I apologize to all the people to whom I owe either thank yous or emails in general. In the best of times, I can be a slow correspondent, but right now a lot of Life is happening.
Nothing bad, I promise. On the contrary. But extracurricular writing is taking up hours upon hours (surprising and pleasant hours) of my time. In between writings, The Wandering Monk and I have been working like hell to turn a quarter acre of weeds and trash into something resembling a real lawn.
The Monk has been great, especially considering he’s laboring for free and I’ve been browbeating (nicely, but still browbeating) him to keep moving on the project between a very short summer and what looks to be an early fall.
Oh, the stuff we’ve continued to drag out of that soft, sinking ground! The giant holes we’ve filled with topsoil. The moss we’ve raked out. The rocks and sticks we’ve tossed. But after one final marathon effort on Thursday, the job is nearly finished — just in time for a perfect watering rain that night.
Or it was nearly finished. I checked on it Friday morning and discovered that multiple deer, at least one dog, and probably also a small coyote had partied all night through the eight yards of soft, now-muddy topsoil we so painstakingly spread and seeded. Sigh.
I repaired that damage but haven’t had time to moss-rake and seed one final corner. The Monk, dear person, offered to come back and do it, but I don’t have the heart to be that much of a slavedriver.
Anyhow, that’s my excuse for having nothing brilliant to say today.
But here are a few good links:
- A couple days ago, Elias Alias sent around an appeal for money to help a beautiful little pibble girl with a sad and unthinkably painful story. I was getting ready to blog the appeal when the rescuer (Elias’ webmaster, “Medicine Hawk,” a real animal-rescue heroine) updated with a tremendous success story. Read about Mia and weep — then rejoice.
- Noah Body posted this in comments. But it’s such an important cautionary tale about privacy and surveillance capabilities that it deserves to be brought forward. Police bust a would-be serial killer (or maybe just a scary nutcase) based on the postage stamps he used. Yeah, the guy is a creepazoid and I hope he stays off the streets for a long time. But this technique could be used against innocent political activists and monkeywrenchers, too.
- And remember: The feds are rarely after justice. They’re mostly after scalps. Or notches on their guns. Or heads to mount on their career walls. They don’t care if you’re innocent.
- Leave it to Ammo.com to produce the best-ever backgrounder on the 9/11 tragedy.
- Jim Quinn of the Burning Platform is demoralized, depressed, detached, and defiant about the state of his website. I can identify.
- Johns Hopkins, a pioneer in the revival of psychedelic therapy, is now creating a faculty in psychedelic studies.
- The Trayvon Hoax. This sounds like an intriguing piece of investigative journalism. (And no, it’s not at all unsympathetic to Trayvon Martin; merely to the people who’ve used him to the point of deception to line their own pockets and further their own causes.) (H/T FM)
- Ten traits that make people unusually likeable.
A link in the article on the busted would-be serial killer is to an APA “study” that purports to show little correlation between mental illness and crime. That article mentions, “People with mental illnesses also are on probation or parole at two to four times the rate for the general population.” Seems to me that there is a high correlation. I have to question the methodology of a study that finds little to no correlation with that particular fact sticking out like a sore thumb.
Do ordinary stamps have an invisible serial number/barcode on them?
Looking at the stamps on my desk, I don’t see any number other than 2016, the year the Star Trek series was issued.
I noted that the guy who got traced bought his stamps at a post office kiosk, which took his photo, and paid with his credit card, which the kiosk recorded.
I’m guessing that my stamps, purchased in a book, at a contract post office substation, for cash, when I was one of several people in a line, would be harder to track to me even if they are somehow marked.
The more I hear about the behavior of the FBI the more I am convinced there should be no FBI.
Well, no World Makerfaire in NYC this year, if ever.
To be fair, I thought the Maker movement has been plateau-ing for a while now.
I checked the stamps I have, flag stamps dated 2018. With a magnifier, I was able to see a very small black line, along one of the flag’s red stripes, that could be a bar code.
Maybe this is something very new, so it wouldn’t be on Larry’s 2016 stamps?
I have tried an experiment, cutting the line out with a knife point, and we shall see if the letter gets delivered to the recipient. But there could be other codes, microdots?
It might be possible to avoid tracking by: not buying stamps at the post office. A number of retailers sell them, such as Walmart. Pay only with cash. Don’t use any loyalty or reward cards. Don’t fill out any customer satisfaction surveys. But even then, the transaction will probably be recorded on video.
This is a serious blow to privacy in communications, commerce, activism, protest, and whistleblowing. So much for the good old anonymous letter.
The noose tightens around us,
I haven’t looked into it a lot, but apparently some stamps have bar codes readable only under UV light, while some have visible bar and QV codes.
Noah Body, I’ll be interested in the results of your experiment. The PO has long wanted to be one of the worse violators of our privacy and most diligent trackers of our activity. Nothing they do would surprise me.
Claire, looking at your links, those stamps appear to be the ones that get printed out when you buy them at the post office’s self-serve, automated kiosk. The machine does not dispense a pre-printed book of stamps, like you would buy at the counter, but prints out the stamps, just like it would print out a label for a package. They do contain various QR-type coding.
Maybe that’s what the creepazoid did? The stamps I examined were pre-printed, bought in a book.
My stamps, too, are uncoded (as near as I can tell under magnifying glass), and they were bought in a book at the P. O.
Perhaps kiosks themselves are suspect, and the P. O. wants to be sure that stamps sold there are not counterfeit, therefore they are coded.
I agree on the stamps shown with the highly visible codes. But it appears that other stamps do have invisible codes — ones that are revealed only under UV light.
My experiment was successful. The recipient got the letter, with no delay or strange markings, etc.
Maybe the tiny black line was wasn’t a bar code? I wasn’t able to magnify it enough to tell.