Archive - Misc RSS Feed

Protesting the Postage Rate Increase?

Ever since my blog post about saving 10% on postage, I’ve been thinking more and more about the reality of all the postage out there that has never been used.

Then I realized that today is May 15th, the day (according to several mass-emails I received titled “Do not pump gas on May 15th”) that we as a nation are going to show our solidarity and stick it to the gas companies by boycotting the pump for one day. This email explains that if we all get together we can take the gas companies for billions of dollars, and they will choke on their stockpiles.

In a way, the post office has created their own form of stockpiling of postage. The stockpile of collectible stamps has definitely contributed to their bottom line, but will never be used. They know there are collectors out there that need to have a complete collection, so why not make more designs just to sell stamps that will never be used?

Big deal I say. The post office has a good idea. They won’t be more popular by raising rates every week, but they will be popular by releasing more collectibles, and keeping rate increases down by ensuring they sell more postage than is actually used.

Sure, I know I have better things to do than to dream about postage all day, you probably do too – but if you are curious about what is really out there, take a look at what I found out…

I called up my new buddy, Tim, at the local Stamp and Coin shop and asked if there were an industry association for Stamp & Coin stores – sure enough – the American Philatelic Society. After looking over their website I stumbled on the dealer member directory which boasts 1,800+ entries. Now Tim is not a member, and it looks like most of his peers at other local Stamp & Coin shops aren’t either. A quick yellow pages search for Stamp and Coin in Seattle shows eight stores, yet a search for member stores in the APS directory yields only two. If you apply that multiplier to the country you get 7,200 Stamp & Coin shops. Hardly scientific I know, but this is a blog post, not an investigative journalist’s life’s work.

Tim says if you are any kind of stamp store at all, you have to have at least the basic collection of plain old postage issues including five issues of each stamp, mini sheets (which can have 20 stamps), rolls, regular sheets, blocks of 4, and so on and so forth. That can easily run around $5,000 of face value postage for a small mom & pop store – not to mention the bigger stores.

Since Stamp & Coin shops are always buying and selling inventory of stamps, add to that another thousand or two just to make sure you have more of the popular stuff, and an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 face value of old postage that they picked up at estate auctions or bought from the heirs of collectors like I mentioned in my previous post.

Inventory adds up pretty quickly, and pretty soon we are looking at say – $25,000 of face value postage stamps at each little shop, not counting the face value of the collectible stamps that are actually worth far more than their face value and which no sane person would ever dream of using as postage. If we take our conservative estimate of $25,000 in face value and multiply that by 7,200 stores we are looking at $180,000,000.00 in unused postage just sitting around in store inventory. Not to mention millions of dollars in unused postage in private collector’s hands, old desk drawers, lost, you name it.

Let’s add in the private collections. Apparently more than 55,000 members receive The Journal of the American Philatelic Society. Don’t get me wrong. I like stamps. I use stamps. I think they’re great. I’ve always had a roll or book of stamps in my desk drawer, but I’ve never once thought about joining the special stamp club. I figure in order to want to join the APS desperately enough to pay a membership fee and get their journal, you probably have to be pretty serious about stamps.

Tim says if you are pretty serious about stamps you’ve got to have at least a couple thousand in face value postage. Take over 55,000 members and multiply that by a couple thousand bucks and you’re looking at well over $100 million dollars, and that’s just for the dedicated “card-carrying” members. Now you have to believe that if there are more than 55,000 people who want to pay to be members of the APS there have got to be tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands more, that think stamps are cool enough to collect, but don’t want to join the club. For every one person that is serious enough to join the membership club, there have got to be dozens who are interested enough to collect stamps, but not enough to pay to join. Add their collections into the mix.

Now some people may be thinking that this is too hard to believe. Seriously, “hundreds of millions” of dollars in stamps? Come on.

