The U.S. Mail delivers intrigue

On the Postal Service website just now is an advertizement for their “Informed Delivery” tool, that emails you scanned images of mail pieces that are going to end up at your address.

From: USPS / To: Jane / Informed Delivery Daily Digest 7:52 a.m. / COMING TO YOUR MAILBOX SOON / MAIL / picture of letter with return address “John Doe / 123 Any Street / Anytown USA 55555”, canceled stamp, and address “Jane Smith 123 Any Street / Anytown USA 5555”.

Aside from the maybe incorrect address formatting (The USPS seems to want you to use abbreviations for road names, so 123 Any ST) and notable lack of a state or territory for Anytown, why is John Doe sending a letter to Jane Smith at the same address?

Continue reading The U.S. Mail delivers intrigue

Against pictures in charitable organizations and appeals

I got, out of nowhere, a magazine for a well known, audited, and considered-legitimate charitable organization that applies itself to assisting poor people in many countries. Aside from the annoyance at their having no obvious way to unsubscribe on their website, something else:

This, and other organizations I know of, have photographs of people and groups they have helped by their work in their publications and on their websites. Since I have no experience with their work, I can’t speak for the people in the pictures. They should have been asked if they wanted to be photographed, though that itself is risky.

For me as recipient of their appeal, I have this objection: how am I supposed to know these pictures are representative (and not staged)? What about them proves the people in them are what they are presented as?

Names and places aren’t given – rightly so, poverty doesn’t abolish privacy (or shouldn’t). I have to take in clues in the pictures (which are also manipulatable), and sadly a highly obvious one is race. This could make perception that the only really poor people (or the only ones they help) are Black.

The best way to be sure of their legitimacy is by independent conduct and publishing of audits on their work regularly. Catalogs do not have to be text only, but pictures can be of the works of charity themselves, and if people are needed for scale or demonstration (such as for a water pump), where and how they appear should be carefully considered.

If the people who would appear in these pictures do not fit an obvious pattern, for example being of an entire range of skin colors, there is still such a risk of pattern recognition in the unknowable readership picking up something unobvious to the designers (all poor people are left handed? have blue eyes? something else?).

Did anyone fall for this? Probably, and that makes me sad…

Quackery is a saddening thing for me to think of and see. People who, using the hope of medicine, defraud those desperate or unable to see through their crap impostures.

So, still in 1905, on July 1st, the back page of the Literary Digest (I swear I’ll get out of this issue eventually, but there is so much in it to blog about!):

Continue reading Did anyone fall for this? Probably, and that makes me sad…

Where the DANGER is.

If you live in the United States and have bought or rented a place, you have almost certainly run across one of these. A classical case of damage from the lack of any kind of testing for safety, or its suppression if done.

Continue reading Where the DANGER is.

I ought to be in everybody’s mouth

Every one is familiar with the change in meaning that the word “gay” has undergone over the years. This leads to amusingly sexualized phrases like “to have a gay time”.

Here is another one of those silly word games that only Time (not the magazine, this was from the Literary Digest) can play.

Continue reading I ought to be in everybody’s mouth