Previous “Features” posts

On the Cutting Edge of the ’90s

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

Out here on the Information Superhighway, it’s possible to do all manner of amazing things. You can get directions to almost anywhere, purchase just about anything, and even pay your condo fees online. Wow!

Recently, the management company for my condo association updated their website. Here, in all its glory, is their new-for-2019 login page:

Let’s ignore the fact that this page is using the word “portal”, because I want to focus on what really caught my eye:

It’s a small detail, of course, but capitalizing email as “eMail” feels like a throwback to about 1991. Wikipedia currently identifies five different ways of referring to email, and “eMail” doesn’t even make that overly comprehensive list. Heck, even a dash between “e” and “mail” has been out of style for years.

Still, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, this was the signature on the email announcing the new login page:

Ah yes, I can really hear the sincerity of this eMail.

The USPS Is Not Good at Email

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to find the USPS’s “Star Ribbon” stamp designed by Aaron Draplin. I looked for it in multiple local post offices, and when I was traveling, I’d check in at their post office as well. Each and every time I was met with blank stares and a complete lack of knowledge about this product.

Eventually, I decided to place an order via the USPS website.1 This process was fast and easy, and I didn’t have to talk to anyone at all. To top it off, the shipping rate was a measly $1.30, and I’d easily pay much more than that to avoid another trip to the post office. I ordered on August 1st and quickly got an email receipt with a status of “Order Placed”. Just four days later, on August 5th, I received my stamps. They actually shipped via Priority Mail, which should cost about $7, so the Post Office is cutting themselves some kind of deal on shipping. I suppose they can get away with that.


Hey, Good Lookin’
[Photo courtesy of P. Kafasis]

As you can see, I had my stamps, and I was pleased. I also assumed our transaction was complete. As such, I was quite surprised to wake up a full 12 days later to email from the USPS:

Yes, on August 17th, I received a notice via email that my order had shipped. I was very much aware of that, as I’d received the package almost two weeks prior

I really can’t fathom what happened here. Is this how their system always works? That would be preposterous, and yet, not out of the realm of possibility. Worth mentioning, I actually received two identical copies of this email. That may point to a server issue which got overzealously corrected days later. Regardless of how or why this email was sent, though, it was more than a little confusing.

Perhaps because of this sort of thing, the email includes this footer:

A footer reading: This is an automated email, please do not reply to this message. This message is for the designated recipient only and may contain privileged, proprietary, or otherwise private information. If you have received it in error, please delete. Any other use of the email by you is prohibited.

That’s quite a catch-all at the end there:

Any other use of the email by you is prohibited.

I imagine “sharing this email to mock the post office’s bizarre handling of online ordering” might fall under that prohibited use, huh? Well, I hope you’ll all visit me in mail jail.

Previously in strange USPS status tracking: Make a Copy for Yourselves Too


Footnotes:

  1. As I write this, only coils of 3,000 or 10,000 stamps are available, for thousands of dollars each. Fortunately, when I ordered, it was possible to buy sheets of 20.↩︎

Sure, Sure, a House Hug

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

For reasons beyond my understanding, I receive catalogs in the mail. Though I actively work to get off mailing lists, this seems to only slow the stream, never stop it. Recently, I received a catalog from “Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams”. After a quick Google search, I determined that that’s both a furniture company and the names of the two men who co-founded the company.

According to the company’s website, Mitchell and Bob have a shared vision, “to make the world a more comfortable place: for all”. The cover of the catalog I received seems to indicate they may also have a shared mouth:

This is, supposedly, a quote, and it’s attributed to both men. It’s got quotation marks and everything. Are we supposed to believe they said this in unison? Did they have a script in front of them, and maybe do a little count-down so they’d be in sync? The whole thing seems ridiculous.

In completely related news, Catalog Choice is a quick and handy way to reduce the amount of junk catalogs you receive, and save a few trees as well.

I’ve Said It Before, Costco Is Just Not Using Good Printers

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Back in June, I wrote about embracing the glorious imperfection of a terrible photo of oneself. By way of an example, I showed off my ridiculously terrible Costco ID photograph, once again seen here:


.