Well how about this for starters: since most “collectors” are by nature not “sellers” imagine how much postage they are holding onto compared to what they have for sale. A quick scan of the APS auditors’ report from three years ago shows that they had almost $14,000,000.00 of members’ stamp books sitting around on consignment waiting to be sold. Who knows what that number is today, and that just counts the stuff that they are trying to get rid of. Most collectors “collect” and don’t sell, so if there is $14 million sitting around on consignment waiting to be sold, imagine how much they have in their private collections.

Any way you slice it, it looks to me like there are hundreds of millions of dollars of unused postage out there just sitting around with no special collectible value. So forget the forever stamp, there are already “forever” stamps out there. Every stamp ever issued in the USA is still worth every penny that it says it is.

Don’t go nuts. Do not send an email to everyone you know that says something like this:
“Protest the postage rate increase! Don’t buy stamps from the post office for the entire month of May! Buy old postage from Stamp & Coin shops and don’t go to the Post Office for the entire month in protest of the postage rate increase! If we all get together we can take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the Post Office’s hands and put it back into the hands of the small business owners.

That will teach the Post Office that we don’t want a stamp hike!”

Oh rats, I forgot. I should have written that in ALL CAPS!

Obviously this won’t work for the same reason not buying gas on May 15th won’t work. As long as there are collectors, and as long as the Stamp & Coin shops keep inventory, they will just go out and buy more. If you don’t stop the consumption nothing changes when you put off purchasing for a brief time.

But what if people realized that the stamps that they were collecting were never going to make them rich? What if people who were sitting on stamp collections decided to take them out of their mint condition books and use them on a letter? Is the Post Office ready to operate on budget with an unforeseen $200 million dollar shortfall in postage sales?

It makes me wonder.

Now seriously, you need to get back to work because this post is way too long, and isn’t even remotely related to how to get the most out of the best Bible Study Software in the world like it should be.

If you are on your day off, and happen to be in the mood for some more crazy rambling, keep reading.

Is the USPS recognizing unused postage as a liability on their books, just like some gift card retailers do?

Does the postmaster general even discuss the fact that there are untold hundreds of millions of dollars in stamps out there that haven’t really been accounted for? They just assume that they will never be used, and they go about their business. Are they held to the same level of accountability that gift card or stored value card retailers are? Or does the government get different treatment?

Over a year ago it was reported that Home Depot Inc. saw $43 million in pretax profit from cards sold before 2002 that went unused. The same report revealed that Limited Brands Inc. had unspent gift cards worth $30.4 million on the books. It would be interesting to see if that same year the postmaster general’s report including a line item for unused postage… Big retailers are raking in tens of millions of dollars in profit on totally unused gift cards that people lose, throw away, collect, or just never spend – and those cards are way more versatile and useful than a sheet of stamps.

But once again we see that the Internet changes the way the world works. Now there are several websites that do nothing but facilitate trading or selling unused gift cards…not to mention eBay. People are already selling unused postage at a discount on eBay and other places.

Will we see new sites popping up selling “Unused postage” (hurry, that domain was still available when I wrote this post) or what about the new forever stamps? The USPS printed 4 billion “forever” stamps already and people are snapping them up like crazy. A quick search of the web shows a lively discussion on the merits of “forever stamp arbitrage” or forever stamps as investments. Since even the new forever stamp will always be worth the price of a first class mail piece, having, oh I don’t know…say 10,000 more stamps than you need when your kids inherit your shrewd investment may still flood the local Stamp & Coin shops with a ton of inventory that they will need to blow out. Of course it will be more convenient to use, so it may be easier to sell, but still – they will be sitting on lots of inventory, and that is a recipe for a discount.

Well, I have to get back to work now, then take some envelopes over to the Stamp & Coin place to get stamped, then run over to the gas station to fill up my car. Hey, I’m on empty, give me a break! :-)

Those Little Numbers and Letters

We recently created a Libronix-based product for a third party company andone of their outside consultants did Quality Assurance testing on it. She had a number of questions about the way things work within Libronix DLS—but the oddest question she asked was, “What are these numbers and letters all over the Bible?”

