From the "Mailstrom"

Tidbits, this 'n' that from around the web about letters and letter-writing, selected by Lex editors, Gary and Lonna.


The rarest of the rare

December 29, 2006

Not having any luck in the lotteries? Here's another way to get rich – just find a rare stamp and sell it! Well, maybe easier said than done, because the big money goes for stamps so rare that only one or two are known to exist, and the prices can be astounding. Most of the really rare ones are printing errors that were caught before more than a few stamps were made, but others were extremely limited releases to begin with. Lee's Illustrated Stamp Listopedia has photos of some examples. The alleged second copy of the magenta stamp at the top is now widely believed to be a fake; the Three Skilling Banco was declared a forgery by Sweden Post a few decades ago, but later examined by experts and pronounced real. Can you imagine spending more money than many people make in a lifetime on a stamp, only to learn later that it's a common stamp that's been tampered with?

Let the celebration begin!

December 20, 2006

Whee! LEX's 25th birthday is generating enthusiasm – many Lexers who've been taking a break for a few issues are re-subscribing and the Winter Issue will have lots of listings. There'll be letters of reminiscence, and several generous Lexers have sent in articles and memorabilia about LEX history; we've started work on a timeline. Watch for the first birthday issue in February!

Are you ready for 2007?

December 11, 2006

The list of 2007 stamps is out – actually, it's been out for several weeks. There's a wealth of new images coming – chocolate love, Oklahoma Statehood, Ella Fitzgerald, James Stewart, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Northern Lights and Southern Lights, Jamestown Settlement (which looks to be a triangular stamp – we don't recall ever seeing those before), a wedding symbol, 4 different wildflowers being pollinated (one by a bat!), 10 images of tundra, 5 lighthouses, 20 Marvel superheroes, a Tiffany image, 4 mahogany speedboats, 4 Disney cartoons, an early desegregation lawsuit, jury duty, 4 holiday knits, and a Madonna. You can see color pictures [link no longer active] and a detailed discussion of the topic depicted on each stamp at the USPS website.

When Christmas stamps aren't enough

December 5, 2006

Again this year you can have your holiday cards postmarked from Frost, Rudolph, or almost 100 other cities with holiday-sounding names. Or you can have your child (of any age) write a letter to Santa and get a reply from the Big Red Guy. Information and a list of the holiday cities is available at the USPS Holiday [link no longer active] website. You'll need to hurry – cards should arrive at the post offices by December 14 in order to be delivered by Christmas.

By the buy...

November 27, 2006

We've added some shopping links to our resource page, The Writer's Block – stationery, pens, etc. We've looked for sites that have something a bit out of the ordinary, and tried to focus on independent or family-owned businesses that aren't well-known. Most of the online stores have an affiliate program, so if you go to them through our links, we'll get a commission on everything you buy – a great way to help support LEX. And if you don't see anything you want now, check back later, because we'll be adding more links as time goes by.

Speaking of snails...

November 23, 2006

It's always good to allow a little extra time for mail delivery around the winter holidays...but 14 years? A letter to the editor [link no longer active] of the British newspaper The Independent reports on a postcard mailed from Israel in 1991 that arrived at its destination in Hampshire, UK in 2005!

Not so lost after all

November 13, 2006

While it's become almost a mantra in some parts of our culture to say that writing letters is a thing of the past (a Google search for "art of letter writing" brings up 314,000 hits, 236,000 of which also come up for "lost art of letter writing"), others know better. Today's Rose is Rose [link no longer active] comic strip is a fun example (hopefully the theme will continue in the next few days). Or take a look at the write more letters [link no longer active] section of 43 Things, a website whose users encourage each other to achieve their goals, and see what hundreds of people are saying about writing letters. There are also sections for "write more letters by hand" and "find a pen pal"; we have an idea how they could do that!

