Ordering postage stamps online

Since I hadn’t been in a store of any type for over two months, it had come to this: ordering stamps online.

My stash of stamps had sadly gone very low. It was all down to bad luck. I had been to the post office in order to get stamps on multiple occasions before the quarantine started in deadly earnest — in fact, I went just the very week before. But the post office on the Rice University campus leaves much to be desired. They hardly ever have nice stamps. They had an absolutely trash selection, so I just didn’t buy any. I thought, maybe I can go browse another post office. Before I had the chance, the quarantine struck.

So over the past two months, I have been using the Christmas wreaths stamps to send letters. This is not my style at all. The stamps must be in sync with the season, at least in normal times. But I was driven by desperation.

But finally, even the holiday stamps were running out, so I finally decided to order stamps online. I would have done this much earlier, but you have to create an account on the USPS website in order to order things. I don’t like creating accounts and having my name all over the place. It didn’t end up being that painful, though. You just go to usps.com and it doesn’t take long.

I placed the order on May 13. I got two books of stamps — one with the orchids, one with ‘Eid Mubarak’. Well, Eid has come and gone (May 24-25), and I still don’t have the stamps. I thought they’d just send them, nice and simple, from the local post office. But no! They sent them all the way from the Kansas City distribution center. I don’t know how necessary that was.

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I know everything is delayed right now, but just for your reference, the order wasn’t even processed until six days after I placed it, on May 19. Ever since May 22, the tracking status has said that the estimated time of delivery is the next day. But in reality, the shipment only arrived at my local USPS facility on May 23. It arrived in my town on May 25 (today). I guess I will get it tomorrow, but I won’t be surprised if not.

It cost $1.20 extra for the shipping. It was a $1.20 for shipping whether I ordered one booklet or two.

Update: the stamps did arrive on May 26, and they come very unnecessarily wrapped in both plastic protection and a cardstock support. It’s an awful lot of environmentally-wasteful packaging (not to mention the large envelop and the shipping emissions) for two thin books of stamps.

Carl Larsson in the US

I once wrote about finding Carl Larsson cards in Berkeley, California, and in Davis, California.

Well, I have found some more Carl Larsson artifacts in the US.

First, you can go to Solvang, California, and there’s a store there that sells magnets with Carl Larsson paintings on them. I don’t want to mention the name of the store, because I a little confused as to whether I want to bring them more business, because they seem to have a lot of bad reviews for rudeness. Also, I don’t 100% remember, but I might have bought all the Carl Larsson magnets they had, anyways. I bought thre. It was so glorious!! As the store reviews predicted, the women at the register were surly. And then, like an idiot, right after paying for the magnets, I left them there at the counter and walked out the store without them! And they closed about a minute later! And it wasn’t until about 30 minutes later that I was frantically searching my purse and came up empty-handed of my Carl Larsson magnets. We went back to the store, but the lights were out, and it was empty. I was heart-broken all night. The next morning, I called them, though, and they had indeed found the magnets, and they shipped them for free to North Carolina. So that was actually very nice of them. I mostly took the train home from California to North Carolina, with a 3-day stop in Chicago, but actually I beat the magnets home by a day.

The second Carl Larsson place for artifacts is the gift shop of the Swedish-American museum in Chicago. Maybe it’s just a winter thing, but they were selling Carl Larsson winter cards. And for far cheaper than if you ordered them online from Pomegranate. I bought a box so that I’ll have it ready for next year. It was great!

More bokmärken in the US

I wrote once about the first time I ever found bokmärken in the US. It was such a wonderful occasion.

I went back to Payn’s Stationary story when I visited San Francisco again in December 2019 for a conference. He was still selling bokmärken, and there were different varieties than the last time I’d been there a year and a half previously. It was delicious! I bought a whole bunch, and the guy at the register, who I guess maybe was the owner, told me: oh, I’m going to have to order more of these now!

He said that he orders them from some whole-saler who imports them from Europe. He just orders more as he needs them. Yes, you keep doing that.