It took me a couple of tries to figure out that she was talking about the footnote and cross-reference indicators within the text of a Bible such as the English Standard Version.

After further clarification, I realized that she was not confused by the electronic implementation…she would have been equally stymied by the appearance of these littleletters and numbers in a print Bible! I guess it’s one of those things I take for granted as someone who has been around the Bible all my life. And yet surely somebody must have explained it to me, too, somewhere along the way.

People expect a fair bit of documentation with their new Bible software, which is why we include a help manual within the program, ship a free video tutorial disc with every base product, offer training articles, 70+ video tutorials on the web, Morris Proctor’s Tips & Tricks blog, tutorial posts right here on the Logos blog, user newsgroups, the Logos Wiki, and Camp Logos.

But what kind of help do people get when they pick up a print Bible for the very first time? How do they find out what all the little letters and numbers mean?

The Secret to Beating the Postage Increase


Buy your stamps for 10% off.

Yes, it’s pretty obvious I know, but 99% of the people reading this article don’t think it is possible – “isn’t it against the law for the post office to give discounts on stamps?” So what – you don’t have to buy them from the post office.

I know it sounds too good to be true, I thought so too until I figured out how to do it.

If you are like me, you have spent hours of your life poring over your expenses in every category, trying to find a place to shave off a percent or two here and there. Then you come to the postage category. You look at that solid and steadily increasing dollar amount, shed a few tears, and move on since you know there is no way to save on the actual postage itself. You can’t just stop mailing invoices or statements, and you can’t use bulk mail for them – you’re stuck.

After crying a few of those tears year after year, I read “Chapter 9: You Can Always Find 5%” from my favorite business book Fire Someone Todayand was determined to once and for all find a way to shave something off that number somehow. Everyone said it couldn’t be done – “Everyone knows there are no discounts on postage other than bulk mail.” I was more determined than ever to find a way to shave at least 5% off my postage expenses.

I talked to my post office representative, I called the postmaster, I asked the UPS guys, the mail forwarders, the bulk rate mailers, and everyone else I could think of. Then I called the local “Stamp & Coin” shop and hit pay-dirt.

It turns out that there are thousands upon thousands of people happily stockpiling stamps while completely oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of all stamps are, guess what… used as stamps, and will never be worth more than their face value. They buy every roll or book of postage issued, no matter how mass-produced they may be, hoping they will strike it rich with a bunch of collector’s items someday. Eventually they pass on and their heirs inherit tons of old postage with no special collectable value at all. They can’t use that much postage themselves, so they sell it to the local stamp and coin place at pennies on the dollar.

The beauty of the old postage is that it never loses its face value or expires. While it may be worthless as a collector’s item, it is still worth every penny printed on its face. Just like any other inventory item, the old postage purchased at a discount is often passed on at a discount. The more dollars the local shop has tied up in old postage inventory, the more likely they are to blow it out at a discount.

I went over to my local stamp and coin place and made a deal with them. They agreed to hand-apply the correct postage to my statement envelopes when they had down time if I agreed to buy my postage from them. Sounded like a no-brainer to me. They sold the postage to me for 10% off face value and applied it for free. Now I am saving 10% on all my postage and getting the labor for free in an expense category that I originally thought there wasn’t a penny to be saved in.

As a bonus, it seems like my invoices and statements are being opened more often. When my customers see the rare and often antique hand-applied postage stamps, they know a real person had to touch this envelope and not just a postage-meter or bulk mailer.

Every penny counts. On May 14th the postage rate change is a 5% increase to your competitors’ postage budgets.

Let it be the day it becomes a 10% decrease in yours.

Today’s guest blogger is Dan Pritchett, director of marketing for Logos Bible Software.

Related post: Protesting the Postage Rate Increase?