Voting by mail

November 7, 2006

For those who live in the U.S., today is Election Day, traditionally known as "going to the polls". Increasingly, though, voting is being conducted through the mail. Absentee voting, when one is away from home at election time or has a disability making it difficult to get to the polls, has a long tradition, but the new trend in some places is to encourage mail voting for everyone. One state, Oregon, has eliminated polling places altogether, and another, Washington, has a high percentage of voters with "permanent absentee" status. In all, 23 states have some form of "no excuse absentee" voting, which allows a person to choose to receive ballots by mail without having one of the traditional reasons. Usually ballots can be mailed back or taken to election offices, which often have drop boxes that look like USPS postal drop boxes except for the paint. Supporters (including a national movement, the Vote By Mail Project [link no longer active], say it increases voter participation, saves money, and avoids the potential mechanical problems of voting machines; opponents express concern about the possibility of fraud.

New Zealand uses a similar system in local elections, and the U.K. has trialled such a system, but experienced some logistical problems and accusations of fraud, as well as substantial opposition from voters. Canada, Spain, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark have allowed voting by mail for years or decades. In Germany and Ireland one can apply for permission to do so, and in Sweden one can go to the post office to vote early. A summary of postal voting by country can be found at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance's web site [link no longer active].

Is it real, or is it...?

November 5, 2006

In the very early 1900s, Kodak issued a small pocket camera, pre-loaded with film, with which people could take photographs to be printed onto mailable postcards, starting the "Real Photo Postcard" movement. Soon many people were sending real photos of their vacations and family milestones, and traveling photographers were going from city to city, documenting people, places, and events. Today these old postcards are valuable to historians (many show ordinary people in real situations), architectural restorers (they document buildings, including houses that may not otherwise have been photographed), and others, especially since cameras contained a small metallic pen with which the photographer could write the name, date, or other information describing the photograph onto the negative. Many can be found in antique shops for small prices, in attics and basements, and in family photo collections. But are they authentic or reproductions? There are two ways to tell, using a strong magnifying glass. If the picture is made up of a series of tiny dots, rather than a continuous image, then it's not a real photo. Also, a real photo will show a smooth rather than abrupt transition from one tone to another.

When the mail gets scary

October 31, 2006

Goblins and vampires and werewolves, oh my! (Ghosts too.) In 1997 Canada Post issued a series of 4 "Supernatural" stamps. Contrary to the cute effect one might expect on a postal stamp, these designs by German-born Louis Fishauf are actually quite eerie. You can view them (if you dare) on the 1997 page [link no longer active] of the Postal Archives at Library and Archives Canada's web site. They're in the next to last row, and clicking on each stamp will bring up a larger picture and a description of the creature depicted.

When the mail gets dirty

October 26, 2006

The decrease in personal mail and the increase in postal deposit sites in supermarkets and malls aren't the only reasons that the traditional blue boxes are gradually disappearing. As this article [link no longer active] reports, abuse is also taking its toll. Apparently some people think it's fun to put things other than letters in the boxes, and sometimes that can result in the need to clean the mail before it can finish its journey.

Buy 'em once...

October 19, 2006

Canada is joining the growing list of countries with a permanent stamp that doesn't have a specific amount printed on it, and can therefore be used for current basic letter-rate mail even after a rate increase. Three designs can be viewed at the Canada Post press release [link no longer active]; it's not clear to us if all three will be available as permanent stamps when they go on sale November 16.

The Autumn issue is in the mail

October 12, 2006

Usually when our mailing date of the 15th is on a Sunday we mail the day before, but this year we have a family gathering on the weekend, so we popped everything in the mail today, the 12th. Rather than compete with the reds and yellows and oranges that have been festooning the landscape in Minnesota for the last couple of weeks, we chose a nice green for the cover, complemented with a blue special insert. First Class subscribers can start looking for it by the first half of next week, maybe even this weekend depending on distance and mail loads; the holiday catalog season has begun so some mail delivery might be a little slower than at other times of the year. International subscribers could see it show up by the end of next week. Standard Mail is more variable and more affected by mail volume; anywhere from next week through the end of October is possible depending on location. Whenever you get it, we hope you enjoy Issue 11!

