Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Post Office Got It Right by Accident

In a tragic crash on the Las Vegas Speedway last weekend involving fifteen IndyCar drivers, thirty-three-year-old driver Dan Wheldon lost his life. The October 25 issue of Sports Illustrated ran a simple and meaningful two-page obituary on his life complete with a photograph of him after winning the Indy 500 Race for the second time last May with an average speed of 170.265 mph.

The United States Postal Service, discredited in yesterday’s post, accidentally righted itself when earlier this year it had issued a 44-cent stamp on the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. It was won by Roy Harroun with a winning speed of 74.602 mph. Dan Wheldon will be honored each time the stamp is affixed to an envelope.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Mail Must Go Thru, Or the Mail Is Through

The United States Postal Service is struggling and wants to eliminate 220,000 jobs, close more than 300 facilities, and faces another quarter with losses totaling more that $3.5 billion.

It needs to become more efficient with the way it deals with the average customer and two recent instances help me to understand why the USPS is failing. In July I received a postage-paid envelope in my postal box at the local branch along with a note saying that my annual rental fee was due. I immediately wrote out a check for the correct amount, as I have done for more than twenty-five years, put it in the envelope and mailed it.

Two weeks later when my wife Carmen went to check the box, our key wouldn’t work. After she waited in the stamp line and told her tale to the clerk, the clerk said the lock had been changed since no payment had been received. When Carmen explained that we sent a check two weeks earlier, she was also told that if we didn’t make a payment in the next two days, we would lose the box forever. We charged the amount, still wondering what happened to our check and the postage-paid envelope addressed to this post office branch.

We found out three weeks later when we opened the box and found an envelope with the original check inside and a note saying that this check is being returned since payment was already received. No one at that branch could explain what had happened to the wayward envelope.

Yesterday I sat in the side office at the branch with Eduardo, the supervisor, as I tried to find an explanation to another postal mystery. When I had stayed in Henderson, Nevada a few weeks earlier, I had left a pendant behind that had the Chinese symbol for The Way; apropos since I am finishing a book entitled The Oy Way, whose web site is The hotel mailed the pendant to me and when I found their envelope in my home mailbox, it contained the stamped words “POSTAGE DUE $1.27.” However, it did not contain the pendant only the bubble wrapping inside and a neat, square 1 ½ x 1 ½” tear in the lower left corner which someone did in order to steal the pendant, which they did.

Eduardo defended all of the postal employees in Henderson, then Las Vegas, San Jose and in his branch in Santa Cruz. He said that the neat tear and deft removal of the pendant from the envelope was most likely caused by a sorting machine. He vehemently stuck to that explanation no matter what I said, and suggested that I fill out a report describing the pendant and he would send it to the USPS Lost and Found Department in Georgia. Our conversation ended after I asked if there was also a Stolen and Found Department near by.

Raise You A Penny

To solve all of the above problems, the USPS announced today that as a birthday present, it would raise postal rates on January 22, 2012, including a 1-cent increase in the cost of first-class mail, to 45 cents.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nu? Math? The Odds Are Against Them

When Hamas finally released Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after more than five years in captivity in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, his captors gloated claiming it a great victory for their side. It was, for 1,000 of their fighters were released, but does it mean that one Israeli soldier has the same value as 1,000 members of Hamas?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

They'll Get Buy

The first two weeks of the 2011-2012 season for the National Basketball Association has been cancelled as players and owners fight for their “fair share” of the projected $3.8 billion in Basketball Related Income (BRI). BRI constitutes all the money made through basketball operations, including gate receipts, broadcast revenues, in-arena sales of novelties and concessions, arena signage revenues, game parking and program revenues, and sponsorship revenues.

Under the previous contract, the BRI was a 57-43 percent split in favor of the players and the owners want it to be a 50-50 deal. The last time that the two sides met, each was reluctantly willing to accept a 53-47 split in their favor. However, each side can’t have 53 percent of the BRI, for any math-challenged person knows you can only divide 100 percent of the total, not 106 percent.

The practical, cost-conscious owners want a greater share based on their claim that most NBA teams are losing money, while the players don’t want to relinquish their current share. Just how practical are the owners? In November 2011, the NBA board of governors approved the sale of the Golden State Warriors for a record $450 million to a group of financially knowledgeable investors. The buyers were well aware that since the 1999-2000 season that franchise had qualified only once for the playoffs and boasted a 371 won and 603 lost record during that period. What a bargain.

Then there is the other half of the equation — the players whose average salary is $5.15 million. This isn’t too bad considering that their main talent is to run around in their underwear and try and put a round sphere into a wire hoop.

Carmelo Anthony, the star of the New York Knickerbockers team, was set to “earn” $17,149,243 for the season. With the cancellation, Melo already stands to lose approximately $1.6 million in salary and he lamented, "It's stressful. If it's a dollar, if it's 10 dollars, losing money is losing money, regardless of how much you have."

For the moment, Carmelo may be able to commiserate with the 14 million currently out of work, and with those who do have a job earning the median salary of under $47,000 a year. When the strike ends, he will be able to get buy with his salary of $209,137 for each game that he plays. Since he averaged 35.7 minutes playing time in each game during the past season, based on his present salary that would come to $5,858 per minute played. It would take him less than nine minutes on the court to reach that yearly median salary.

Carmelo’s salary was larger than most Americans, but was only thirteenth in the NBA. With that fact weighing heavily upon him, Melo might not be mellow regardless of the outcome.