Month: December 2013

Postal Possibilities – How to Save the USPS

Have you seen any of these recently?

It is time for me to pass along an idea the Postmaster General has likely not floated in front of Congress yet. I believe it bears repeating, maybe on a larger scale and in a different forum, because we continue to see the United States Postal Service flounder in its attempt to stay afloat.

I have been doing a variation of this for years. Not because I don’t like USPS, but because I don’t like getting the junk mail that includes “Business Reply Mail” envelopes. Yes, I know, there is a list I can be put on that MAY eliminate some of the junk, but it feels like I shouldn’t have to do that. It should be an “opt in” automatically rather than an “opt out” by effort. My thoughts are, “If I want mail from your company, I would ask for it.” So, as a result, I guess this is my effort to “opt out.”

Got mail?

At first I started small. I figured if the “Postage will be paid by the addressee” then someone had to pay to get it to me so they are gonna have to pay to get it back!! I didn’t even bother to lick the envelopes. It was quick, simple even. Open junk, return junk (I took out all identifying paperwork of course). Then I got a little more evil about it! Someone somewhere has to open this stuff, right? The business thinks there is going to be paperwork in there that needs to be processed. I am going to make a mess on someone’s floor, or lap, or desk…didn’t matter, just that I wanted REVENGE! So, I began to take a little more time with the reply envelopes. I added glitter, confetti, hole punch dots (nothing dangerous or that could be perceived as dangerous so that I didn’t raise an alarm that didn’t need to be raised) to the inside of the envelope so that when it was opened – INSTANT mess. I was proud of myself. I patted myself on the back (that was a bit of a strain, let me tell you). But, eventually I realized my shenanigans were taking too much effort so I stopped adding the mess to the envelopes. I just decided I would add the non-identifying contents of the original mail to the reply and send it on its way, back to the offender of my mailbox gaiety.

The more I think about this (I don’t spend that much time on it, really) the more I think this might be a solution to the problems USPS has. We all should be sending this stuff back!! Bear with me and let me explain.

Who sends this junk out?

In most cases, if you think about all the unsolicited pieces of junk mail you get, it comes from a bank. Specifically, those big banks with giant credit card divisions. Those big banks with giant credit card divisions that make billions of dollars each year. If they make that much money, they can afford (obviously) to send out all this junk we don’t want. If they can afford to send it out, they can afford to get it back! See where I am going with this? If not, keep reading. They, the big bank with giant credit card divisions, don’t expect to get all the BRM back. They pay the USPS a fee based on the possible amount of return mail. If you don’t send the envelope back, there is no cost to them. If a small percentage sends the envelope back, they pay a fee according to that and if it contains a means to make more money, well all the better for them.

Then there are those catalogs and other mass marketing material. The cost to send these out is different because of size and weight. We don’t see as much of this as we used to, but it is still fairly prevalent for some industries.

Junk already keeps USPS afloat!

I did a little internet search to see how much junk mail was mailed each year. I found out that more than half of the mail processed each year by the USPS is junk mail. See that article from 2011. From the article, you can tell that if there were no junk mail in your mailbox the USPS would be loosing even more money each year than it already is. In fact, you could probably make a safe assumption that it might not even exist today. So, if junk mail is already more than half of the of the USPS’s business, sending more junk mail would continue to support our beloved former Pony Express. Send it back!

Also, while doing this little internet research, I found there are some really misguided solutions to junk mail. I have to say that ending junk mail altogether is admirable, but unrealistic. Besides, that would hurt business and who cares about the environment, really. However, if you are into that sort of thing, you might be interested in this guy’s article.

Dear Postmaster General,

If you would like to save the postal service and keep Saturday delivery, which you seem very reluctant to eliminate anyway, then listen up. The following could save your business.