Smokers Drive Up Costs of Bibles

It used to be thatprisoners would roll an inexpensive cigarettefrom a pageout of theBible, but no longer.According to a report fromCrosswalk.com, smokers half a world away are driving up the cost of the special paper used to print Bibles.

What goes around comes around.

Smoking Curtails Bible Production

Religion Today Summaries, April 26, 2007—There are at least two good reasons to stop smoking. Number one: It may damage your health. Number two: It raises the production costs for Bibles, ASSIST News Service reports. The Chinese craving for cigarettes is responsible for rising paper costs in bible printing, according to the business manager of the German Bible Society, Felix Breidenstein. Because of the rising demand for cigarette paper in China the special thin paper used in bible printing is getting more expensive, as Breidenstein told the German news magazine Der Spiegel. The German Bible Society sells approximately 400,000 bibles per year.

I’ve always been intrigued by how our experience of the Bible is affected by the medium, which in turn is constrained by logistical factors such as the cost of paper.

The Bible has a lot of pages and yet it’s a book we carry around with us more than most other books. That means we want it to be thin and light, not big and bulky.Hence special, super-thin paper, small print, two- or three-column layout, and relatively narrow margins. All of these factors impact our interaction with the Bible in subtle or not-so subtle ways. Example: Thin pages => special no-bleed marking pens =>crocheted Bible cover with pockets to hold pens. It’s a slippery slope.

Of course, the experience of using an electronic Bible is similarly influenced by the library software used to read and search it. How cross-references or footnotes are handled, how poetry is formatted, options for notes and highlighting—all these and more contribute to the user experience, and all are subject to various constraints.

The difference is, electronic Bible publishers fret about CPU, RAM, and screen size while print Bible publishers lie awake at night worrying about how many Chinese are taking up smoking.

Update 4/27 – Smoking Bible pages actually does happen, as attested by a Bible Network News audio report about a prisoner whose chaplain asked him not to smoke the book of John. Click here to open the BNN page, then scroll down to “Texan smoked Bible passages”.

Logos for the Mac Update

Searching works! Logos Bible Software for the Mac is continuing to progress, and the latest drop has searching up and running. The screenshot also shows My Library and the Bibliography report.

For a closer look, choose the medium(900px) or large(1600px) version.

Happy Curry Day!

Today marks the 7th Annual Logos Curry Cook-Off!

The very first Logos Curry Cook-Off occurred in early April, 2001, with Rick Brannan taking top honors and Eli Evans coming in a close second. I just dug back into my email folder and found a link to photos from the First-Ever Logos Curry Contest at Rick’s website. Seems like ancient history.

Of course, curry has a great history of its own—stretching back to biblical times no less! Peter & Colleen Grove write in their work Curry, Spice & All Things Nice,

“The earliest known recipe for meat in spicy sauce with bread appeared on tablets found near Babylon in Mesopotamia, written in cuniform text as discovered by the Sumerians, and dated around 1700 B.C., probably as an offering to the god Marduk.”

Curry is Cooking!In the first English cookbook, published in 1390, the word cury denotes cooking.

Our curry is enjoyed for its own sake, with no religious connotations except a prayer before the meal. But perhaps the Ancient Near East connection explains why we at Logos love curry so much! (I will be concerned, however, if Vincent Setterholm and Mike Heiser team up to decode the Sumerian cuneiform and enter Marduk Curry next year.)

The Grove book has a chapter devoted to the origins of curry, which includesan extensive discussion of the etymology of the word curry, the lineage of this noble food, and the following delightful poem by Thackeray. The authors introduce the poem thus:

“In 1780 the first commercial curry powder appeared and in 1846 its fame was assured when William Makepeace Thackeray wrote a ‘Poem to Curry’ in his ‘Kitchen Melodies’.”

