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US census forms

 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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I've seen a barrage of advertisements this week saying to mail in the census form. But no form in the mail. Has anyone gotten their form yet?
 
Gregg Bolinger
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I've seen a barrage of advertisements this week saying to mail in the census form. But no form in the mail. Has anyone gotten their form yet?


Yes, hand delivered by a little old man. He was nice. We chatted for a while.
 
Pat Farrell
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If you don't send it in, they will send out someone to get it. Literally. They are called "enumerators" and they will go door to door if needed.

There is a chance that you are getting the "long form" which is sent to a small portion of the population, they are often sent out separately.

One topic for geeks, the Census Bureau spent a huge amount of money trying to design and deploy hand-held computers specifically for the enumerators. It was way late and way over budget. I don't know if they ever got it working.

I'm sure they spent well over the $600 a copy that the Apple iPad will cost next month
 
Joe Ess
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Pat Farrell wrote:I'm sure they spent well over the $600 a copy that the Apple iPad will cost next month


But government contracts account for the total cost of the life of the program. We end up with $100 hammers because the contract accounts for the maintenance of the hammer, training for the hammer operator, heating and cooling of the hammer warehouse and so on. If they tried to deploy iPads, you would have to add in the additional cost of training Census employees to be smug and that alone would cause the contract cost to soar.
 
Pat Farrell
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Joe Ess wrote: We end up with $100 hammers because the contract accounts for the maintenance of the hammer, ...


You think that they can get hammers as cheap as $100? Fool!

True story: I was working as a contractor in the Pentagon on a "suggestion box" system. They wanted to track and send up the chain any really good suggestions. The Pentagon was paying something like $500 per gallon for paint, normal wall paint, the kind that sells at Lowes, Sears, or Home Depot.

The Pentagon provides a small amount of money to each base for a recreation center. Its critical for morale. These facilities need paint to look fresh and let the warfighters who have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan or other stressful places get some well deserved rest. So the base commander can have a few cans of paint put on the wall, or they can tell the staff Sargent, or chief, to go to the local Home Depot equivalent, by some paint for $30 a gallon, paint the place, and have money left over for a pool table, or to hire a DJ. Officially, they were required to buy DoD approved paint from GSA.

I asked, why is the paint $500 a gallon. The answer is that when the DoD lets a contract for paint, they order it by the train load, and its special paint. To start the process, the DoD has its labs go buy samples of the best paint on the market, and then test it. They paint samples and put them outside in the sun, put others where it rains all the time, in areas with lots of traffic. The lab scientists find out what are the key criteria for the best paint. They write up requirements for the best possible paint, state of the art. Of course, this evaluation takes years. And the contracting process, issuing the RFP, evaluating it, awarding it, etc takes years more.

Once the contract is awarded, the DoD places and order for a few train loads of paint, many tens of thousands of gallons, perhaps even a million gallons. So they buy in large quantities to get the best price. It has to be the cheapest. Right?

The paint business is very competitive, and while the basics of paint go back to the Egyptians, the technical details are improving all the time. New chemicals in the binder make it flow better, be easier to put on, provide better coverage. New tints have better colors, stay bright longer, etc. Every year or two, the chemistry changes, and over a decade, the whole chemistry may be redone.

So when the order for a few train-loads of paint comes in to the winning factory, they have a problem. They have never commercially made the "best of all" paint, its composition was invented by the labs. What they have is a factory making current paint, with the best technology o March 2010. They have to shut down the whole factory, clean out all the pipes, bins, containers, parts, components, etc. to load up what is needed to make paint according to the DoD specs, which represent something very impressive from 10 to 15 years ago.

The sad fact is that it probably costs $490 to make the paint, even in trainload volumes.



 
Joe Ess
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Pat Farrell wrote:You think that they can get hammers as cheap as $100? Fool!