  1. Raise the price for bulk, mass mailings. If a business finds it valuable to send out all that junk, then they will continue to send it out, regardless of the cost. If they don’t find it valuable, they won’t send it out. My guess, they keep sending it out.
  2. Raise the cost of Business Reply Mail. If a business finds it valuable to send out all that junk, then they will continue to send it out, regardless of the cost. And, if they are able to generate business from said junk, then it should cost them more to include and have those BRM envelopes returned to them. A lot more! Even if they figure a small percentage will be returned it should still be a pricey endeavor.
  3. Be more efficient. That is a whole other topic for another day.


Disgruntled “junkie”

How can you, dear reader, do your part?

RETURN MORE JUNK MAIL! It costs them money to send it to you and it should cost them money to get it back. In the meantime, you save the USPS. I see this as a win win for all involved.

PS: Apparently junk mail is also a problem for other nations, including my UK readers. (see here) You too could make a difference!


5 Myths About Our Schools That Fall Apart When You Look Closer

What happens when you take numbers and read them for what they REALLY say instead of reading them for gloom and doom? A PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) report that actually makes more sense than what the media and school reform proponents would have you believe.

Thanks to the American Federation of Teachers for an interpretation that is more fair and balanced.

Check out the link below!

When You Look Closer.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (and the NSA Was Watching)

Merry Christmas to all…a great new twist on an old story with modern considerations.


Twas the night before Christmas, and all thro’ the house

The only sound to be heard, was the click of a mouse;

The family used their digital devices with little care,

In hopes that their wants just might be satisfied there;

The children they played on their smart phones in beds,

While visions from their apps danced in their heads,

From personal computers, to tablets, there was no cap,

All were settled in for a technologically wrought nap –

But within every device there arose a silent clatter,

Yet none in the sleepy house knew what was the matter.

But whether on Apple or Windows, with every app flash,

Every detail was logged, bound tightly as if with a sash.

There had been that wise lad – named den after snow,

Who had tried to give warning of what happens below

The surface of the devices – if pulled back…

View original post 466 more words

I Told You So! Another Shining Example of Constitutional Trampling

Here is yet another instance of a celebrity getting in trouble for something he says and believes. The thought and religion police are at it again. This infringes upon both his right to free speech AND the free exercise of his religion. I blogged about this not that long ago, “A Liberal Double Standard.” The First Amendment is taking a beating these days. Sadly, we let bullies who disagree with someone’s opinion crucify First Amendment all the time. He expressed what he believes and thinks. There is no crime in that.

Some relevant articles to peruse as you contemplate where you stand on free speech and religion:

Sarah Palin, Louisiana Governor Weigh In On ‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Controversy

‘Duck Dynasty’: Can show be saved after Phil Robertson controversy?,0,7653498.story#ixzz2nwiHi9ZX

Finally, check out what this blogger has to say. I think he says it quite well in his defense of the First Amendment.

When will Americans say they have had enough of the PC crew? When will YOU say you have had enough?


A Case for Better Education – Insider Observations

Parents, this is your fault. YOU have failed your children and as a result, they will fail you when you need them most. There, I said it. I wish others would say it too. But we live in a society where the norm is to blame others instead of where it really lies, in ourselves.

You’ve done it again…

The news media is, again, pushing the idea that our schools are the problem. This time they are using the PISA scores ranking U.S. 15 year-olds at 26th in math, 21st in science, and 17th in reading. While not being #1 for U.S. citizens is troubling (mostly because we like to think we should be the best at everything), it isn’t the end of the world and shows the decades of educational reform up to this point isn’t working. Sadly, even now with the Common Core standards, it will continue to fail, though there may be some improvement in scores. However, how we test isn’t what really needs to be fixed.

The parenting grade.