The Autumn issue is in sight

October 6, 2006

Are you eagerly anticipating Issue 11? We hope so! We sent the files to the printer on Monday, approved the proofs on Tuesday, and expect to have boxes of issues by mid-week at the latest. We replenished our stamp supply today, so this weekend will see some stamping and labelling in preparation for next week's stuffing. And before we know it, it will be time to start on Issue 12!

Progress marches on, part 2

September 30, 2006

It's not just after a letter is collected that technological and social changes are causing some old traditions to fall by the wayside – the collection process itself is changing, as this article in the Los Angeles Times reports. The ubiquitous blue box with its pull-down handle and list of collection times is becoming less common, particularly in residential neighborhoods, as mail deposit slots and even post offices sprout in malls and grocery stores and people conduct more transactions on the web. (This is not entirely a recent trend. We remember an official post office counter at The Basket Shoppe, a gift shop a block from college in the late 60s. But it had a blue box on the sidewalk outside for when the store was closed.)

Progress marches on

September 24, 2006

If you've looked at the outside of delivered mail in recent months, you've probably noticed there are many fewer envelopes sporting the traditional circle postmark. The USPS is switching to a 2-line style – here's an article [link no longer active] about the change. As it points out, the traditional circular postmarks have been getting less frequent for some time, due to postage meters and permit imprints (which have also reduced the number of actual stamps used, to the dismay of collectors), and the consolidation of processing and delivery centers has blurred the exact origin of even postmarked mail for some time – it's been a while since one could look at an envelope or postcard and know the exact town it was mailed from. Something the article doesn't mention is that the new postmark lines, especially from areas with long names, are so wide that they can print partially over the return address on a standard postcard or small envelope – looking through recent LEX mail we see several examples. Will these smaller items be phased out, will return addresses increasingly go on the back of envelopes (immune to the USPS machinery so far), or will the 2-line postmark be modified to take up less horizontal room? Time will tell.

And the winners are...

September 11, 2006

You may remember that back in March we mentioned The Graceful Envelope Contest. Did you enter? About 375 people did, and the judges picked approximately 50 adults and a dozen children to have their envelopes exhibited on the Washington Calligraphers Guild's web site [link no longer active] and elsewhere. This year's theme was "A Fine Line", and the winning envelopes range from the whimsical (including some puns on the word "line") to the serious. Winners from past years are there, too. It's obvious that a lot of careful effort went into the envelopes – wouldn't you love to get one of these in your mailbox?

Fonts 'R' Not Us

September 1, 2006

Have you ever searched for us on the web and found yourself at the site of The Letter Exchange, a British "society for professionals involved in the whole spectrum of the lettering arts and crafts, from calligraphy and letter-cutting, through design for print, publishing and typography, to signage and architectural lettering"? They were founded in 1988 to support quality in the design of written, printed and manufactured language through exhibitions, art college courses, and a magazine called Forum. They have slightly over 100 professional members, of whom several dozen show examples of their work on the society's web site, (note the ".org").

Put a what on it?

August 25, 2006

Each year since 1998, Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief of Beloit College have released the Beloit College Mindset List, a list of the cultural paradigms that have shaped the outlook of entering college freshmen – from the fact that the Soviet Union didn't exist in their lifetime to the ubiquity of ATMs to their probably never having made popcorn in a pan. This year, #36 on the list [link no longer active] is "They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp."

What price letters?

August 19, 2006

Many of us involved in this correspondence activity would say that letters are priceless, but there's a group that puts a price on them – collectors of historical memorabilia. At an auction late last year, Geppi's Memorabilia Road Show sold a handwritten letter from General George Custer for $87,750; one from Abraham Lincoln went for $26,325, and John Wilkes Booth was not far behind at $22,230...

"...the men have not done too good a job..."

August 12, 2006

Abraham Lincoln on whiskers, Herbert Hoover on women as Presidents, Harry Truman explaining the difference (in his view, of course) between Democrats and Republicans – these are some of the topics that Presidents wrote about in replies to children's letters. Connect For Kids [link no longer active] prints excerpts, from Washington to Nixon, from a book collection of such letters, Dear Young Friend: The Letters of American Presidents to Children by Stanley and Rodelle Weintraub.

How do you say "penpal" in Bosnian?

August 5, 2006

Are you learning a new language or brushing up on an old one, or would you like to try? Penpals can help! You could ask your current penfriends if they speak the lingo you're interested in and then try out your rusty French or beginning Turkish in letters. Or you could let My Language Exchange match you with a native speaker e-mail pal. You practice your new pal's language and your pal practices yours. Sounds fun!

There's a house on a hill...

July 28, 2006

In the mid-1970s Jane Roberts and her husband Rob Butts, who had been producing the "Seth" books for the last decade, were searching for a house in New York and Pennsylvania. They detailed their use of intuition in the search process in their books, especially The 'Unknown' Reality, Volume 2 and Psychic Politics, and in these and later books they referred to their eventual choice as "the hill house" because of its location on a hill in the outskirts of Elmira.

Shortly after Jane's death a decade later Rob wrote in the introduction to Seth, Dreams and Projection of Consciousness: "Eventually mail began to arrive addressed to us simply at 'The Hill House, Elmira, N.Y.' The people at the post office still see to it that such pieces are delivered."

Einstein on life, love, and relativity

July 19, 2006

The daughter of Albert Einstein's second wife bequeathed more than a thousand letters from and to Einstein to Hebrew University when she died in 1986, with the proviso that they not be made public until this year. They're now being released and reveal details about Einstein's various marriages and love affairs, as well as his relationship with his family, his thoughts about his flight from Nazi Germany, and his fear that he would become "fed up with relativity." An article about the letters' release can be found here [link no longer active].

Random acts of postcard

July 13, 2006

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Postcrossing, a free Web site dedicated to connecting random postcard senders around the world. Headquartered in Portugal, it operates in English and has more than 10,000 registered users in well over 100 countries who have sent close to 200,000 postcards. When you register you can request up to 5 random addresses at a time, and when your recipients register that they received your postcard (you'll be given code numbers to write on the cards), then your address will be given to the next user requesting addresses. The Web site includes statistics, maps, a forum, and a link to a users' gallery. The BBC has written a short article (scroll down) and a long article [link no longer active] about Postcrossing. Check it out!

Letter styles

July 9, 2006

I've been thinking about the variety of letters I receive – so many different styles of correspondence. Letters written with an orange calligraphy pen, letters with newspaper clippings included, letters on pretty stationery, letters on lined notebook paper, letters with sketches in them, handmade cards. I love it! I also like to organize ideas so I decided to plot the styles on a grid – the kind with an X axis and a Y axis making four quadrants.

For the vertical Y axis I chose words/pictures. Some letters are all verbal and, at the other end of the axis, some letters are mostly visual (I'm thinking of some handmade holiday cards I get). For the horizontal axis I chose found/original as the two ends. For example, a newspaper clipping is found – a separate inclusion – while a handdrawn sketch within a letter is original.

So quadrant I, top left, is mostly words, letters alone, with clipped articles or book reviews, or printed in fancy fonts; quadrant III, bottom right, is mail art – illustrated letters, handmade cards, decorated envelopes. Quadrant II is letters with calligraphy or with the words laid out creatively; quadrant IV is stickers and inserts of cartoons and photos.

I'm lucky to have penfriends from each of the four camps. I tend to be a quadrant I or IV person and I wish I had more talent for quadrant III. Where do you fall in the grand letter-writing scheme? – Lonna

Letters of van Gogh

July 1, 2006

WebExhibits, an online museum, has a searchable and annotated collection of the letters of (and many to) Vincent van Gogh, some written in English and many of the originals translated into English by van Gogh's sister. They span the period from 19 years old to a letter written 6 days before his death at the age of 37, found on him after he died. The index to the letters allows the user to search for over 16,000 individual words or 62 topics, or well over 1000 artwork citations, as well as to read entire letters. Many of the letters not from Vincent are to him from his brother Theo (who is also the recipient of the bulk of the letters), and a few are from his parents to his brother. The site can be found here.

Insight from the comics

June 20, 2006

I ran across another one of those articles recently, about the importance of prioritization and time management. Essentially they say that what you do is what you really want to do, not what you say you want to do. Recently a Lexer sent us a Peanuts cartoon that illustrates the point perfectly. In the first panel, Charlie Brown is writing to a "pencil pal". In the next two panels he says he watches too much TV and wants to write more letters. In the final panel, he closes the letter by saying he has to go because his favorite program is coming on. And I have to go now, dear reader, because I'm going to go write a letter! – Lonna

Issue 10 is here!

June 16, 2006

Issue 10 was mailed out yesterday – First Class in the morning, and Standard Mail at the bulk station in the afternoon. We had some concerns about the weather and had the Standard issues wrapped in black plastic bags so they wouldn't get wet in the predicted heavy rain, but it held off til today so we didn't need them after all. This weekend we'll be updating the Web site with the issue-related links and a cover scan and table of contents – and then cleaning LEX World Headquarters, which always looks like a windstorm has swept through it by the time an issue is carted off to the PO...

Issue 10 is getting near...

June 11, 2006

The Summer 2006 issue should be back from the printer within a day or two, ready for its June 15 mailing. This issue marks the beginning of our fourth year – it's a cliché, but it really doesn't seem like it's been that long.

Reuniting letters

May 29, 2006

Heather Piper has started a very worthwhile project – finding old letters that are being sold (in antique shops, on eBay. etc.) and returning them to the descendants of the original authors. If you have any letters to contribute, or want to see if she has a letter from one of your ancestors, her Web site is The Epistolary (Letter) Project [link no longer active].

Coming together...

May 22, 2006

Issue 10 is making progress – we have all but one page completed in its rough form. Now comes proofreading (listings have gone through 3 proofs before they're even put in the layout, but sometimes we find something anyway), fine-tuning the spacing so everything lines up nicely (which was easier back in the pre-word processor days, when there weren't different sizes of fonts and blank lines), and trying to get the best look to the drawings and photos (which is partially guesswork, since the final result is pressed from plates). We're aiming at having the copy to the printer by June 5 – June 2 would be even better, but we like to let it sit for a week while we pretend not to think about it and then check it one final time to see if there's any trees we couldn't see for the forest when we were immersed in it...

Stamps forever – or at least a "forever stamp"

May 13, 2006

The USPS is proposing another rate increase for next year, due to the rising cost of gas and health care – they have 42 cents in mind. At the same time, they're suggesting issuing a "forever stamp", which would be sold at whatever the going rate for First Class is at the time of sale, and then be good for First Class postage forever. So a forever stamp bought at 42 cents could be used when the price rises to 45, or 50, or $1.89 (just kidding...we hope). No information yet on whether people could hoard forever stamps and later sell them at a rate between their original purchase and some future price...

A good cause

May 2, 2006

On Saturday, May 13, mail carriers in many areas will be picking up donations of non-perishable food from residential mailboxes for delivery to local food shelves. Here's a description from last year's press release:

"Letter carriers in more than 10,000 cities and towns across America will collect non-perishable food items donated by postal customers on the second Saturday of May. They will be participating in the annual National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Food Drive – the largest one-day food drive in the nation. Almost 1,500 local NALC branches in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands will collect food donations left by mailboxes and in Post Offices and deliver them to local community food banks, pantries and shelters.

'The NALC Food Drive makes a difference for thousands of disadvantaged Americans, and we are proud to be a partner,' said Postmaster General John E. Potter. 'The drive is a wonderful occasion for us to join forces and collect millions of pounds of food for distribution to community food banks and other charitable organizations.' In 2004, the drive collected a record 70.9 million pounds of food for the needy, making the total amount of donations to community food banks and pantries from the NALC Food Drive over the last 12 years well over a half billion pounds.