I'm a vet and I've done contract work for the .gov. No story of government inefficiency would surprise me.
For example: I was brought into a Navy Defense Finance and Accounting Service office to evaluate a process and recommend changes. They had a mainframe system that about a dozen people worked on to push data through to cut checks for moving expenses. It took so long to push requests through that when the checks were to be printed, they had to be manually reconciled on an Excel spreadsheet because the original numbers (fuel expenses and the like) the amounts were based on had changed.
Long story short, I figured I could replace the mainframe system with an app that would screen scrape or FTP the various input files (replacing half the department) and render checks nearly instantaneously (replacing the other half). This solution went over like a lead balloon. There was no incentive for the manager to reduce headcount or budget, which would reduce the manager's power, so they kept the existing process
 
Pat Farrell
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Joe Ess wrote: There was no incentive for the manager to reduce headcount or budget, which would reduce the manager's power, so they kept the existing process


This is common, the justification for a manager's pay and rank is directly driven by the number and rank of his employees. Cut the headcount enough, and you have to demote the boss.

There is a tiny incentive in Washington to control costs and push it out to the field. In the field, there is no such push. Both the bureaucracy and the Military are jobs-programs. Look at the problems they have trying to close unneeded military bases.
 
marc weber
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I just got my form yesterday.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Back to the topic - I got a letter saying I will get my form in about a week.
 
Mike Simmons
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Yeah, I just got the same letter.

Well, a fairly similar letter.
 
marc weber
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marc weber wrote:I just got my form yesterday.

Correction: I opened this, and it's not the form. It's the letter telling me I'll be getting a form. (Doh!)
 
Vikas Kapoor
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Back to the topic - I got a letter saying I will get my form in about a week.


Ditto.

By the way, it should not have anything to do with citizenship right? I am not citizen but still I should submit the form right?
 
Pat Farrell
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Vikas Kapoor wrote:By the way, it should not have anything to do with citizenship right? I am not citizen but still I should submit the form right?


Correct. The Census bureau wants everyone to return the form, even the homeless and the illegal immigrants. These two groups are grossly under reported, which has serious impact on Federal policy.

One of the serious problems with the illegal immigration debate is that there are only guesses as to how many are actually in the country. Which leads to a lot of mis-understandings and errors in policy
 
Vikas Kapoor
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Why do not they send the form itself directly rather then sending *information* letter?
 
Pat Farrell
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Vikas Kapoor wrote:Why do not they send the form itself directly rather then sending *information* letter?

Your tax dollars are rest!! ???

I assume that they have tested and found that by sending the "form coming" letter, they get better response.
 
fred rosenberger
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May they should send me a letter saying they are going to send a letter saying they will send me the form...

Maybe they'd get even better returns by doing that!!!
 
Arvind Mahendra
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What happens if you don't fill out these forms and send it back? Is it the Gulag for you? I'm appalled at the way government is being criticized here.
 
Pat Farrell
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Arvind Mahendra wrote:What happens if you don't fill out these forms and send it back? Is it the Gulag for you?

If you don't send it in, they send an enumerator out to get the information.

There is no gulag, gaol, jail, etc. for anyone ever about Census data. They want the data, they do not talk to the FBI, NSA, INS, ICE, etc.

Census is very serious about data and privacy. Note: I have a couple of "Census Bureau Contractor" badges in my collection. They have expired, I am not currently a contractor to the Census Bureau. They will send Census employees or contractors to jail for violating privacy of people or people's data. To get onto the campus, you have to have an ID and check in with the guard station. Then you need to show ID again to get into the buildings. You can't park your car without a car pass, which you get showing your ID. And they check the IDs against the computerized lists, and check who you are visiting against expected appoitments.

The data is extremely important to the US Government. The Constitution says that the Census is how the number of Congressman are assigned. More people, more Congressmen, more power to the big states. In addition, many Government funding programs are based on population in an area. More people, more money to the local government for schools, cops, bridges, roads, etc.