  I would argue that scores would increase dramatically if all of us did one thing – pay closer attention to our kids and participate in their education more. Parents are the LARGEST part of the problem. Parents are simply not taking an active role in their children’s education and, because they aren’t paying attention, their children are suffering the consequences. Here is a prime example of what I am talking about that just happened during my recent high school conferences. I teach juniors and seniors. In fact, more than half of my students are seniors and are about to graduate (well, most of them anyway). You would think that now would be a perfect time for parents to check up on their kids and make sure they are on track. So, for conferences the school set aside 21 hours for parents to come talk to their kids’ teachers. I have 112 students that I see nearly every day and I sent out email reminders about conferences. I also tried to set up appointments for some that are struggling and could use a little push from home. During the time set aside for conferences by the school, I only saw the parents of 31 students (and only two of the nine appointments made in advance), or 28%. That is a failing percentage in my book. 

Parents are constantly showing their children (especially the older children) that education isn’t a priority, at least in action that is. Verbally they give it lip service but their actions speak louder than their words. “I have to work and can’t make the time.” LAME. You show it isn’t important by not making the time. If you show it is important, they will think it is important too. “Half day of school? Oh, well, why don’t you just stay home today. They won’t do anything important in class anyway.” LAME. That just shows you are lazy and allows your kids to be lazy. Effort makes it worth it. “We can get some extra days of vacation if we go during school conferences.” LAME. This really shows where your priority is. Sacrifice your child’s education for your leisure. “Poor, *insert name here*, the teacher must be picking on you” or “You must be failing because the teacher is being unfair.” Yep, that’s it. We teachers wake up each morning thinking about how to make our jobs more difficult and despise discipline. FAIL.FAIL.FAIL. These are just a few ways parents undermine the importance of education.

EDUCATIONAL FUNDING (or lack thereof) = F

It would be nice to get paid a wage equivalent to people with similar skills and experience, that isn’t really where the money needs to go (though bashing the profession and poor pay doesn’t help with retention or recruitment of great people). Similarly, more money doesn’t need to go into testing or comparing ourselves to others, we already have too much of that. No, what we really need are newer, tech friendly, and bigger buildings that incorporate more space for more teachers. More teachers would mean fewer students per classroom and many studies/reports (here, here, and here) show that class size does make a difference.  No student should have to sit in a room with more than 15-17 kids in it. Maybe even less would be better, but there doesn’t appear to be a magic number that would make it best. Smaller class sizes would do more for educational reform than any other solution. Small class sizes mean that the students get more attention and individualized instruction. It also can translate into more meaningful lessons, better participation, and greater “buy-in” from the students.

Much like parents, society as a whole has shown that they are only willing to pay lip service to education as well. Teachers are a favorite punching bag. Society says we need better education and instead of focusing on the real problems they blame the people doing the work in the classroom who are trying to make due with less and less resources every year. Education funds continue to get cut, across the board, which just puts us farther in the hole. Teachers do more with less all the time, something the government should maybe learn for itself. Instead of funding for education the government perpetuates HUGE waste, inefficiency, and bureaucracy. Instead of funding education, it gives out money to nations that don’t necessarily need it. The list goes on and I am sure you can name any one of the many places money doesn’t need to go. We, as parents, even complain about paying property taxes that go to the schools. I am lucky to work in a community that has almost never failed a school levy, yet in many places around the U.S. they get failed by voters all the time. How does that logic work out? I am going to vote to fail a levy (which is to make up for what the government isn’t covering in the first place), not pay for education, and cheat my kids out of their education all so that I can have a better retirement/more toys/bigger house/fancier car/etc. Clearly there is a disconnect here. In other words, FAIL, FAIL, FAIL.

Just 1.9%??

There you have it. I am a teacher and proud of it. Yes, there are teachers that shouldn’t be teaching, but it is a minor problem considering all the others. I see these things from the inside, a place many of those who talk about reform have never been since they were in high school themselves. They have no experience in what it takes to be an educator and the challenges that go along with that. Those who should be reforming the schools are the ones that are subject to public whimsy and fantastical schemes that produce results that are largely ineffective. If you want to reform schools, ask the teachers, ask the students, but keep the politicians out of it. This teacher says that from the inside, the two solutions above to very obvious problems will go a long way in making a difference.