Sunday, April 24, 2011

for 25 APR 11: Site Unseen

Several years ago a blog reader offered me an unusual gift - the domain names of two websites, including one with my name on it. While I appreciated the offer, I turned it down for numerous reasons. Sites can have a number of hidden costs - and the fee for a server "host" can be heavenly high.

But recently another offer came, declaring a website already was created in my name. And this offer came from a branch of the U.S. government. You'd think the F.B.I. would be a little better at undercover operations than this....

But seriously: the offer came from the U.S. Postal Service. It obtained my name from a business mailing list, even though my LaughLine subscriber humor service was sold nine years ago. And since everything was done online, I only needed the Postal Service to deliver checks - preferably checks bigger than my monthly bills.

"It's easy for your company to try Flat Rate shipping," the snail-mailed offer from the Postal Service said. I could send envelopes "to any state for just $4.95." I try to write jokes which are lighter than that -- at least in postage.

The mailing offered me a free "Priority Mail Flat Rate Shipping Kit." The Postal Service would send me four envelopes, four boxes and a shipping guide. But that's really no big deal, because I could order more shipping supplies online for free. Do that enough times, and I might have enough boxes to move to a nursing home someday.

But of course, the stunner was the fact that the Postal Service prepared a website with my name on it. All I'd have to do to access it is scan a "QR Code with your smartphone." I'd seen these fuzzy-looking boxes before, but didn't know what they were. Does this mean we can eliminate bar codes once and for all as being "the mark of the beast?"

(Yes, I've blurred out part of the QR Code box. Some people with smartphones might be smart alecks to boot, and try to exploit me.)

So what did the Postal Service have waiting for me at my very own, personalized website for Priority Mail? I finally called it up Sunday afternoon - and to be honest, it was disappointing. Yahoo Mail at least would have the courtesy to put "Hi, Richard" on the main screen....

The Priority Mail website didn't even have boxes filled in with my name and address, for ordering the free shipping kit. I suppose that could be a security precaution. Hackers would have to know the name of my business, before sending a shower of boxes large enough to fill my front porch - much less send labels separately, suggesting I move to Alaska.

One cool thing about the Priority Mail website was a "Virtual Box Simulator." I could use a webcam, to see if certain items fit in a "Flat Rate Box." This is why U.S. students are losing the worldwide race for mathematics skills - hardly anyone seems to own rulers or measuring tape.

So I thank the Postal Service for this opportunity - but I really don't see a need for Priority Mail envelopes and boxes. After all, hardly anyone has ever sent mail to me that way. The highest-priority item this blog ever received was an envelope accusing attorney Mark Shelnutt of crimes -- and someone dropped that off at my front door for free.

Now without paying a single penny for postage, let's check some weekend news:

+ Fort Benning "Courtesy Patrols" began late-night work in downtown Columbus. There was no word Sunday of any serious crime on Broadway. But I'm wondering if the uniformed patrol workers passed any nightclub's dress code.

+ Online reports indicated a television executive wants to do a series called "Real Housewives of Fort Benning." It could be hard for this concept to compete with "Real Housewives of Atlanta" - unless two of the women compete against each other to make designer berets.

+ Peach Lanes hosted the United States Bowling Congress national college championship. Fresno State won the men's team title, sweeping the final round series against Webber International. Considering how famous that name is in bowling, this had to be an upset on the order of Boise State winning a big bowl game.

(The USBC tournament was recorded, and will be shown on ESPN-2 in mid-May. When I was young, the Governor of Kansas had a front-row seat to Pro Bowling Tour final-round games. In Columbus, we might do well to have Councilor Glenn Davis throwing out the first ball.)

+ Instant Message to anyone having Georgia or Alabama state business to do today: Sorry, you'll have to wait. It's Confederate Memorial Day - and this year I would point out my home state of Kansas has lasted 150 years, or 146 more than the Confederate Navy.

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