Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fun with the Census

I don't mean to be an ass - I just can't help myself sometimes. I know the census is important - it's important to know how many of us there are and where we live - I get that. I'm all for it. I even liked the TV ads with Ed Begley Jr. and Jennifer Coolidge.

Then I got the first postcard telling me I'd soon receive my census form and how important it was that I send it back right away. After the nonstop media blitz on TV and radio, they also spent money to mail a postcard about mailing the form?

Then I got the second postcard telling me I'd soon receive my census form and how important it was that I send it back right away. So, now they've spent money to mail two postcards in addition to the form... Riiight.

Then the form arrived and I gave it a thorough review. It asks how many people live here, what our names are, our birth dates AND how old we are - noodle on that - if anyone else lives here, if we live somewhere else part of the year, and curiously, do we rent or own our residence. Why in the world does our government need to know that information?

And why in the world does the government want to know if I'm Hispanic, Latina or Spanish? Portuguese doesn't rate? What are we, chopped linguiƧa?

I was annoyed by all the questions that seem irrelevant to the purpose of the census, which is simply to count the citizens of the country. Enumerate. Not inventory, catalog, sort, or otherwise classify - just count. Can you count, gubment? Never mind - we know the answer to that question.

So instead of answering the rest of the questions on the form, I wrote only "02 Adults" and enclosed a print out of the Constitution's section about enumeration and Merriam-Webster's definition of enumeration, mailed it back (right away!), and waited to see what would happen...

As I suspected... my less-than-compliant response garnered a visit from a lovely woman bearing a clipboard and a binder, ready to take down all the information I didn't supply on the form. However, she claimed that "the office" never received my form, which I find hard to believe. The US Postal Service still works remarkably well.

I politely told her I'd mailed back my form right away with the critical information she needed - "02." She wasn't appeased. She continued to press and I politely continued to refuse to answer any other questions. Frustrated, she finally left.

Then she came back the next day! You have to admire the tenacity. We replayed the same exchange we'd had the day before and once again, she left with only a big fat zero two. On her way off the porch she asked if there might be a better time to come back and I cheerfully said Nope - my answers won't be any different any other time.

That was about a week ago and yesterday a different census worker paid us a visit - this woman was younger, not as easygoing, with a stern expression and a no-nonsense bun in her hair. She had her clipboard out, ready to drill me with questions when I stopped her and gave her the same answer I've given, officially, three times now: 02.

She also claimed that "the office" hadn't received my form (bullshit!) and to ensure they would have an accurate count, she had to have our names. I asked her how that works.

If I sent in the form that says "02" and I told the other woman two people live here and now I'm telling her that two adults live here, what other possible count could she have for this address? Are they *adding* the numbers instead of comparing them?

If I told her my name was Ernie and the other person who lives here is called Bert, does that eliminate the confusion? Ernie is resident 01 and Bert is resident 02 - done.

At this point, it's fascinating to me how much time & money they've wasted trying to get information about me and my "house mate" when they could go online and in five minutes, without leaving the comfort of an Aeron chair and for a fraction of what they're paying census workers, find out way more than the census is asking.

Then today, as if they already know way more about me than they're letting on, I was visited by yet another census worker - at a house I don't even live in!

I was photographing a vacant house for a real estate agent when I heard a knock at the door. Lo and behold, there was the familiar clipboard and binder held by a lovely woman with a friendly smile, asking me if she could get my answers to the US Census.

This is what I told her:
  • Alexis Carrington
  • Age 21
  • Squatter
  • Living with 6 husbands and mothers-in-law
  • Husbands: Don Draper, David Starsky, Tommy Gavin, Marky Mark, Jack Donaghy, and Ferris Bueller
  • Spanish negro
  • and 5 months out of the year I live at the Betty Ford Clinic.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day Phone Call

Selected, paraphrased favorites from today's hour+ chat with Ma:
[while catching up about a niece who's preparing for college next year]

"You know, Hillsdale College in Michigan doesn't accept any government funding, which is great - they don't want the government telling them what to do. There's plenty of private sources for money for school." [annual cost of Hillsdale College is about $30K - good luck with that]

"I don't understand these silly things like Women's Studies and Ethnic Studies - if I'd come home & said I was going to major in Women's Studies or Ethnic Studies my father would have told me I was crazy."

"Oh my god, you're not going to believe this - there's a 'desert rat' eating from the bird feeder."

I don't know why I don't call more often.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Spare My Ass

Lots of ranting lately... 'tis the season... Spring cleaning, bitching and moaning.

Today's rant: Spare the Air. Spare my ass, please. I am so sick of Spare the Air messages telling me to ditch my car and "think about how I get to work without driving" when it gets a wee bit smoggy.

Why is it the citizens who are always asked to totally rearrange their lives when the air quality starts to decline, but ultra-polluting businesses and soot-spewing trucks can merrily go about their smog-making ways?

Not only that, but for a lot of people in the Bay Area, public transit is not a realistic option. Consider the person who lives in, say, Alameda and works all over Marin County as a photographer, for example.

There is NO Bart line that services that area, no ferry direct from the East Bay to Marin County, and the number of buses and transfers it would take to accomplish such a feat is something best reserved for a marathon leg of The Amazing Race, not for someone trying to make a living.