For decades, the Census has been criticized because critics claim it under reports minorities and immigrants. These folks tend to not trust the Government, and don't admit to their real numbers. A fair number of these groups live in overcrowded housing, way more than the building codes allow, and the people are scared to tell one Government agency the real numbers because they worry that another Government agency will deport them, make the family break up, etc. The Census does not report its data to other police-like agencies. This is an exception to my broad statement above: if a Census employee or contractor violates the privacy of data, they will go to jail.
 
Frank Silbermann
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Joe Ess wrote:
Pat Farrell wrote:You think that they can get hammers as cheap as $100? Fool!


I'm a vet and I've done contract work for the .gov. No story of government inefficiency would surprise me.
For example: I was brought into a Navy Defense Finance and Accounting Service office to evaluate a process and recommend changes. They had a mainframe system that about a dozen people worked on to push data through to cut checks for moving expenses. It took so long to push requests through that when the checks were to be printed, they had to be manually reconciled on an Excel spreadsheet because the original numbers (fuel expenses and the like) the amounts were based on had changed.
Long story short, I figured I could replace the mainframe system with an app that would screen scrape or FTP the various input files (replacing half the department) and render checks nearly instantaneously (replacing the other half). This solution went over like a lead balloon. There was no incentive for the manager to reduce headcount or budget, which would reduce the manager's power, so they kept the existing process
Fortunately, this won't be a problem when we eventually progress to a single-payer government health-care system. And they'll be able to hire the best people for the money to be employed by it, without regard to political considerations.
 
Ulf Dittmer
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Arvind Mahendra wrote:I'm appalled at the way government is being criticized here.

No, you're not. You're just trolling.
 
Pat Farrell
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Frank Silbermann wrote: Fortunately, this won't be a problem when we eventually progress to a single-payer government health-care system.


Will we have flying cars by then?

What languages will we be writing our code in, clearly not Java, perhaps Scala++?

How many cores will be on a typical consumer "computer" then? I bet 64 or 128, at least.
 
Arvind Mahendra
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The government prints its own money why should it even worry about how much anything costs?

It's only the value of YOUR money that gets eroded because of that. The Government will even borrow to put you in debt if it wants to. But broaden your view on this, its a free market ideology and the Govt. is free to buy the most expensive paint and then it allow corporations to outsource cheap labor abroad and import cheap labor into the country to put your job and lifestyle in jeopardy.( Its either this or the Gulag for you)

All in all sounds like a great deal so why are you not in government?
 
Frank Silbermann
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Pat Farrell wrote:
Joe Ess wrote: We end up with $100 hammers because the contract accounts for the maintenance of the hammer, ...



I asked, why is the paint $500 a gallon. The answer is that when the DoD lets a contract for paint, they order it by the train load, and its special paint. To start the process, the DoD has its labs go buy samples of the best paint on the market, and then test it. They paint samples and put them outside in the sun, put others where it rains all the time, in areas with lots of traffic. The lab scientists find out what are the key criteria for the best paint. They write up requirements for the best possible paint, state of the art. Of course, this evaluation takes years. And the contracting process, issuing the RFP, evaluating it, awarding it, etc takes years more.

Once the contract is awarded, the DoD places and order for a few train loads of paint, many tens of thousands of gallons, perhaps even a million gallons. So they buy in large quantities to get the best price. It has to be the cheapest. Right?

The paint business is very competitive, and while the basics of paint go back to the Egyptians, the technical details are improving all the time. New chemicals in the binder make it flow better, be easier to put on, provide better coverage. New tints have better colors, stay bright longer, etc. Every year or two, the chemistry changes, and over a decade, the whole chemistry may be redone.

So when the order for a few train-loads of paint comes in to the winning factory, they have a problem. They have never commercially made the "best of all" paint, its composition was invented by the labs. What they have is a factory making current paint, with the best technology o March 2010. They have to shut down the whole factory, clean out all the pipes, bins, containers, parts, components, etc. to load up what is needed to make paint according to the DoD specs, which represent something very impressive from 10 to 15 years ago.

