Head Ripped

Head Ripped
Took this photo today in Washington, D.C.

Someone drew this funny face on a USPS Priority Postal Sticker. 

But the top was ripped off…ouch!

And so it ends up looking like he’s screaming that somebody ripped off/open the top of his peabrain head. 

I love a little creativity…where’s my fix? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Post Office And Ice Cream

Post Office And Ice Cream

I took this photo this week in downtown Washington, D.C.

A U.S. Postal Service priority mail sticker stuck onto a pole with a picture of ice cream–2 scoops–with dollar signs on them. And an eye in a pyramid on the lower left.

I am not sure whether the mail sticker was just a part of the grafitti here or whether someone was trying to make a statement about the financial state-of-affairs of the Postal Service–losing money–and the loses stacking up over time, as the watchful eye of Government looks on.

I love getting mail like everyone else–except bills and junk mail.

But with a multitude of technology (email, texts, and so on) replacing traditional paper mail–the Post Office needs a new business model.

How about a serious focus on package delivery (for all the e-Commerce ordering we are doing)?

Or then again, would anyone mind an ice cream counter in every post office to make some happy faces and real money? 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Government By Decision

What Is Your Decision?

I saw this bumper sticker on a pole in Washington, D.C.

It says “Puppet for President 2012” and I don’t know whether this was referring to Democrats, Republicans, Independents, or whoever.

But it did make a statement about the perceived ability of government to lead and perhaps that someone is “pulling the strings.”

Governance is the act of administering, managing and of course implies leadership and decision-making.

Yet what is driving the American people crazy is that our government seems for all intensive purposes broken, almost paralyzed.

Current reading are of political stalemate, problems that are too big and complex and the compromises too painful after years of excess, where indecision reigns supreme, and with that the popularity of government is at all time lows–10% for Congress and 36% for the President.

Here’s a basic example written about today in the Wall Street Journal: despite a drop in first class mail over the last decade (thanks to email and texting) from 100 billion to fewer than 70 billion pieces of first class mail and cumulative losses from 2006 to March 2013 of $41 billion, we still can’t decide whether to cut Saturday mail delivery that could save over $3 billion a year alone.

Other examples of government indecision are almost too numerous to name:

– Should we intervene in Syria’s civil war that has taken more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions?

– When should we take action against Iranian nuclear facilities that violate nuclear non-proliferation and threaten world peace?

– How should we handle militant Islamic and Al Qaeda threats that don’t seem to dissipate?

– What do we do about the mounting federal deficit with a national debt approaching $17 trillion that is still rising about $2 billion a day!

– With fiscal cliffs, debt ceiling, sequestrations, and cuts to the U.S. credit rating, can we find our way forward?

– What should we do to get people back to work with an employment level of 58.6%, still around the lowest in the last 30 years?

– How do we reign in entitlement spending that needy people depend on, but where nearly half (49%) of Americans households today receive transfer payments, and entitlement spending has risen to $2.3 trillion annually and now are over 60% of entire federal outlays.

– How do we improve morale of the U.S. middle-class when only 33% think their children will be better off than their parents?

– What should we do about so many hanging issues out there–immigration reform, spiraling health care costs, improving our education system, balancing surveillance and privacy, and much more?

However, the ultimate question really is whether no decision is better than a decision?

With no decision, the problems continue to escalate until they sort of magically go away on their own (they are “overcome by events”) or more ominously, they reach epic crisis proportions.

With a decision to act, we may make good decisions that positively impact the situation or we may make bad decisions that have a negative impact, but even with a bad decision, we can monitor the effects and course-correct until we show true improvement.

Decisions often mean winners and losers–and no one wants to lose anything–and there are lobbyists and special interest groups–and no one wants to be voted out of office…so what do we do?

Oh no, I can’t decide!

The reality is that we will will have to make hard decisions or they will be made for us–we will either be the masters of our own fate of the slaves of our indecision.

We can take back control and fix what is broken or wallow in despair and disrepair.

We can act now or kick the can down the road and have much more painful decisions later.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>A Square Envelope and Enterprise Architecture


Would you believe me if I told you that the U.S. Post Office has trouble handling square envelopes? Well, it’s true, and moreover, the post office will actually “charge you a 17-cent surcharge for squareness.” This is called “shape-based postage.” (Wall Street Journal, 15 November 2007)

Why the surcharge? Because the post office sorting machines, “built for oblongs, can’t find the address on a square envelope. [Hence,] people have to do it.” In fact, “at a Manhattan post office…a window clerk…took one look at a square envelope and said ‘nonmachinable. I would not use that shape, period.’”

This is crazy isn’t it; we can put men on the moon, but we can’t send a square envelope easily through the mail system of the United States of America! (FYI, squares are not a problem for the mail system in the United Kingdom.)

I knew that being “square” in the seventies was a bad thing, and maybe even an insult, but what’s up with square now and how does this jive with users needs?

Well in the article, an owner from a graphics company states: “Squares…are the most current and most exciting product in paper communications.” Incredible, that the post office can’t meet their customers’ needs.

Even if squares are still a relatively small percentage of the overall mail (and according to the article they are), that may be because the post office can’t handle the shape versus the overall popularity of it with customers. As another sales rep states: “The post office cracked down…people had bad experiences with square cards. [And] if you put a stigma on something long enough, retailers aren’t going to deal with it anymore.”

So when the post office can’t handle the user needs, the card makers have innovated: “the shop has devised an oblong envelope with a middle pocket that squares slip neatly into.”

This is sounding almost like the post office is making us put a square peg in a round hole.

Just for the record, we shouldn’t blame the good men and women of the U.S. Post Office for the problems with the sorting machines. However, I believe this is clearly a job for User-centric Enterprise Architecture to align post office technology solutions for handling square envelopes with the business requirements for them. Clearly, it’s time for square equality.