The Benefits of Junk Mail

I admit that I hate junk mail, it makes up most of the items that I retrieve from our mailbox and I need to carefully extract the real stuff from its midst. There is no Opt out option for direct mailings in the US, although you can take register not to receive credit card offers.

However, without the volume of junk mail the US Postal Service would be in even worse condition than it is now. Junk mail represents 52% of mail by volume in the US, so is a vital part of their finances. Last year it lost $2.8bn and they expect to lose about $6bn this year. The USPS is considering ending Saturday deliveries as part of cost cutting moves. Earlier this year the Postmaster General warned that this was a possibility to a Senate Sub-committee.

Cutting a day from the delivery schedule might seem to have minimal impact on us as so little of our email is relevant; even the majority of our bills arrive via email. It would, however, mess with efficient use of Netflix, the DVD rental service. Currently it is possible to watch a DDV at the weekend, mail it back on Monday, receive a new disk on Wednesday, watch it and then mail back Thursday, receiving a new disk on Saturday for weekend viewing. This allows us to watch two disks a week, with one at the weekend. Cutting out a day of delivery would prevent such efficient use of our $8.99 a month payment

Published in: on 31 July, 2009 at 6:20  Leave a Comment  

Cola Rebranding

This picture caught my attention, it shows the changing rebranding of the logos used by the two leading colas from the nineteenth century to today. Guess which company feels it needs to chase the other for market share


From [Consumerist]

Published in: on 29 July, 2009 at 6:54  Leave a Comment  

Take me Out to the Ballgame

I do not seem to be having much luck with my choice of ballgames. Last month I went to see the Oakland As play the Tigers; they lost 3-5 in a poor performance. On the previous night the As won 7-1, the day after they won 5-1.

This week, on Monday they were 12-2 early on in the game and when they came to bat in the bottom of the seventh they still trailed 7-13. In the seventh inning they hit seven runs to take the lead and held on to win by 14-13; a spectacular come-back. On Wednesday they won 16-1. I saw them on Tuesday as they lost 2-3 in the tenth.

I am not sure when I shall next go, although there is an interesting offer for $35 to buy a late season ticket for an As game and an early season ticket for the Raiders (The Oakland team in that sport the Americans confusingly call football)

Published in: on 25 July, 2009 at 8:39  Leave a Comment  

Keeping you Awake

If I ran a business that sold sun tan oil, I would not cease providing it once Spring arrived. If I sold Christmas ornaments, I would not have them only available from January through August. If I ran a coffee shop I would not stop serving decaff coffee at noon; after all people are more likely to drink the stuff with caffeine in the afternoon and evenings that as a morning pick-me-up. I am not in charge of a coffee shop and whoever does run our local Starbucks obviously does not see things in the same way. I ask for a decaff coffee over ice this afternoon and was told that they stop serving decaff at noon. Customer service prevailed and they brewed some just for me, but common sense seems to be lacking.

Published in: on 18 July, 2009 at 15:24  Leave a Comment  

Rise of the Machines

The idea of machines becoming sentient and rising up against humanity did not start with the Terminator franchise. It is been the subject of many SF stories. From South Africa comes a tale of armed machines attacking their human overlords. Granted the lack of mobility of a typical ATM may make them seem less threatening than a T-800, but complacency is dangerous.

[Armed Terminator Machines]


Published in: on 17 July, 2009 at 6:49  Leave a Comment  

We Choose The Moon

Forty Years Ago today, (July 16, 1969) Apollo 11 launched on its mission to put man on the moon. I was too young at the time to have any first-hand recollections of the event. I have clear memories of the Apollo-Soyuz linkup and the shuttle launch; neither of these match the awesome nature of the moon-landing. I did have a poster of Armstrong stood on the moon on my bedroom wall for many years.

The JFK library has a site (We Choose The Moon) that is recreating the events in real time, as they happened in real time. As I write  this entry, the missions is a little under two hours old. It includes large numbers of photos and videos from the mission.

Here is the speech at Rice University at which President John Kennedy announced the commitment to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. I occasionally think that my bosses set near impossible goals for project delivery, but this puts mine into perspective

Published in: on 16 July, 2009 at 6:39  Leave a Comment  

The Lemonade Stand

The Lemonade stand manned by young kids,  with a hand written stand is an institution of movies and US Television programs. Today, for the first time I had an opportunity to sample the product. Two children had set up a stall selling strawberry lemonade for 50c a cup, with a free cookie. The stand consisted of a metal cart, full of ice and a jug of the drink. It was excellent,  with a flavour of real strawberries rather than that unpleasant artificial taste that so many strawberry drinks posses.

Published in: on 12 July, 2009 at 17:18  Leave a Comment  


I travelled on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) for the first time last night. BART is a rail system that links cities in the East Bay with San Francisco. I used it to travel to the ball-game at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland. I wish to state the location of the stadium, as whilst it may sound obvious to you, the website for the forthcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup places the Oakland Coliseum in San Francisco. After breaking a losing streak on Monday, the A’s lost 5-3 to the Tigers with a rather limp performance.

The BART line is built on a broad gauge of 5ft 6in, making the compartments more spacious than traditional trains or London tube trains. The ticketing system was odd. I inserted by debit card into a machine and rather than the screen offering me a choice of destinations, there were a handful of on screen buttons: Buy Ticket ($20), Reduce by $1, Increase by $1, Reduce by 5c, and Increase by 5c. For a first timer this was confusing. I saw alongside the display a list of prices. The return to the Coliseum was $5.50, so I had to adjust the price down by pressing the reduce by $1 fourteen times until I had $6 on the ticket and then press the reduce by 5c until I had arrived at $5.50.


The trip itself was uneventful, with some of the route on raised tracks and the section through downtown Oakland running underground. The Coliseum station is connected by a raised walkway to the stadium and it is a very convenient way of getting to the game.

Published in: on 1 July, 2009 at 6:34  Leave a Comment