The NALC Food Drive has received numerous accolades, including two Presidential Certificates of Achievement, a Special Appreciation Award in 2003 from America's Second Harvest Food Bank Network, the annual Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2003 from Bon Appetit/Food Network and the annual World Hunger Year/Chapin Award in 2004.

More than 110 million postcards were mailed to customers in towns and cities throughout America letting them know how they can help. Customers who may not have received a postcard can check with their local Post Office to make sure it is a part of the drive this year, and then just place non-perishable food items next to their mailbox before the letter carrier delivers the mail. The letter carrier will do the rest by taking the food to the Post Office where it is sorted and delivered to an area food bank or pantry.

An estimated 30 million people face hunger every day in America, including more than 12 million children. This drive is one way you can help those right in your own city or town who need help."

Horses and letters

April 25, 2006

Recently I read another article comparing letter-writing and e-mail and attributing the decline of one to the rise of the other. I've said in an earlier blog entry that I think the phone started the decline in letter-writing, but I keep worrying at the idea, egged on by more articles. And remembering those standardized tests of my youth ("a is to b as c is to ___"), I'm inspired to compare relationships: I'm thinking that letter-writing today is to e-mail as horse-riding is to airplanes. Yep, that's it. For a long time horse-riding was the method of transporting people across distances but then there were trains and steam ships, automobiles and airplanes. Today horse-riding is more likely for fun. It might be the fun of riding or the fun of racing and betting or some other satisfying activity known to the members of the horse-loving community. Just so, letter-writing is a method of communication and for a long time was the method of keeping in touch with family and friends (and doing business) at a distance. Other technologies have largely replaced letters for that – the telephone, e-mail, cell phones, text messaging (with a detour of exchanging video tapes and cassette tapes). Today people write letters because they want to, not because it's the only game in town. It might be the satisfaction of getting to know new people, the novelty of doing that at a distance, the pleasure of the paraphernalia like pens and papers, the comfort of reading or writing a letter at leisure, or the creativity of illustrations, stamps, enclosures, or envelope art. It's not a lost art (yeah, the articles like to say that, too), it's a new focus: no longer primarily utilitarian, letter-writing can expand and morph and meet many different needs and desires. – Lonna

On the other end of the spectrum from extra millions...

April 16, 2006

Well, the LEX taxes are finally done. They were so much fun that we hate to see it end – but it's almost time to start putting together Issue 10, so we had to wrap things up and get them in the mail...

Have an extra million?

April 5, 2006

$1,187,000, to be exact. That's the price of the Peace Pen, the world's most expensive writing instrument, a one-of-a-kind pen made by Montegrappa, an Italian company renowned for its artistic pens. Crafted of platinum and crystal and decorated with 1259 diamonds (at least one of which is functional, exposing a hidden clip), the pen is engraved with 184 doves – and yes, it works!

"Handwritten letter-writing is very much with us"

April 3, 2006

That's the opinion of A. Michael Noll, professor of communications at the University of Southern California, quoted in a recent story on CNN [link no longer active]. He reports being surprised that more than half the students in his class say they send handwritten letters.

A Mailbox Comic

March 25, 2006

If you haven't already seen it, check out today's Rose is Rose comic strip... [link no longer active]

The Graceful Envelope

March 19, 2006

There's still time to enter The Graceful Envelope [link no longer active] contest – the deadline for the 12th annual contest is Friday, March 31, 2006. This year's contest is sponsored by the Washington Calligrapher's Guild and the National Association of Letter Carriers with the theme of The Fine Line. From the call for entries: " an artistic envelope around any kind of line: lines from movies, songs, books, poems and plays, fishing lines, subways lines, check-out lines, tan lines, chorus lines, foul lines, even felines."

The theme for 2005 was things starting with a P and the winning envelopes are stunning! Wouldn't you love to get one of these [link no longer active] in the mail?

