Monday, December 19

How the Grinch Reduced His Carbon Footprint

Now, this blog is a lot of things: a guide to language, a review of postal services and conditions, a showcase for stationery-related images, and infrequently updated. I want to emphasize that it's good for many things related to paper, whether or not it's something that bears an address and stamp on it (though of course it could be put through the mail).

Here we are in the holiday season, with Merry Consumermas rapidly approaching. I'm not particularly religious: I consider myself spiritual but have little interest in discussing such matters. My personal questions are answered, and I opt to leave others to their own affairs. But what gets me down about this time of year is how far people have moved from the realm of the spiritual or even the human and wholly subscribed, unthinkingly and unconscionably, to material gain. It's just not a holiday unless you can throw a pile of injection-molded plastic trash at some child and impress upon him/her at an early age that the point of the holiday is not an end-of-year celebration of gratitude among friends and family, but that it's solely about getting and having stuff.

Thursday, December 8

Not Generally Minding the Rules

This must happen to many different professions: it's the scenario where you meet some new people, they ask what you do, you tell them, and they playfully rear back and say they must be careful about [behavior they associate with your profession].

It happens with English teachers: "You're an English teacher? Well, I'd better be careful with how I talk around you!" They who crack the joke also laugh, as though surprised by their own wit, even though this is such a standard convention of speech that it should emit, word-for-word, from a novelty key fob of prerecorded messages.

Tuesday, December 6

Hardships of the USPS

Hard times at the post office: facing default on a $5.5 billion Treasury loan, the USPS is planning to cut out its overnight delivery of First Class mail—so plan ahead—and lay off about 30,000 workers. Also, First Class stamps will rise one cent to 45¢ on January 22. Invest in your Forever stamps now, kids.

Me, I've got packs of the things because I strategically stashed them in very clever places I couldn't possibly forget. Once in a while I find another one. Of course, all First Class stamps are being generated as Forever stamps and now they're all interesting-looking, but I did this back when the only style was the Liberty Bell, so I've got packs and packs of these boring old stamps to share with Postcrossers around the world who are normally vociferous in their praise of more-interesting stamps.

But my plight is nothing compared to what the USPS is facing. They suffered net losses of $8.5 billion in FY10 and $3.8 billion in FY09. The reduction of six billion pieces of mail (increased competition with the Internet) between those two years represented a revenue loss of $1 billion. In an effort to save $3 billion in expenses this time, they're planning to close half of the nation's nearly 500 postal processing centers, which will lengthen the delivery time (and distance) of mail to be processed, kicking up the normal one-to-three-day delivery to three-to-five-day delivery for First Class mail.

Sunday, December 4

Friends and Dining Abroad

On my main blog, I built (for the sake of building) a Page of naive but well-intentioned tips for traveling throughout SE Asia. I did the best I could with it, attempting to show how to say three important and handy phrases for wherever they go: hello, thank you, and (very) delicious. Using even this little of the language will put you on people's good side and make your interactions more positive, as folks living overseas are used to tourists blowing through their proud nation and not making any effort to learn their language.

On Postcrossing, I listed in my profile that I'd like to learn these phrases from other nations—when people send me postcards, they come from all nations around the globe—and many senders have been nicely compliant with this request. Here's a summary of what I've got so far: