Failing the Canine Security Check

Today is my first cross-country trip on an airplane in 16 months, and I did not expect to start out by failing the canine security check.  He was a young, handsome, mellow-seeming dog, doing his duty, and I was not the only soon-to-be passenger noting how sweet looking he was.  None of us reached out to touch him, knowing that it is strictly verboten to interfere with a working dog, but it was tempting. I am not sure why this particular canine signaled me out.  I am very fond of dogs, so certainly it was not…

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The Ten-Year Plan

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the USPS revealed a new ten-year plan on March 21, 2021 aimed at reinvigorating the postal service.  Parts of the plan are ready to be implemented, including increasing the cost of stamps, slowing down first-class mail delivery in favor of more lucrative package delivery, closing selected facilities, and cutting back post office hours and staffing.  Such changes are subject to approval by the Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent Federal agency. First-class stamps are currently 55 cents First-class mail volume has decreased by 28% over the past 10 years, one of the…

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A Random Letter in the Mail

Have you ever received a random letter in the mail?  Random, as in an unanticipated, handwritten note or letter? The use of first-class mail has been in decline for decades, and letters have become almost rare.   Any letter or note in the mail is a gift, whether it be a thank you note, a birthday card, a holiday greeting.  But most of our communications today are virtual, via social media, email, text messaging, and more, using multiple platforms. Given the shift in how we communicate, a random letter in the mail is a welcome surprise.  Within…

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Who Selects the Stamps

Who selects the stamps?  Each year, the United States Postal Service issues approximately 35 new stamps, covering a wide range of images and fields of interest.  In short, it is not hard to find something to like.  New stamps are selected by the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) of the USPS, whose members are appointed by the Postmaster General. Playwright August Wilson is featured on a new Forever Stamp The CSAC was established in 1957.  Currently, the committee has 13 members, representing “…collective expertise in history, science, technology, art, education, sports, and other areas of public…

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The Etiquette of a Condolence Letter

Recently, the need arose for me to write a condolence letter.  Over the years, I have sent many cards and notes to friends who had suffered a loss, but this time was different.  It was a friend who died, a friend with whom I had been out of touch for several years.  I did not know her family or how to contact them, yet it felt important to reach out to them. Handwritten notes As a first step, I contacted the senior living community where she had been living, in an upscale city located to the…

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Mail Trucks of the Future

Have you ever wondered how many mail trucks are owned by the United States Postal Service, or how old they are?  The short answer is “a lot, and very old.” Approximately 140,000 of the familiar old Grumman mail trucks, created in 1989, are currently on the road, and their average age is over 27 years old. Prototype of new mail truck by Oshkosh Defense As part of the modernization efforts of the USPS, Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Defense was awarded a $482 million contract to design and plan new mail trucks over the next ten years, the first…

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Ponzi Scheme and Stamps

A certain type of fraud that dates back centuries, known as a Ponzi scheme, derived its name from a deception involving stamps in the early 20th century.  According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a Ponzi scheme is “an investment swindle in which some early investors are paid off with money put up by later ones in order to encourage more and bigger risks.”  Investors are led to believe that their investment is yielding unrealistically high returns.  Despite the 20th century adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” billions of dollars have…

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Landscapes of the Suspense Novel

Brooding landscapes are often a staple of the suspense novel.  In some cases, the shadowy, mysterious house at the center of a country estate is a key character.  Perhaps it is haunted by the ghost of a sophisticated, beautiful, deceased first wife.  Rebecca, by the late Daphne Du Maurier, is a modern classic.  Most suspense novels use scene to set a foreboding mood. Suspense novels In John Banville’s Snow (Handover Square Press, 2020), his first mystery novel written without a pen name, the setting is bleak rather than menacing.  A violent, desecrating murder takes place in…

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Creating chaos at the U.S. Postal Service
Mailbox, Annapolis, MD

Creating chaos at the U.S. Postal Service

Multiple crises over the past year created an unprecedented level of chaos at the U.S. Postal Service.  The service has been disrupted by political disputes over mail-in ballots; removal of street mail boxes, mail sorting machines, and barcode readers; COVID-related illnesses among postal employees; and a much higher volume of mail and packages due to the pandemic.  Some of the causes of chaos were deliberate and avoidable. First, there was the dispute over mail-in ballots.  Due to the pandemic, many voters chose to cast their ballots by mail rather than wait in long lines to vote…

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What to Wear (to an Inauguration)

Every morning when I wake up, my first thoughts lie with making a cup of coffee, not on what to wear that day.  This is a reversal from the many years of a working life, where the pace of the early morning was always fast and the day’s clothing might be decided and perhaps even laid out the night before. These days, while staying at home, the choices about what to wear have become much easier.  I have yoga pants, sweatpants, hiking pants, tights, and an assortment of shirts, long-sleeved athletic tees, sweatshirts, and sweaters.  Whether…

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