Previous “In My Mailbox” posts

Ah Hell, We’d Better Cancel the Mission

Monday, April 6th, 2020

In a recent issue of The Week magazine, I came across this correction:

A magazine correction reading “We erroneously wrote that the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster is 390 light-years from Earth. It is in fact 390 million light-years from Earth.

I’m definitely in favor of accuracy, and in favor of making things right. That said, there is no functional difference between these two distances. In practical terms, it’s the difference between a gagillion and a bazillion.

Speed Math (All Numbers Approximate)

Current speed record for a man-made object (The Juno spacecraft): 165,000 miles per hour

Speed of light (approximate): 186,000 miles per second

Multiple by which the speed of light is faster than the top speed of the Juno spacecraft: 4000

Time to reach the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster under the incorrect distance estimate, assuming we could max out at the Juno’s speed: 1.5 million years

Time to reach the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster with an accurate distance estimate instead: 1.5 trillion years

Either way, I don’t think any of us have that kind of time.

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.

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.

Fun With Titles

Friday, March 30th, 2018

I’ve written about this before:

But if you’re not taking fake titles for yourself whenever possible:

You’re missing out on the ways in which junk mail can bring you joy.

An Anticlimactic Conclusion

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Well, this will be anticlimactic for most, but the mailbox poopers have been revealed to be my good friends James and Jill. They sent me an email with the following:

  • We hope you enjoyed the lovely present we sent you. We saw it and thought of you. The checkout process had no way to include a note.

So the real culprit here is a terrible checkout process. I hope we’ve all learned something. Namely, that it’s possible to send a stuffed pile of poo emoji through the mail, to anyone you love (or hate). Well, if this site’s faithful readers hadn’t managed to buy up so many that they’d sold out, anyway.

Sold Out
Y’all have a lot of disposable income.

Who Pooped My Mailbox?

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Back in November, I purchased a stuffed emoji pile of poo pillow.

November Pile of Poo Pic
Smiling Brown Triangle

How do I know it was November? Well, because said pillow was actually a work expense for my lady Maggie, at her completely professional and totally mature job. I used Square Cash (Square Cash!) to get paid back, complete with a dated explanation in an appropriately cartoony bubble.

Square Negotiations
Really rather expensive for a poop pillow

Anyhow, flash forward to yesterday, when a mysterious package arrived in my mailbox from So Unique Gifts.

February Pile of Poo Pic
It looks angry.

Now I appreciate the opportunity to earn some Instagram likes as much as the next guy, but thus far, I’ve gotten no answers. Multiple people have expressed that they wished they’d been the ones to send me this, but none have actually claimed responsibility. So, who did it? Reveal yourself, shitposter!

Update (February 22nd, 2016): Tune in to this mystery’s not-very-exciting conclusion!

Perception Is Reality

Friday, March 26th, 2010

I often order used books and CDs online, via sites like or Amazon. These purchases ensure that I receive a steady flow of packages in the mail, which in turns deludes me into believing that someone, somewhere, loves me.

At an average cost of under $5 per purchase, this system is far less expensive than either psychotherapy or frequenting prostitutes. It’s a win for me, a win for the sellers, and a win for the US Postal Service.

Well, it was a win for the USPS, until I received this particular package:

The Package

This book came in the mail, brought to me by a postal worker in short pants. It traveled some 3000 miles to get here, all so it could shatter my illusions.

You see, all my life, I’ve been stamping envelopes and paying for postage on packages. No more! After receiving this package and looking at the upper right corner, I now know it’s as simple as this:

The Stamp

So thank you, Timothy Wall of California. You’ve shown me that a package can make it across the entire continent on the fumes of fantasy. In so doing, you’ve opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to compensation.

Now who wants some Kafasis Bucks?

It's Money!
Kafasis Bucks – They’re Money!

The Republican Census is Depressingly Evil

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Yesterday, I mentioned the US Census, which will be arriving in mailboxes soon. However, you may have already received one “census”, specifically the:

2010 Congressional District Census
(Commissioned by the Republican Party)

The Republican Census

Yes, the Republican National Committee sent out fundraising letters designed to look like the official national Census. That someone could think it was a reasonable idea to create a mock census, particularly in the year of the official Census, is bad enough. But the way this is framed1 is absolutely bereft of even the slightest hint of human decency.

I received a later, slightly toned-down version of this “census”. It seems that complaints, either from recipients or the government itself, caused the Republicans to change things up a bit. Nevertheless, the version I received is still designed to look as official as possible:

  • The outer envelope shows my congressional district, useful solely in making this appear official, as well as the instruction DO NOT DESTROY.

  • The first line of the accompanying letter says “Your immediate action is required.”

  • The survey itself again indicates my congressional district. It also reads * DO NOT DESTROY * DO NOT DESTROY * DO NOT DESTROY * DO NOT DESTROY * DO NOT DESTROY * and talks about things like “ensuring that this Registered Survey is properly accounted for”.

Was I fooled? No. Might some people be fooled? Absolutely, and that’s not good for the real Census. Fortunately, it appears the practice will be banned in the future, with even Republicans in the House realizing how heinous this really is.

Nevertheless, I filled out the survey truthfully, even the incredibly leading questions2. I did have to modify the closing statement they provided for me, however. That modification is faithfully reproduced below.

Dear Chairman Steele,
I believe the principles and policies of the Republican Party are worth fighting for nearly non-existent and morally reprehensible, respectively. And I want to rebuild and refocus our Party all across the country to recruit and elect leaders that will listen to my concerns and fight for my interests. That’s why I am sending the RNC a supporting contribution snarky reply today.

Enclosed, please find my gift of: Something dense, just like you, to increase the postage cost.

Return Envelope

I’m off to find some thin sheets of lead. They really shouldn’t have given me a postage-paid envelope.


  1. If you think you stomach it, you can download the full letter here. ↩︎

  2. Q: Do you support the creation of a national health insurance plan that would be administered by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.?
    A: Yes. We’ve already got one called Medicare. And another called Medicaid. They work pretty damned well, you pathetic fearmongers. ↩︎

Hey, That’s Me! I’m a Resident! 

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Over the past week, many people have received a letter from the Census Bureau, letting them know that the census form is coming. Plenty of lousy jokes have ensued.

The census is coming

These letters are a criminal waste of resources though, right? Apparently not. Direct from the Census Bureau:

In fact, every one percent increase in the number of households who mail back the form saves the taxpayers about $85 million in expensive door-to-door follow up…We have extensive research that shows additional mailings alerting households to the arrival of the census form increase response rates by about 6 to 12 percentage points.

The savings from that increase more than pay for these mailings. It costs about $85 million to print and mail the advance letter and reminder postcard. The potential increase in response rates demonstrated by our research could result in a savings of more than $500 million.

So, it cost $85 million, but it will save an estimated $500 million (and possibly as much as a billion dollars). That’s pretty good.