And then about a week later, I visited Solvang in southern California. This town is built as a “traditional Danish settlement”, though I don’t know exactly how much real Danish history that town has. Whatever the case may be, there’s lots of stores there that sell trinkets, and among them was a store entirely dedicated to Christmas stuff. It was called Jule-something. Amidst all the Christmas ornaments and decorations, I found a shelf drowning in bokmärken! It was so wonderful. And they were selling for cheaper than at Payn’s! Like half-price. I bought all I wanted (maybe 6 sheets), and although I got some Christmasy ones, I also got frogs, and fairytales, and flowers, and all sorts.

However, the sad news is that according to the cashiers, their supplier of bokmärken is no longer selling them or something. So I think that stash on that shelf might be the last of them. Maybe they’re just slowing going to wean themselves off of that particular piece of merchandise. It’s a shame.

I afterwards took the train from California to Chicago. In Chicago, I visited the Swedish-American museum. They don’t sell bokmärken there! Can you believe it?

All about pens

Today I saw an hour-long demonstration by a professor at Rice, all about pens. It was very interesting!

He had a pen straight out of the 1800s, or 1700s. It doesn’t look like a pen; it looks like something you’d have in a toolbox to scrape paint. It’s a wooden stick to grip, and then it has a metal “nib” on the top. There’s no thin tube of ink on the inside, indeed, there’s no space to shove in such a tube in the first place. Instead, you have a little pot of black ink beside you, and you actually sit and dip your pen in the inkpot, and then you write or scribble or draw a few strokes, and then back you are in the inkpot, dipping your pen. This is called a “dipping-pen”. I’m amazed! I never knew that was how it worked. What in the world. So that’s how they wrote in the olden days, apparently. You just dipped your dipping-pen into a pot of ink, and that would be enough ink to maybe write a word, and then you dip and repeat.

Also, did you know that you can apparently (try to) take a syringe, break into your pen, squeeze all the ink out with the syringe, and then replace it with whatever type and whatever color ink you like? Sometimes it works, sometimes you just destroy the pen.

What if you forget to write the zip code on a piece of mail?

I dropped three postcards in a rush into a blue mail pick-up bin in Union Station in Los Angeles on a Monday evening in December. In my hurry, I had forgotten to write the zip code of the delivery address on two of those postcards (I wrote the addresses down from memory, and meant to double-check the zip codes of two of them later). The sole postcard with the complete address arrived in rural North Carolina on Saturday. A postcard missing its zip code arrived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the following Thursday. And the last postcard was also delivered around the same time, zip code-less, to Houston. So forgetting the zip code adds about 5 days or so to the journey of your mail.

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Rushed photo at the central train station in Los Angeles

Pretty stationary

As I wound down my PhD, I started spending more time at the UNC Makerspace. That’s where you can use a laser cutter or a vinyl cutter, do some 3D printing, or duck into the woodshop, and use fancy bottles of glue, and get access to paint and a sewing machine and more and more. I always wish I could have spent more time there.

I made a design of an angel based on an outline from works of a Swedish sculptor. A student working at the Makerspace helped me figure out how to go from the picture of the angel to just the outline that I needed in Adobe Illustrator.

First, I just made stickers of the angel, cut into vinyl:

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I tweaked it a few times, and finally, I stuck two angels together, so that they formed the letter “L”. I also spelled out o -v – e, so the entire thing looked something like:

love

And then, I half-way laser-cut that angel onto this piece of printed paper:

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It’s only half-way laser-cut so that the angel doesn’t fall out. So you can see the outline, but the angel stays attached. Who knew a laser could cut a depth with that much precision?

I already wrote the letter on it, so the streaks are where I smeared the ink out. I thought the angel looked very nice with the fairies, and you know, this is a one of a kind production! No other piece of fairy paper like that has this exact angel on it. So I sent this to a very special person.

And I also made some other laser-cut “angel L’s” that did pop out, like this:

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I think they are very, very pretty. I always wondered, when I saw intricate designs cut out, “did they really do that with scissors?” Now I know it’s with the laser!