Last month, Costco joined the future, allowing customers to present a digital version of their ID via their iPhone. I figured this could reduce the number of cards I need to carry, so I set it up. Little did I know that this would provide me with a much higher-quality


.

Despite my being a member for just a few years, the photograph appears to have been taken with a ’90s-era webcam. Still, compared to the physical version, this pic is practically high-definition. The addition of color really brings out the dumbness of my face. My favorite detail, however, is just how askew the backdrop is. You can even see the cement wall behind it! This one dumb snap continues to pay dividends, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

Signs of Provincetown

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

I recently took a day trip from Boston to Provincetown. While there, I saw an assortment of amusing signs I’m now delighted to share with you.

“No Ranger, I Don’t Have Any Cannabis. Just This Here Legal Weed.”

To reach Provincetown, I took the fast ferry across several bays, arriving by water. As I exited the ferry, I was immediately confronted with this sign:

A sign providing a quote note about cannabis endquote

Though cannabis is now legal in Massachusetts, it’s still illegal at a federal level. As a result, many travelers might be carrying legally, until they step foot on federal soil. This is thus a useful sign, in theory.

It immediately goes off the rails, however, with the asterisk. I suspect the word “cannabis” is generally known, but surely “marijuana” would’ve been understood by anyone who needs to know what’s what. As for “herb” and “grass”, well, I simply have to wonder what the hell decade it is. Also worth noting, green generally means go and is also the color of marijuana, but the green areas on the map represents the places where possession would be illegal. And finally, could we get some punctuation here? My god, the more I look at this, the more of a train wreck of design it is.

1, 6, 7, 12, 13, 18, 19, 24 Etcetera

Next up, I stumbled upon a wild sale going on at Lighthouse Candles:

That’s just too many candles! That means you can leave Lighthouse Candles with one (1) candle, or six (6) candles, but not two (2), three (3), four (4), or five (5). Fortunately, I realized there was another number of candles one could leave with, zero (0).

Fess Up, Lululemon

Back down Commercial Street, I had to wonder exactly how much of a “pop-up” a store can be when it has a permanent sign:

“Oh hi! We just popped up with 5000 of these dumb bags! Buy some yoga pants!”

What Does It Mean?

Finally, we have a sign from Arnold’s Rent-A-Bike. Last year, I mocked them elsewhere for their slogan. That was on-the-nose, and more than a little redundant, but it was at least straight-forward. This, however, I don’t even know how to interpret:

A sign that says Helmets available for quote-safety-endquote

I honestly don’t understand how I should interpret this sign. Are they using quotes on the word “safety” for emphasis? This is certainly wrong, though it’s not uncommon. However, no emphasis is needed there, and there are no other quotes anywhere else. As a result, it reads to me as being sarcastic, as if to express their disdain for bicycle helmets. Is that a thing people do? The cartoon family behaving recklessly sure seems to, I suppose.

Ultimately, I spent the entire 90 minute ferry ride home contemplating this sign. Even now, however, I’m still no closer to an answer.

Make a Copy for Yourselves Too

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

The US Postal Service has long been known to have utterly terrible tracking for deliveries:

In 2019, however, there’s a superior way to track packages. Google recently began providing a card showing package status when you search for a tracking number:

The results are quite good. Here’s a screenshot taken this past weekend, of a package in transit:

And here’s that same package today, after the item was delivered on Tuesday:

That’s helpful, and certainly what I hoped to find.

What I can’t understand, however, is how Google is beating USPS at their own tracking game using data USPS is giving them. It says right there, “Data provided by USPS”. And yet, here’s the same tracking number, run through USPS’s tracking page today 24 hours after the package was delivered:

Perhaps USPS provided Google with the only copy of the data.

Don’t Be Distracted

Friday, July 26th, 2019

Yesterday, a story broke that Donald Trump had spoken in front of a fake presidential seal while at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit.

This seal featured multiple shots at Trump, included a two-headed eagle alluding to his shady Russian dealings, a set of golf clubs, and a wad of money. While it’s still not clear how this image wound up projected behind Trump (the hosts have blamed it on a now-former member of the A/V team), the creator of the logo is known. Washington Post caught up with Charles Leazott, a former Republican who’s tickled at how this all went down.

