (left a voicemail).

next we went to install a new nest thermostat at my grand uncle's upstairs apartment. that was on our list of projects ever since we discovered an unused outlet at the other side of the wall in the closet. we could drill a hole into the closet and run wires from a 24v transformer to power the nest thermostat. we were replacing a mercury-switch honeywell thermostat; a smart thermostat would allow us to control the heat, make sure the tenants don't abuse the free heat. installation was great in theory, but different in practice. we found out that our drilled hole in the closet was maybe off by 6-8" from the hole behind the thermostat. so we decided to simply drill a hole in the wall behind the thermostat, and then drill another hole from there into the closet. we kept misaligning the holes and not being able to match them up, so by the end we had half a dozen failed holes all over the walls. it also didn't help that our drill bit was too short; if we had a long drill bit we could simply go from one side of the wall to another. but in the end we finally managed to get it installed. two screws mounted the thermostat's baseplate, but because there was already a previous hole, one of the screw holes was a little loose. it can be fixed with a sheet rock anchor. cosmetically our DIY install won't win any awards, but it's a working hack, which is what matters in the end.

i didn't leave until 6pm. my mother kept wanting me to take back some dinner, but i told her i had frozen hamburgers waiting at home. when i got back, i saw renee moving stuff from her basement. earlier she'd asked for my help via e-mail, but i didn't respond back because i was too busy. she'd already thrown out some used bikes, and i helped her throw out some more stuff. honestly, i just wanted to help her so i could check out her basement, which is similar to mine. i always thought she had a cluttered basement but it's actually way more empty than my own basement. we weren't done until 7pm, by then it was pitch dark. i did get some wood planks from her which i can use for some backyard projects in belmont.

for dinner i grilled the last of my two frozen burger patties on the foreman. my foreman grill has seen better days. one thing i don't like about it is it's very hard to wash, downright impossible. i want to get a new grill with removable plates for easier cleaning.