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"Have you begun to feel that census-taking is fast becoming either a joke or a disaster - perhaps both?By now, we should all have received one form or another, short or long, designed to count us, so that at the beginning of the real millennium, our government will supposedly know how many of us there are and where, making it possible for them to dole out bucks fairly, based on population counts. (INSERT SIGNS OF HYSTERICAL LAUGHTER HERE, PLEASE!)If you received the short form, you're probably only mildly amused by the prospect of making any sense whatsoever of this counting system. If you received the long form, I hope you're mad enough to chew nails and spit tacks and write scathing letters to any government official for whom you have an address.First, Mr. Government (a.k.a. Uncle Sam), if all you're trying to do is get a live-body count, then it's none of your gol-durned business what color I am, what race or mixture of such I may be, and you sure as heck don't need to know my income level or what I do with it. Frankly, I'm sick and tired, fed up to the gills with questionnaires that intrude into every aspect of my life and, to add insult to injury, act as if the information gatherer has every right to ask for such. Besides, if you want that information, Sir, do what our teacher always told us to do - go look it up! Heaven knows you have all the financial information you could ever want right in your own IRS department. Of course, you may not have any better luck getting reliable information from them than we who pay all of you do, but that's your problem right now.As far as I can see, if it's a body count, a.k.a. census, you're really about, then all you need to know is how many living, breathing people reside on a mostly full-time basis in any place of residence, no matter how small or squalid (as in a cardboard packing carton under the Fremont Bridge in Seattle or the bus stop at Avenida Del Sol in Los Angeles, which are the sorts of places where a lot of people with their lives in shopping carts live most of the time.) This won't, of course, help you get a handle on the number of people, whatever their color etc., who actually live nowhere but are always on the move, legally or otherwise. Nevertheless, they're here, there and everywhere, uncounted but often taking advantage of whatever services are available (emergency rooms, food banks, flop-houses, public restrooms, needle exchanges, parks, etc.) No, Mr. Government, I think you've once again set out to do something that simply won't have the results you hope for, meanwhile spending colossal amounts of money to come up with seriously flawed information. You will then spend the next 10 years pointing out the deficiencies of the year 2000 census, arguing over its validity and preparing to do another. And, as usual, we'll endure endless articles and talk programs devoted to why the general public (that's us, the ones you're trying to count, in case you'd forgotten) no longer believes our government, whatever that entity may be, can do anything right. Now, as I understand it, you're going to send someone around to knock on the doors of those who don't respond to the questionnaires. (AGAIN, INSERT LAUGHTER OF YOUR CHOICE, HYSTERICAL OR JUST THE USUAL GUFFAWS). That's a hoot! Will you call ahead and set a day and time, like the utilities and repair persons, so we can sit at home all day waiting for you not to show? Forgive my derision, Mr. Government, but I know a fair number of people who have lovely permanent homes they haven't been in for more than two days the past year, who are traveling the world by plane, train, ship or motor home, who'll never receive either their census form in time for the deadline or be home for the knock on the door. Oh, they pay their not inconsiderable taxes on time and yes, they live at 000 Whatever Drive, but your chances of finding them there are zero to none. How will you count them, pray tell?Perhaps, Sirs, you should consider issuing an edict demanding that every person return to the place of his/her birth to be counted, with heavy punishment forthcoming for any who do not. Sound familiar? Trouble is, I recently sold my donkey to pay my taxes so I may not be able to get there, unless there's a free bus to Shelton.RecipesWell, as long as we're on the subject of counting, did you know that a recent study was done on measuring equipment, such as cups, spoons, etc. - the tools of our kitchen, and the result was amazing! There was as much as a 20 percent variance in some of the measuring spoons and cups studied, which only proves that those who cook by the a bit of this and a dash of that and a wee handful of..... know that great results in the kitchen have more to do with heart, nose, taste, experience and curiosity than following the exact recipe measurements. However, even with a 20 precent deviation in measuring devices, we'll still be more accurate than this year's government census figures. It's spring, and in our yard that means the rhubarb stalks are young, tender, delicious and, thank Heaven, deer don't like rhubarb! Here are two easy rhubarb recipes I've used for many, many, years; one's a slightly different version of Rhubarb Crunch and is excellent for a group dessert, the other's a quick but classic pie.Crunched Rhubarb1 1/2 cups flour1 1/2 cups rolled oats1 cup (packed) brown sugar3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted3/4 t. salt1 1/2 t. cinnamon6 cups washed, sliced fresh rhubarb1 1/2 cups sugar3 T. cornstarch2 cups water1 1/2 t. vanillaIn a small pan or in the microwave oven, melt the butter, then stir in the salt and cinnamon. In a bowl, mix together the flour, oats, brown sugar; add the melted butter mixture and mix well. Pat 1/2 of the mixture onto the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.Spread the rhubarb slices on top of the crunchy mixture in the baking dish.In a saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, cornstarch and 2 cups water. Mix well, place over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and clear (about 5-7 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, then pour mixture over the rhubarb.Cover entire dessert with the remaining crunch mixture. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for about 1 hour. Serve warm with a bit of ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.Quick Fix Rhubarb PieIn the bottom of a pie plate, place 3 cups chopped fresh rhubarb. Sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar over it. Mix together 1/4 lb. softened butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/2 cup flour, 1 t. vanilla and a pinch of salt. Pour over the rhubarb and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. "