Curry

Three pounds of veal my darling girl prepares,And chops it nicely into little squares; Five onions next prures the little minx (The biggest are the best, her Samiwel thinks), And Epping butter nearly half a pound, And stews them in a pan until they’re brown’d. What’s next my dexterous little girl will do? She pops the meat into the savoury stew, With curry-powder table-spoonfuls three, And milk a pint (the richest that may be), And, when the dish has stewed for half an hour, A lemon’s ready juice she’ll o’er it pour. Then, bless her! Then she gives the luscious pot A very gentle boil – and serves quite hot. PS – Beef, mutton, rabbit, if you wish, Lobsters, or prawns, or any kind fish,Are fit to make a CURRY. ‘Tis, when done, A dish for Emperors to feed upon.

New Blogs and Old

Two new Logos-related blogs were launched recently.

Bob Pritchett, Logos president and CEO, has a new blog at BobPritchett.com that joins his Fire Someone Today blog and occasional contributions right here at the Logos Blog. His new blog is subtitled “Business, technology, and Logos Bible Software.”

In his introductory post, Bob writes:

I believe in blogging, and I want to do it well. Especially the raw, open blogging that makes some organizations transparent and approachable.

So be sure to check out Bob’s new blog and subscribe.

Original Expression is a new blog started by Bill Nienhuis, director of publisher relations at Logos. Billtravels a lot to meet with publishers and negotiate licenses for new books. His blog’s byline is “Book publishing, ePublishing, and everything in between.” Recent posts have focused on his time at the London Book Fair.

Rick Brannan, an information architect in our design and editorial department, is still going strong with Ricoblog and also runs and posts regularly to the PastoralEpistles blog. Rick blogsa lot about the Greek New Testament, from text critical matters to orthography, from exegetical questions to the latest book he’s reading.

Links & RSS Info

Here are links to various “personal blogs” from Logos employees. Additionalinfo about RSS feeds (e.g., what are they and how do I use them?) and links to Logos feeds can be found at the Logos and RSS page.

Bob Pritchett, president and CEOFireSomeoneToday- Subscribe! RSSBobPritchett.comSubscribe! RSS
Rick Brannan, design and editorialRicoblog- Subscribe! RSSPastoralEpistles.com- Subscribe! RSS
Bill Nienhuis, director, publisher relations officeOriginalExpression - Subscribe! RSS

Social Experiment at Amazon

It looks like Amazon.com is doing an experiment in social tagging. UnSpun beta allows users to create lists of anything they want, associate links with each item, then open up the list to the community of Internet users to rank and comment.

One of the most popular lists at UnSpun right nowis titled Best Blogs about Biblical Studies. It lists 65 blogs that deal with biblical studies issues. It’s worth visiting as you will probably find some new blogs or sites to check out.

The way their ranking system works is that visitors can “vote” for items on the list by clicking the up or down arrows as shown below (see the “click” pointer).

If you click the Your Ranking link and sign in, you can create your own ranking of some or all of the items in the original list.

Just click the left-pointing arrow to move items to your list (as shown below). This impacts their spot in the Community Ranking even more than the simple up or down vote.

Check it out and show your support for the LogosBlog if you are so inclined.

Other UnSpun lists that may be of interest:

Muppets in Middle-Earth (Frivolity at Logos)


Last Friday, Ken Smith, general manager of electronic publishing services at Logos and author of a number of blog posts, conceived of an idea for a new Muppets movie: The Muppets inMiddle-Earth. That’s right, a muppet cast for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings!

During the lunch hour, Ken sent an office wide email that began:

“I got to thinking about which Muppet characters I would cast into which LOTR roles and decided it would be a fun little diversion to share with anyone who wanted to give their opinion.”

When somebody throws down the gauntlet like that, what can you do but rise to the challenge?

A number of people did so, resultingin the following consensus cast list for The Muppets in Middle-Earth (with comments from Ken Smith). Feel free to leave your own nominations, cheers or jeers in the comments section!