This story is certainly good for a moment of levity, but unfortunately, it’s taking attention away from a much more unsettling story out of the very same event. The actual content of the speech Trump gave is disturbing. In short, Trump falsely claimed that he can do whatever he wants as president.

Trump claimed, “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.”

“But, I don’t even talk about that,” he added, “because they did a report and there was no obstruction.”

This is, in one word, wrong. The trouble is, the way a president is held accountable is via Congress. Without an independent legislative branch, the power of the American presidency really can go unchecked. That is proving disastrous for our democracy, and it’s the real story we should be watching.

“Economy Acceptable” Would Be More Accurate

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

While planning a recent trip to London, I discovered that Virgin Atlantic has some rather amusing fare types. They have “Upper Class”, their top level, with full lay-flat beds. One step down, they have “Premium”, which offers an “extra-large leather seat”. Though “Upper Class” is a slightly stuffier sounding name for “First Class”, these are generally fairly standard.

Where things get goofy is “Economy”. Virgin offers not one, not two, but three flavors of “Economy”. As of 2019, they are:

  • Economy Light

  • Economy Classic

  • Economy Delight

If you’re skeptical, I understand. Here’s a screenshot from their site:

Given this bizarre set of options, I would dearly love to what didn’t make the cut, because I bet the rejects were amazingly terrible. You know you’re not going to have a great time in “Economy”, period, but the name “Economy Light” leaves me thinking you might well find yourself “seated” in the overhead compartment. There’s also nothing “Classic” about “Economy”, at least not in any positive, “Coca-Cola Classic” sense of that word.

Ultimately, I went with an “Economy Delight” ticket. I wasn’t delighted to pay extra, nor would I describe my travels as “delightful”, but it clearly beat the alternatives.

Recent Snippets

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Today, a brief collection of things I recently read that made me laugh!

That Was the Problem in the First Place, Roy

A short note on Roy Moore taking another run at the Senate in Alabama included this gem:

Roy Moore, the 2017 Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama who lost the race after being accused of sexual misconduct, announced on Thursday he’s running again…When asked what he’ll do differently in his campaign this time, Moore said he would “make more personal contact with people.” Moore was accused of sexual assault and of pursuing sexual relationships with teenagers while in his 30s.

Whether it was intentional or not, props to the writer for placing that quote where they did.

It’s Real, and It’s Spectacularly Awful

While reading some restaurant news, I saw the following quote:

…the owner of dumpling-centered catering business Dumps-A-GoGo

Believe it or not, that is a real business, with a website and everything.

A Rabbit Does Not Need To Fly With You

Finally, in terrible people possibly getting what they deserve, we have the case of Congressman Duncan Hunter. He and his wife appear to have misspent hundreds of thousands of campaign funds. Now, prosecutors have flipped his wife, and she’s testifying against her guilty-as-sin husband. As part of that, we got this headline:

Duncan Hunter’s wife admits she bought plane ride for pet bunny with campaign funds

My initial thought on reading this was that she’d taken the rabbit on a sightseeing trip, possibly for its birthday. A closer reading indicates that the spending was to fly the rabbit on a commercial airliner, at a cost of $500. That would be a goofy use of one’s own money, but when you’re illegally spending campaign funds in that fashion, it becomes one of the stupidest crimes I can fathom.

In closing, the bunny’s name is “Eggburt”.

The Dream Remains Alive

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Since 2012, I’ve been hoping Mike Carp would make his way to the Los Angeles Angels, joining an elite school group of players who share a last name with a type of fish. In 2015, a minor league contract brought Carp close to the right city, but the wrong team. In 2016, he fell out of pro baseball entirely, before his 30th birthday.

However, Google Alerts never say die. A recent email showed me that Carp is now playing for the New Britain Bees, an independent league team, as he attempts a return to the majors.

A Google Alert with news on Mike Carp

Better still, the Alert included news of recent Bees game, where Carp had an RBI base hit. Keep it up, Mike, and hopefully the Angels will come calling soon.