Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Count(y) me in [open thread]


My current temp-job assignment is at a major utility corporation, working on what is known as Vendor Master Cleanup. This project mainly involves poring through the records of tens of thousands of our vendors, and making sure that all of the data is up to date and standardized.

One monumental section of this project is address standardization, which as you can guess means bringing all of the vendors' addresses up to USPS specifications. There is a lot, and I mean a LOT, of abbreviation here - Street becoming ST, Plaza to PLZ, 13th Floor to FL 13, etc. And I must say, I absolutely love this work. Maybe because it's so easy. Maybe because there's so much of it that it brings a bit of job security. But by and large, it's because I'm kind of a geek when it comes to references to addresses in different cities and counties.

Lately we've (and by we I mean Jim and Ashman, etc.) been talking about the things we collect or have as hobbies. Well, I am fascinated with addresses. I had a business card collection for a while, and it held my interest because of the thrill of collecting things from other cities in the US. I also really enjoy road trips, not just because of the freedom of travel, but also because it's cool to say, "I've been to this city." I've had this idea (which isn't dead yet, though logistically it seems difficult) of collecting a photograph of every post office in the country, and maybe assembling a website or an album of these pictures with histories and generations of postmasters.

Then I got an idea last night: What if I just collected city and county letterheads? I could devise some reason for a city office to want to write a letter to me, then collect and scan the letters into a database of sorts. Well, there are so many cities in the US alone that it'd be impossible to achieve (not to mention postage-expensive) in my lifetime.

So there it is, my new idea. I'll write a letter to selected cities and counties in America, asking a dumb question or something, in order to elicit a written response, thus giving me a letterhead for the collection. With so many counties, I can be creative in my letters, funny even, and I can post the responses on a "letterhead blog".

So if anyone who reads this happens to work for a county/parish/borough/district government in the US or Canada, please send me a letter! My address is PO Box 598, Clackamas, OR 97015. (I have no problem giving that out because I don't actually live in the box!) And for the ultra-geeky who read this (see comments), here it is again:

PO BOX 598
CLACKAMAS OR 97015-0598


For my inquiries, I am posing as different fictional people in order to increase my chances of getting a response. Below is a key to the characters:

Josiah C. Kerr (JCK): An 8th grade home school student who has to send letters to cities and counties for a Social Studies summer assignment.

Stanley T. Washington (STW): A retired sign painter who lives in the backwoods southeast of Portland, and spends his retirement writing short stories and tending to his collection of 500+ autographed photos of mayors with the help of his archaeologist son.

Randy Belton (RB): An entrepreneur wanting to open some completely unfeasible and doomed-to-fail business within a city or county, but who doesn't see how obviously ridiculous his idea is. This character, whom I've used in the past for other joke letters, is mostly stolen from Ted L. Nancy.

Jess Northrup (JN): One of those guys who always has a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. An inventor at heart, he's suggested everything from "Recreational Aspirin" to installing car-wash tracks in popular Christmas-light neighborhoods. He's another character I've used before.

Helen L. Bishop (HLB): Concerned citizen who must address the highest authority about something she "just heard in the news" about their city or county. Of course, I have completely made up the problem over which she's so outraged. Another past character.

Stanley W. Kost (SWK): Just a straightforward letter requesting a reply on official letterhead, or a copy of the logo/seal itself if for some reason the letterhead does not contain it.

Sent and received (counties):
JCK r. 7/28 Cochise County, Arizona
JCK r. 7/28 Coconino County, Arizona
JCK r. 8/9 Apache County, Arizona - Received a Jr. Deputy sticker, a genuine Sherriff's patch, and a custom photo of the one motorcycle officer!

Sent and received (cities):
JCK r. 7/25 Mill Valley, California
JCK r. 8/9 Durango, Colorado - Letter from the mayor hisself!

Sent, not received:
JCK s. 7/15 Galax, Virginia
JCK s. 7/15 Le Sueur, Minnesota
JCK s. 7/15 Moscow, Tennessee
JCK s. 7/18 Union, Oregon
JCK s. 7/18 Ashland, Oregon
JCK s. 7/18 Silverthorne, Colorado
SWK s. 8/3 Baker County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Benton County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Clackamas County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Clatsop County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Columbia County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Coos County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Crook County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Curry County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Deschutes County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Douglas County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Gilliam County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Grant County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Harney County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Hood River County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Jackson County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Jefferson County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Josephine County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Klamath County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Lake County, Oregon
SWK s. 8/3 Lane County, Oregon

10 Talked Back:

At July 13, 2005 at 11:27:00 AM CDT, Blogger Scott said...

Do you still the P.O. box at the 7th Ave Post Office? Just wondering. This way I can change your P.O. Box # in my address book.



At July 13, 2005 at 11:48:00 AM CDT, Blogger stan said...

Not anymore. I got the Clackamas one last year when I realized how out of the way the Portland one was getting to it's like 1/4 the rental fee, because it's considered "rural" (which is why it starts with 970 rather than 972...good lord, I'm a geek!) $24 for a year is pretty darn good, plus the box section of the post office is open 24/7...


At July 13, 2005 at 12:46:00 PM CDT, Blogger Jim said...

your readers might not realize that they have an "official" post office address -- anyone interested can find their's by going to the ZipCode lookup box on the USPS site:

Oh Stan! You made a mistake in the address that you gave in the post -- in Standard Format there should not be a comma after Clackamas (because the OR is a postal code and not an abbreviation) -- have I out geeked you?


At July 13, 2005 at 1:58:00 PM CDT, Blogger stan said...

If you are writing it in sentence form, I believe that a comma is acceptable; whereas if it is on the front of an envelope, it is not. GEEK'D!

You may have noticed that I had linked that ZIP code finder site in the original post as well. It's also the first of my "favorites" in Internet Explorer at work... :)


At July 13, 2005 at 2:21:00 PM CDT, Blogger stan said...

See Rule #7.


At July 13, 2005 at 4:01:00 PM CDT, Blogger Jim said...

Postal codes have no place in a sentence, the accepted state abbreviation should be used. The first example should be written: "We live at 923 Cuckoo Lane, #313, in Virginia, Minn. The ZIP code is 55792." The example as provided in the linked site is recursive since Minnesota is implicit in both "MN" and "55792."

If information is being given for mailing purposes, it should be in correct format. This is a courtesy so it can be easily copied and pasted to word-processing or label software. With this in mind, the sentence should read "Our mailing address is 923 Cuckoo Lane, #313, Virginia MN 55792."

GEEK'D! :)


At July 13, 2005 at 7:06:00 PM CDT, Blogger Meagan said...

man i love you guys!



At July 17, 2005 at 10:20:00 PM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't and YET I can believe how long these comments went on... You are funny!!!


At July 31, 2005 at 7:16:00 PM CDT, Blogger nitsuj said...

Hey Dingly-
Just a quick question: How do you decide which cities/counties to write to? It may be explained already somewheres but I can't find it. Gracias.


At August 1, 2005 at 12:02:00 PM CDT, Blogger stan said...

It's pretty random. I started a list of which states had the most/fewest counties, and I was just going to do all of the counties in the fewest-county states (Delaware [3], Hawaii [4], Rhode Island [5], etc.) and work my way up until I hit the most-county states (Virginia [136], Georgia [159], Texas[254]), but that was far too "scientific". So I just started with random ones.

Cities are chosen partially because I dig their names - Galax (VA) sounds alien, doesn't it?


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