have you heard of address normalisation?

I’ve never met the head of the mathematics department here at the University of Bergen, but I already like him because he has a “head of department blog” that is exactly the kind of thing I think a head of department should do and yet I don’t seem to do it myself. I must have clicked some link on that blog by mistake because when time came to shut down all my programs so I can play World of Warcraft with as little computer-multi-tasking as possible, my address book was asking me if it should add this visit card. Belonging to the mathematician, “Karl Ove Hufthammer”, with the nickname “Huftis” noted and his homepage: huftis.org. Now this website seems to belong to a mathematics student, but you know, I had time so I went there, of course, and would you believe it, he has info on high-quality, free computer games, on XHTML and on how to correctly address letters to the US so they get to their destination as fast as possible.

My Christmas parcels took three and a half weeks to cross the Atlantic, and my letters routinely take 8 days while letters in the other direction only take five. So I had a look.

Turns out you should run your address through the official, computer-calibrated US address normaliser, leave everything in capitals and preferably use a computer to print your envelope so that its fellow computers in the US Postal Service can read the address more easily. And here I was thinking I wanted my letters to look human. Foolish. Human-looking addresses aren’t worth having your Christmas presents arrive in January.

I admit I did wonder what would drive anyone to write such a carefully crafted page about address normalisation of all things. The links at the bottom of the page to the hundred page manuals that exist on the topic give a hint, and the dry remark that accompanies the links more: “Personally I find a certain perverted joy in reading bar codes ‘by hand’.”

Anyway, letters from me to the US will henceforth be more precise, less human and faster.

20. February 2006 by Jill

Comments (9)

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *