Off-Topic: Sense Us

by Joel Friedlander on April 3, 2010 · 9 comments

Census time for TheBookDesigner.comSent in your Census form yet? No, I didn’t think so. I’m working on mine, you can’t go too quickly when you’re dealing with the government. Must be accurate.

I’m a little surprised it was addressed “TO RESIDENT AT” since I assumed they knew who lived here. Internal Revenue, Social Security, assorted federal agencies would have no trouble finding me, I’m sure. And what about that odd bit of typography in the lower left corner? What’s that about:


Did they run out of periods at the Department of Commerce? Part of the cost cutting we’ve been hearing about? If the first “U S” is supposed to be “yoo-ess” then why isn’t the second one “yoo-ess” too? These are the things typographers think about. Sad but true.

In my youth I had the “Census paranoia.” It was a secret plot to get information on people, on me actually, and my activities the government perhaps would not approve of. Pure fantasy, of course, but it made completing the census a bit more exciting.

Now it’s just a task, a duty, a chore. There are only 10 questions to answer, and you can’t possibly stretch it out longer than about five minutes. Even visions of black helicopters don’t impress this time around.

The form starts out asking you to count the people in your household. I think this is an excellent idea, because you may have forgotten how many people live with you, and counting is clearly the way to get to the bottom of the matter. The instruction says:

Count all people, including babies, who live and sleep here most of the time.

I can see how the babies would be confusing. Are they people? I think that’s up for discussion.

There’s nothing very interesting on the Census, but filling it out and sending it in is important. Many federal programs rely on the data collected, the number of Representatives your state gets in the House of Representatives is determined by the Census.

But the really important reason is that if you don’t, Uncle Sam will send one of his friendly Census workers to your house to give you a hand. Five minutes and a stamp sound a lot better.

The Other Census

On the other hand, there’s a census I can take that means a lot more to me. There are all kinds of things to be counted around here, and a lot of valuable information to be collected and analyzed. I don’t claim to have the scientists and demographers and analysts they have at the Department of Commerce. On the other hand, given the paranoia around the Census, I don’t think I would have addressed the return envelope, as Commerce did, to the “Census Data Capture Center.” It would have been so easy to come up with a better name, don’t you think?

Anyway, here’s my Census, what I’m counting that’s really important.


Number of Boston Terriers that can usually be found under my desk, especially during those times I happen to have something to eat while I’m working.


Number of Calico cats attempting to lure the Boston Terriers into the hallway for some “cat fun.”


Number of blog posts I’ve written for since August 2009.


Number of those blog posts written after 10:00 p.m. Apparently it’s illegal to write blog posts in daylight.


Times teenager apparently living here has been requested to take the garbage and recycling out before 9:30 p.m.


Number of times teenager has apparently completely ignored this directive.


Number of blank composition books I’ve filled with morning freewrites in the last 2 years.


Empty Trident wrappers currently on my desk.


Oops. Make that seven.


Pairs of scissors in the pen holder on my desk, including one Pinking. Why?


Years since Ulrich Gering & Bertholdus Rembolt printed the page from a tract by St. Gregory that’s hanging on the wall over my desk.


Dollars, the cost of the Gering & Rembolt leaf when I bought it in New York about 25 years ago.


Dollars, the cost of matting and framing the Gering & Rembolt leaf. What, then, is its value? (extra credit on that one)


Books in my office on food or cooking.


Books in my office on publishing and writing.


Books in my office I’ve designed.


Client in the last 15 years who has refused to give me a testimonial.


Number of proofs that client insisted on seeing of his book before approving it.


Novels in my office.


Novels I’ve read since becoming a blogger. Why?


Number of computers and printers I can touch without leaving my chair. Without even stretching, actually.


Number of those devices actually in use. Why are the others here?


Framed photos, snow globes from vacations, and primitive wood carvings of birds used to “decorate” the office.


Average times per day I look at the photo of my son in his jammies sitting on the kitchen counter next to the Gaggia espresso machine eating his Cheerios, pacifier close to hand.

I think you can get an idea of how to do this for yourself. Gathering data, as always, can lead to surprising conclusions, or puzzling anomalies. In this case, it’s up to you to decide what’s important. Then go count it.

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    { 8 comments… read them below or add one }

    Joel April 6, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Hi Barbara, thanks so much for your comment. I hope you find lots of useful stuff, that’s what it’s all about. And thanks for stopping by.


    Barbara Swafford April 5, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Joel,

    I’m so happy George showcased you and your blog. What a great find. I love this post, as well as all it appears you offer here. I’ll be back again soon and dig through your archives. I’m betting it’s full of treasures.


    Joel April 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Gilda, love to see your comments, thanks.

    Christy, yes, that’s why I started this Saturday Off-Topic post. Sometimes you just have to break out of the books/fonts/publishing world and have a little fun. Sounds like we both need a trip to the recycling center! Thanks for stopping by.


    Christy Pinheiro April 3, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I love this post, Joel– it’s like you are just having fun for a change. I’m so glad that someone else has as many computers and printers as me! My husband gives me so much grief about it– there are three printers, two laptops, and a million other peripherals in my office and they seem to reproduce like rabbits!


    Gilda April 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Joel, it was fun to wake up this morning and read this article!


    Joel April 3, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Betty, thanks, and go ahead and rip away. There’s a long history of this type of personal “census” so I can’t claim to have invented it. Have fun!

    George, thanks for that, I really did have a good time writing this and I guess it shows. Thanks for stopping by!


    George Angus April 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Great job, Joel.

    Had me cracking up throughout.



    betty ming liu April 3, 2010 at 3:46 am

    What a fun exercise! Enjoyed getting a sense of who you are in your personal space. Now, I’m wondering how I can rip off this post & use it for students in one of my writing classes. Thanks for this refreshing moment.


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