Thursday, October 27

Oh, Beloved Moleskine

You can't believe how excited I am this evening. In the era when a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work; as the northern hemisphere tilts until, on my daily commute, I can see the sun rising on the way out and the sunset on the way back; when too much news and too much casual contact erodes my sanity, the precious things in life seem few, and when they come they must be cherished.

And so I tender to you, gentle Reader, purple prose in panegyric of my new Moleskine notebook.

Saturday, October 22

Calculating the Cost of My Postcard Habit

It's that time again, time to send out another batch of Postcrossing postcards. Yes, it's exciting and fun, but...

I don't want to sound ungrateful, but there are times when a hobby resembles a chore. Look at World of Warcraft: gamers have spent (by now) six million years, in aggregate, fighting their way up the ranks in Azeroth. I've read so many complaints of people who spend eight hours a day their job, drive home, and their WoW guild demands another six hours for a high-level dungeon raid. (Yeah, I used to play, but I never got into guilds because the only ones that would have me were petty, backstabbing little gangs of unreliable teenage boys, with all the social graces that attend.)

Now, Postcrossing. You start out being able to send out five postcards at one time, and you had to wait until some of them were registered before you could send out more. But once your sent total went up to 20, you could have six cards out at once, and so on, and so on. I'm up to 13 cards out simultaneously, and most of them go through--I think I've talked about the problems with sending cards to China. (Also, flimsy postcards only serve as appetizers for all the postal processing machines in their thousand-mile trips. Voice of experience.)

Tuesday, October 11

How to Get Off a Mailing List

We moved into our current apartment over a month ago. We love the place, the people before us loved the place--it's a great place. Big windows, everything's within walking distance, and there are several choice bus routes in case we need something more than everything.

It's just that the people here before us don't seem to believe in forwarding addresses, and they did a lot of catalog shopping or got on a bunch of mailing lists. This combines adversely with our ill-tempered postal carrier who (using his handiwork as evidence) is on the verge of "going postal" in the grand old-fashioned way.

Routinely, every day of every week, if there is mail coming into our narrow mail slot, he packs it all in as though muzzle-loading a musket. He could take all the mail and roll it into a tidy cylinder, but no: he seems to put my postcards in first, then the bills, then he rolls up the catalogs and jams them down on top. All my mail is crushed and spindled, to borrow a relevant phrase.

My response to this is two-pronged: I've obtained a phone number to call to complain about this guy. I love the postal system, I love mail, I even understand that our mail slots are not roomy at all, but his behavior is a sign of either incompetence or poor anger management skills.

A glimpse of my secret world: Swiss Gear travel bag,
cutting mat and X-acto knife, How To Draw Manga
, and three tedious, unlikable postcards.
Secondly, I've undertaken a little project in which I cut out the mailing label from every catalog (including the bar code and any catalog/customer IDs) and paste them onto the backs of postcards. For this, you can use anything from posterboard to the lid of an old pizza box. In my case, I'm using some ugly postcards I would otherwise be too ashamed to share with anyone I liked. They're from a set of vintage gift wrap designs from the '20s, and many of them were nice, but some were so bland that no one would be delighted to receive them in the mail.

This is how you formally request to be removed from a mailing list, in a forceful and legally compliant way that no responsible business has any right to refuse. Beneath the label (or just your address, if you prefer), you write these three things:

Anyone who writes back to you after receiving that is in line for a lawsuit.

And remember, the destination address must be the lowest address on the postcard: paste (or write) your address up high and then write the destination address as low as you dare. Leave some room for the bar code label the post office will apply there, and what I do after that is write the address in reverse order, going up from city and state and ZIP, line by line. That way, I leave as little room as possible at the bottom of the card.

Saturday, October 1

Colbert's Ironic Commemoration

There was no way I could let this slide by. In actuality, I'm embarrassed that I haven't posted about it earlier: that's the level of my procrastination.

What you see is what it is: Stephen Colbert has designed (as anyone can, and as I have in the past) his own First Class rate stamp through The image is of his gleeful farewell to the U.S. Postal System via smartphone. (For the record, I'm an avid fan of Colbert.)

This is in reference to my prior post, about the struggling economics supporting the USPS. Reports I read in the news are conflicting: some suggest that the USPS will shut down for the winter, relegating all postal freight to private companies like UPS or FedEx; others, in line with the articles the Missive Maven cited, predict more moderate outcomes, such as losing Saturdays in the delivery cycle.

Either way, if you're thinking about shopping for postage, Colbert's levity provides yet another alternative. I just sent out a large batch of square postcards going out to global destinations. That's 98¢ plus a fee for using a square postcard--because there's no clear up or down on it, it has to be hand-processed. This fee used to be 13¢ but recently I sent some out and it seems the additional rate has gone up to 20¢. I was unable to confirm this on the USPS' website, indeed, I couldn't find any chart delineating the rates of variously sized postcards. I really need to buy one of those handy graphed mats the postal workers use, or else photograph one and design my own. In fact, that will be my next project, and when I come up with a definitive answer you know I'll post it here. Eventually.

I mean, sending postcards is tricky business. Did you know the stamps can go anywhere on the address side, but the USPS will process the lowest-appearing address (be careful when supplying your return address)? And you've got to leave four inches clear to the left of the stamps (in the upper right corner) to make room for the postmark. Postcards can be pretty tricky.