Forget me - how about someone who lives in Fremont but works in Palo Alto? This is a typical Bay Area commute. Just for fun, I looked this up on

It looks like the fastest way to service this commute would take over two hours, three buses, one light rail ride and cost $7.25 - ONE WAY. The list of buses & transfers is very long and very confusing.

A person would board the first bus at 7:50 AM and not arrive in Palo Alto until just before 10 AM. And that's if all the buses are on time and no connections are missed.

That - my friends - is bullshit.

There is no Bart train that crosses the Bay other than under the Bay Bridge. There is no ferry that goes anywhere south of Pier 48 in SF. And there appears to be no Transbay bus from the southern East Bay area to the Peninsula.

The commute mentioned above takes the rider south from Fremont to Milpitas then west through Alviso (the crotch of the Bay) then north to Palo Alto. Fucking bananas.

Caltrain only goes north & south from Gilroy to SF along Hwy 101, then you get to enjoy VTA or SamTrans buses for anything beyond the freeway. It does not connect with Bart on the south end. Bart only goes as far south as Fremont.

Once you're in SF, Bart works for the downtown crowd, but if you need to go west, good luck using Muni. Sometimes it works - sometimes it runs people over and kills them. If you're lucky, you might only be robbed or physically assaulted. Other than that, it's totally safe & reliable.

The ferries run only in the northern part of the Bay and they all connect into/out of SF - no direct service from the East Bay to Marin or anywhere else.

The next time you want me to spare the air, you can kiss my ass. Though when I'm not working, I try to use transit as much as I can. For example, today I had a doctor's appointment in downtown SF. No way would I prefer to drive - the traffic is redonkulous and there's no parking.

I happily drove to my local Bart station and Hey, would you look at that? NOT ONE OPEN SPACE IN THE ENTIRE PARKING GARAGE. At 1:30 PM, that sucker was packed so tight there was barely enough room to turn around to get the hell out.

I would have loved to have taken Bart into the city, reading my book while listening to the unintelligible announcements made by the train "operator," saving myself the time, gas and hassle of driving and trying to find parking. But, thanks to the ever-poor planning by the Bart kids, there's never enough parking in that garage. Total joke. And they wonder why more people don't use it.

We could get a lot more people to regularly use public transit - and enjoy it - if it went where we needed it to go and it didn't cost a freaking arm & a leg. If you transit kids can get your shit together and link it all up and get the costs down, we can abolish the Spare the Air campaign forever. Make it usable and people will use it.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Sh*t and Shinola

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The other day my father gave me an article on Glenn Beck, or as I like to call him, Grim Dreck. I grimaced and he said, "Oh now you HAVE to keep an open mind!" I agreed, but at the same time, when it comes to something like Dreck, no one needs an open mind. There's shit and there's shinola. Glenn Beck is straight up shit - no further examination needed.

Out of respect for Pa, I skimmed the article - from Forbes - about the kajillions of dollars Dreck makes by duping his mouth-breathing fans.

Much like his Fox cohort Douche Lamebag, Dreck was a total fuckup for years - couldn't keep a job, addicted to drugs & hooch - then somebody gave him a job in radio and he found his calling: spewing useless bullshit sold as perspective, which somehow found an audience that couldn't tell it was really just a heaping pile of steaming cow dung. (i.e. "entertainment")

The article talks about his live shows, which he does no preparation for other than to choose a few photographs of people whose names he doesn't know to project on a screen behind him. He relies on a full-time staff of over 30 people to wipe his ass and tell him the names of the people in the photographs he uses in his "show." A show people pay good money for.

He thinks so little of his audience and the value of their time and money, he doesn't prepare a quality product to deliver to them. All he cares about is how much money he's making. If that doesn't tell you that anything coming out of his mouth is suspect, I don't know what will.

He says it best himself: "I could give a flying crap about the political process." Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. "We're an entertainment company," Beck says.

I kept an open mind and read the article, only to learn more about this Piece of Shit that I didn't want to know. It was a waste of valuable time. Time someone like Grim Dreck does not deserve.

Keeping an open mind does not require wasting time on shit that you already know is shit, unless shit is what you want - like watching The Real Housewives of Orange County. That is some crazy, brain-cell-killing shit, but sometimes I like that sort of shit.

What I don't like is a pompous, self-absorbed Piece of Shit trying to tell me some shit like it's the shit, when it's really total bullshit.

People like Dreck and Lamebag don't provide anything useful - the shit they spew is totally counterproductive (though fantastic fodder for Comedy Central). They're here to line their own pockets, sadly at the expense of people who don't realize that all they're selling is bullshit.

To my dad's credit, he later mailed me this article from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, about just how unfair & unbalanced the right-wing media machine is. I'm sure he gets it, too, but just watching Fox Gnus for five minutes tells you everything you need to know about it and why it should be avoided.

So Dad, thanks, but there's no need to send me any more articles about these shitbags. Keeping an open mind isn't about the shit you listen to on the radio or the articles you like to read, it's about what you're willing to consider in the big picture, based on what you believe to be true for you and the world we live in (everyone, not just conservatives, liberals, mouth-breathers or Real Housewives), without anyone else's voice in your head telling you how or what to think.