Frodo: Kermit Sam: Fozzie Bear Gandalf: Big Bird Aragorn: Kermit (There was no clear second choice) Legolas: Gonzo Gimli: Tie between Rizzo the Rat and Cookie Monster Merry/Pippin: Ernie/Bert Gollum: Tie between Oscar the Grouch and Animal Galadriel: Janice Arwen: Miss Piggy Elrond: Tie between Dr. Teeth and Sam the Eagle (Sam definitely has Elrond’s permanent scowl) Saruman: Tie between Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Count von Count Eowyn: Miss Piggy (dual-role? I think she could handle it.) Wormtongue: Rizzo the Rat Orcs: Animal, Sweetums Black Riders: Count von Count, Statler & Waldorf

No consensus (see below):Bilbo, Boromir, Faramir, Theoden, Eomer

Not on the original list: Treebeard: Big Bird Cave Troll: Sweetums

Here are other nominations, with comments from those who submitted them:

Frodo: Grover, Fozzie Bear

Sam: Scooter, Elmo, Grover

Gandalf: Sam the Eagle, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Swedish ChefRowlf (with a dorky hat)John Denver (if he were still alive–maybe some CGI magic?)

Aragorn: Floyd, Big Bird, RowlfGrover (with possible appearance by Super Grover)Here I would cast a live-action actor, say, Christopher Walken

Legolas: Janice, Grover, Elmo, Floyd

Gimli: Sweetums (muh-nah-muh-nah), Fozzie Bear, Gonzo

Merry/Pippen: Gonzo/Rizzo the Rat, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew/Beaker

Gollum: Beaker

Galadriel: Miss Piggy, Camilla the Chicken

Arwen: Sam the Eagle in a wig

Elrond: Elmo, Grover, Big Bird

Bilbo: Swedish Chef, Gonzo, Cookie Monster, Telly, FloydStatler… or Waldorf (they could switch off, like Mary Kate and Ashley did)

Boromir: Statler, Cookie Monster, Zoot, Scooter, Bert

Faramir: Waldorf, Rowlf, Grover, Ernie

Saruman: Statler

Theoden: Swedish Chef, Sam the Eagle, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Rowlf

Eomer: Rowlf, Elmo, Robin the frog, Gobo (Fraggle Rock)

Eowyn: Janice, Camilla the Chicken, Mokey (Fraggle Rock)

Wormtongue: Beaker, Waldorf, Oscar the Grouch, Marvin Suggs

Orcs: Oscar the Grouch, Clifford, Bobo, Floyd, Dr. Teeth, Pepe the PrawnOne Million Swedish Chefs (Just picture it…)

Black Riders: Sam the Eagle, Zoot, The Fragglesthe purple siamese twin monsters from Sesame StreetGonzo (fell beasts, chickens, same difference)

Other fun comments:

Aside from the hobbits listed above, all the other hobbits would have to be those aliens from Sesame Street that just walked around saying “yip-yip-yip-yip yuuuuuup“.

I know that having the Swedish Chef as Gandalf is bizarre, but just think how funny it would be to hear him shouting out lines like “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!“

At the end, we find out that that … Sauron … is … really …

… ELMO!

Logos 3 Wins Industry Achievement Award

Logos Bible Software 3was honored with the Community’s Choice Award at the WSA technology industry event Wednesday night in Seattle.

Farecast.com won Consumer Product of the Year (we were a finalist in that category), and they definitely deserve it, so congrats to them!

It was great to see Logos recognized at a gathering of more than 1,000 of the industry’s finest, including people from Microsoft, Google (though I didn’t see any), the Puget Sound Business Journal, Farecast, WhitePages.com and many other Washington State businesses.

When accepting the award, Bob said that when he and Kiernon left Microsoft to start Logos, they traded down in terms of the size of the user base but traded up in terms of the passion and loyalty of users. I heartily agree.

According to the event brochure, the Community Choice Award is “perhaps the most coveted of the WSA Industry Achievement Awards.” We certainly owe it to our community of users, who are the best in the world (and no doubt coveted by some of the other companies at the event).

Thanks for your passion for Bible study and Logos Bible Software!