Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who moved my mail?

Sweating it out in the gym this morning after a 2 week hiatus, I found that I had landed in front of the TV screen with the local channel WRAL. Amidst news of an annual book sale at Wake County (300,000 books up for grabs) and the world's largest annual spaghetti dinner (organized by the Greek orthodox church interestingly enough, not the Italians) in Fayetteville NC and other earth shaking news, I was especially taken aback by news of a mailman in Raleigh NC who didn't deliver the mail, but instead buried it all in his backyard for years and years.

Now, the first thing one would think of is that here is one person who really hated his job, and had a lot of secrets he wanted to keep underground, pun intended. But wait, Mailman Steve buried only junk mail. So he was a human spam filter, how convenient! Except that the folks did not have any control over his filter settings, which is not very convenient ( I missed the Macy's One day sale, yet Again, Dammit!). His explanation was that his health problems were getting in the way of delivery and so he decided to filter out the junk mail hoping nobody would notice. I suppose the lawyer did a good job, because no consumer wrote back to support the litigation other than a single one who in fact supported Steve's actions. It also helped that he has been a model citizen otherwise. End result: He is got off with probation and community service. And if you look at the latest quarterly reports for USPS, you will see how it could have helped his health. For 48.3 million pieces of domestic mail delivered, 23.2 million pieces came from what is termed as standard mail, which I presume is junk mail (it is not first class or priority or express or periodicals or packages). But here is the other catch: the absence of junk mail would kill the postal system financially. Apparently, the US postal system has been surviving (inspite of continuing losses on the balance sheet) thanks to revenue from junk mail, what with the use of phone and email for me to get in touch with my friends and family. So what is one to do?

Steve's case is still better than other postal carriers in the past who just buried or stored ALL kinds of mail. Both Vickey Warner from Middlebury, Indiana and Jill Hull from Howell Michigan stated that they were ovewhlemed, delivered as much as they could and just could not deliver the remaining on time. Thousands of pieces of mail remained undelivered.

If you are already not agonizing over whether the last letter from your grandmom is just delayed or buried, consider Robert of Tennessee and Robert of Alabama both of who just stole the mail. How is that different from the previous instances? Umm, they opened it too. Took out cash, gift cards and prescription drugs and other goodies and gave them as Christmas gifts to their families.

Think of all the other possibilities: SS numbers, CC numbers, telephone numbers and what have you in your mail. Who is to say that some very corrupt mail carriers are not responsible for identity theft?

But don't let a small bunch of not-really-epitomes-of-virtue give a bad name to the larger set of stellar, conscientous workers called the postmen (and postwomen). I am ready to vouch for mine.

And who is to say that tomorrow your inbox may not get hacked?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Coming out of Aestivation

The title only refers to the blog, not me.

This summer and fall has been super busy, not necessarily productive, but very event-filled, hectic, stressful, fast-paced and what not. When too many things are going on, writing is like molasses in an open upside down jar: nothing comes out. Too many stimuli coming in the way of a creative outlet.

At the risk of sounding as though I am writing now because I have less to do (quite the contrary), I am making a renewed attempt to write more regularly without making it a function of my "busy"ness. While I have now started frowning at the idea of multitasking (though I used to claim particular expertise in the area till yesterday), the concept of time-division multiplexing seems to be more attractive. Multitasking really isn't what it sounds like. Your brain is not working on two things at the same time. It is actually rapidly shifting focus back and forth on those multiple tasks, giving neither its due. So, instead of 3 minutes of email, 2 minutes of staring at your report to get your train of thought started, distracted for another 2 minutes with another email service, 1 minute of lunch, 5 minutes of wondering what was your train of thought with the report, another 2 minutes of lunch; 2 more minutes of wondering why you hadn't received a reply to your last email yet; and feeling that you are able to work on writing your report, checking email and eating lunch at the same time, you have achieved nothing. The report is still on the first paragraph, lunch is sort of halfway swallowed, and while no new emails came in for all that checking you did, you did email an RSVP to Friday night's party.
Well, I'm thinking of going back to the good ol' middle school timetable, and see if I can finish my report in 30 minutes, check my email for the next 5 and go out, sit on the park bench and eat my lunch for another 10. Let's see if I can use this strategy tomorrow. In the meantime, snoozing and writing especially don't seem to to adapt themselves well to the multitasking concept. I opt for my first time slot from the TDM scheme to accomplish slee...pi..nggggggggggggzzzzzzz