09 June 2007
SETI League
PriUPS Project

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Getting Attention

Pennies, it seems are either too cheap, or too valuable.  It was not so long agomonths at mostthat charitable solicitations occasionally had pennies attached.  I think I understand their theory, which can be expressed in one word:  Guilt.  An obviously needy bunch sends you something they can ill afford and your immediate reaction is "Gosh, what can I do for them?"  And so the cheaply-franked, eye-catching envelopes roll in, each with an attached shiny penny to get you to open it and respond, with luck, with less shiny but arguably more valuable dollars.

Either it stopped working, or pennies are growing too dear, what with their high copper value.  Look what I got yesterday!"America's Wounded Troops Need Your Help" mailing piece with dollar bill  The paperclipped document at the bottom, tastefully set off against a red background, appears suspiciously like a genuine, pre-circulated United States dollar of the currency persuasion.  You will not be shocked to discover that this came without warning or permission.  Nobody called me and asked "do you need this dollar bill more than "America's Wounded Troops."  If they had, I would have suggested that America's Wounded Troops are in far worse straits than I; please spend it on their behalf.  But since that didn't happen, I have been enriched to this modest extent.  (The paperclip will be deflected to our office staff for more productive use than it will get from me.)

Some Reflections on America

Oddly, this mailing arrived just while I was correcting and updating emails for my annual 4th of July party invitations. The mention of the holiday, the patriotic theme and colors of the mailing, and the fact that I received this mailing as I did propelled my into a reverie about one of the great things about my country.  That thing, with a bit of self-referential irony, is that I actually received this mailing!  (No, not that the mailing was sent.  That's just a marketing gimmick by people who made a calculation that a dollar would get more response than would a penny or a sheet of useless return-address labels.)  The remarkable aspect of this mailing is that in the picture above, you are seeing it just as I did when I received it.  I did not actually open the mailing.  That was unnecessary as it arrived in a clear plastic envelope, dollar bill showing through!  Don't believe me?  This is what was on the other side of the envelope:Warning - don't impede the mail!

It was equally visible and no opening was necessary.  For whom was the WARNING intended?  Certainly not the postpeople - they know it well.  For the recipient mailroom?  Perhaps.  And the second half of the WARNING?  I'm not sure what that's about at all.  After all, I probably a have a dollar bill in my pocket, and I'm certainly not endorsed by any agency of the federal government, with the possible exception of USDUC.  (I am licensed by the Federal Blog Commission and others.)

But my point is, I received the mailing piece, conspicuous buck and all.  And that's quite the distinguishing feature of our great and prosperous democracy.  In my ham radio life, I have sent many dollars bills by post to individuals in other countries.  Not an eleemosynary gesture, this, but rather an attempt to elicit a "QSL" card confirming a radio conversation.  Until recently a dollar would roughly cover return airmail postage from most countries in the world.  Citizens of the "rare" countries, each with only a tiny handful of amateur radio operators, could hardly afford their station equipment, much less the stamps to return the thousands of cards requested from them.  So, when I contacted one of these people, I would carefully secrete a dollar in the envelope with my QSL card, hoping that the benighted postal service of their country would not smell or otherwise detect it and steal it before it reached the recipient.  Success was frequent, but so was failure.  Such are the ethics of government employees in many parts of the world.  I don't imagine that I need to elaborate on the corruption of the higher-ups in those kleptocracies.

I have had many occasions to post cash,  QSL cards, payment for eBay purchases, small gifts, etc.  I can not recall one occasion, ever, in my entire life, that money posted in the USA and sent to an address in the USA, failed to reach its destination.

Another Indicium of Prosperity

This "reverse giving" mailingcharity to candidate-donoris an oddity.  It may well be justified on the grounds that it is far better at getting attention than the usual throwaway.  The penny mailings, even with subsidized postage, probably cost the sender 20-30 cents, so adding the penny is clearly not profligate whether or not it's effective.  But when a charity starts giving away dollars, one hopes that they are more careful and selective with their mailings.  In this case, one's hope has been dashed to the rocks below.  I actually received three of these pieces.  One was properly addressed to me.  One was addressed to a seven-year-gone employee whose mail is directed to me.  The third was addressed as follows:

Mailing label to "Attention Vice"

Not that it might not have found an appropriate recipient anyway (I should be so lucky)!  But one would think and hope that these custodians of their other contributor's dollars, not to mention the taxpayers' subsidies, would, at the cost of far less than a dollar per "find," engage someone to pay better attention to their mailing list.  Perhaps even they, charity though they are, are too prosperous to worry about such mundane efficiencies.

Money in the Mail

Getting money in the mail is one of life's joys.  Getting unsolicited money in the mail is especially sweet.  Getting even more unsolicited money in the mail is a boon nonpareil.  I have a story, but I'm reluctant to relate it just yet.

NP:  "Walk Like a Panther" - The Pretenders

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