Eating in the Post Office

March 8, 2006

Postal clerks do it all the time – but handmade ravioli stuffed with roast butternut pumpkin, spinach and nutmeg, topped with pinenuts, plus a nice bottle of Chardonnay to finish? That's on the menu at The Letterbox Restaurant, situated in a renovated historic Post Office in Terrigal, Australia.

Social Change and Letter Writing

February 25, 2006

I've just started reading Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, subtitled The Collapse and Revival of American Community. In an early section on how social change and generational change are related, Putnam uses letter writing as an example. He says social change can happen when many individuals change their ideas and behaviors at the same time. Putnam's first example is SUVs – Americans of all ages began to buy SUVs in large numbers in the 1990s. Putnam says social change also happens when, over time, generations think and act differently. This change is slower, showing its effects as generations pass away and are replaced by successors. Putnam attributes the decline in letter writing to this kind of generational change. People who grew up writing letters to distant family and friends as a way to keep in touch continue to write letters. Younger generations grew up with the phone as an easy means of distant communication and never developed the letter writing habit. I see that in my own life, where my mother wrote hers every Sunday night, sitting at the kitchen table with her portable, manual typewritter, tapping out a long retelling of the week's activities. When I left home, Mother hoped for the same from me but I preferred to just pick up the phone. Interestingly, I took to letter writing much later, not as a way of keeping in touch but as an enjoyable pastime – "meeting" new friends and looking at life from different perspectives. I like the paraphernalia of letter writing and the slow pace of pen across page. I think this is social change, too, when an activity changes its function and appeal. Letter writing is for fun! I think I'm going to enjoy this book, especially now that it's mentioned letter writing on page 34. – Lonna

Lookin' good...

February 24, 2006

...finally. After the first time that we uploaded the book photos for the Issue 9 related links page, some of them were rather strange – mottled dark blobs would be a good description. We figured out that we can't upload both HTML code and graphics in the same step and fixed things – but a day or two ago we noticed that they had reverted to the blob effect. So we uploaded yet again – hopefully this time they'll stay.

Long-lost stamp surfaces

February 14, 2006

A recent story on National Public Radio reports that an envelope that was lost for 38 years was recently found. What makes the envelope so exciting to stamp collectors is that it's the only one known to contain an 1869 90-cent Abraham Lincoln stamp. Here's a link [link no longer active] to the story, including a photo of the envelope and an audio file of the story.

Issue 9 is ready – it will be in the mail tomorrow! Watch for issue-related links coming soon – we have an interesting bunch this time, including a photo from LEX World Headquarters.

Issue 9 is at the printer

February 5, 2006

We sent Issue 9 to the printer on Friday – it should be back next Friday, with luck, giving time for a little flattening and then stuffing. This time we'll be including cards, so we hope we'll have the weekend for it, but one never knows exactly how long the print process will take. First they send us a PDF file for verification, then printing plates are made with 4 pages per plate. These are then printed, the pages dried and assembled, then folded, trimmed and stapled and finally boxed for delivery to us. The cards are being printed with raised ink – how that's achieved is a mystery to us.

So more good mail will be on its way shortly. How about the unwanted mail, though? Many people decrease the amount of junk mail they receive by writing to the Direct Marketing Association [link no longer active] – this will result in significantly less, because many marketers use the DMA list to filter their mailings on the grounds that anyone on the list isn't a good prospect. Much less well known is that if a marketer keeps sending unwanted mail, you can file a Prohibitory Order, USPS Form 1500, that will almost always stop it from coming. More importantly, perhaps, they're also supposed to take you off the mailing lists they sell to other marketers. The form is designed to stop adult-oriented material that you find offensive, but the courts have affirmed that the USPS must process the Order on your sole determination of the content, and thus it can be used for any unwanted mail that won't stop coming. People who use the form report that it's best to mail it in to the processing center rather than take it to a local post office, where the clerks may balk at accepting it if the material is not the sexually-oriented ads the form is more commonly used for.

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