The sad fact is that it probably costs $490 to make the paint, even in trainload volumes.

If the government _didn't_ do this, do you know what would happen? They'd have to buy paint from the lowest bidder, and the lowest bidder would supply cans of watercolor! And if they didn't have to buy from the lowest bidder, then the purchasing agent would buy overpriced paint in exchange for a kick-back to his no-account brother-in-law.
 
Pat Farrell
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I just got mine today. I lucked out, got the short form. Took under five minutes to fill out.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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I got mine today - short form too.
 
Vikas Kapoor
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Me too.

Why this form is not available online? There are chances of making mistakes while filling the paper form.
 
fred rosenberger
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Vikas Kapoor wrote:Me too.

Why this form is not available online? There are chances of making mistakes while filling the paper form.


there are chances of making mistakes online, too, and a greater possibility of fraud.
 
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Vikas Kapoor wrote:Why this form is not available online? There are chances of making mistakes while filling the paper form.

Because (1) its critical to get a census of everyone, not just the geeks who have computers
(2) the form is printed in drop-out ink for OCR analysis and processing. You can't print that out in any cheap printer.

The technology used to process, OCR, and statistically analyze the forms is impressive.
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Mailed mine this morning.
 
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Ernest Friedman-Hill wrote:Mailed mine this morning.

Ditto.
 
fred rosenberger
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what he said.
 
Vikas Kapoor
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fred rosenberger wrote:there are chances of making mistakes online, too, and a greater possibility of fraud.


I meant to say it's not as easy to correct the mistake as online form. Regarding fraud possibility, we have online banking what else could more critical than that.
Online thingy will give lots of ease that everybody knows.
 
Vikas Kapoor
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Pat Farrell wrote:Because (1) its critical to get a census of everyone, not just the geeks who have computers


Nowadays, everything is getting online. The technology advances and everybody has to cope up with that. It's not about justifying what is happening right now but it's about advances the process.

And above all this is US.
 
Pat Farrell
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Vikas Kapoor wrote:Nowadays, everything is getting online.

Sadly, this is not true. There are lots of folks who don't care about computers, a lot of folks who are scared of computers, and a large percentage that are too poor to have a computer.

The Census is about everyone, not just the rich or technologically advanced.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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I was informed on twitter that everyone gets the short form and some people ALSO get the American Community Survey.

The census website says
"Can I fill out my form online" No. Not at this time. We are experimenting with Internet response for the future


So maybe in 10 years. I would think it would save them money to not have to mail two letters to every household in the country.
 
Pat Farrell
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote: I would think it would save them money to not have to mail two letters to every household in the country.

I doubt it will save any money.

Look at all the "internet voting" schemes that have been invented/proposed. None really work. For voting, you want everyone to vote, and only once. Nearly the same problem as taking the Census. How do you tell that its a unique person responding? Simple solutions that are OK for websites, say setting a cookie, are not going to cut it.
 
Vikas Kapoor
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Pat Farrell wrote:Simple solutions that are OK for websites, say setting a cookie, are not going to cut it.


If you withdraw money from your account how many times the transaction gets posted?
 
Pat Farrell
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Vikas Kapoor wrote:If you withdraw money from your account how many times the transaction gets posted?

That's a non sequitur.

If you go into a bank, you write a check and they check the signature.

If you go to an ATM, you present a physical card and enter a PIN.

How does an online vote or census record get recorded? How does the system prevent double voting?

This topic has been covered since the beginning of the commercial/political use of the Internet two decades ago. There have been many peer-reveiwed papers. Its not a trivial problem, and there are no practical solutions yet.
 
fred rosenberger
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Vikas Kapoor wrote:If you withdraw money from your account how many times the transaction gets posted?

Ask my colleague who had his bank account cleaned out by someone in Japan. He closed the account. Then, the hackers posted a NEW transaction to the same, closed account, using an old authorization code, and got another $350 out.
 
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