Join me in celebrating "Lysander Spooner Day" on May 14th!

I propose that Americans observe Lysander Spooner Day on May 14th (a Thursday this year).

How?

By refusing any and all un-wanted mail!

I’ll get to the how in a moment, but I think it’d be a fitting tribute because Mr. Spooner thought that the US Postal Service was an unconstitutional monopoly – so he did what any good person would and responded by starting a competing company, the American Letter Mail Company.

The US Government responded to this competition by tying him up in court until he ran out of money and shuttered the company.

Fast forward about 170 years…

I just got done sorting through a pile of unread mail in my home.

It weighed 8.5 lbs (4kg)!

After sorting it into two piles, I found that 86% of the mail was unsolicited junk!

So here’s how to stop it.

The USPS Domestic Mail Manual section 508 part 1.1.3 “Refusal After Delivery” explains that Addressees may control delivery of their mail.

One way to do this is to write Refused near the postage (I’ve used a fat tipped fluorescent pink marker to great effect), then returning it to my mailbox with an indication that there is mail to be picked up.

When the letter carrier arrives, they see the mail piece, read the Refused note, and process it accordingly.

That’s all there is to it – and it takes a lot less of your valuable time and effort to write Refused on a letter (or you can use a Refused stamp) than it does to recycle the mail or throw it away.

Don’t you think that’d be a fitting remembrance for a guy who was bullied by the US Government?  If so, simply share this post with your friends, family, and most importantly – your neighbors!  This protest against Government bullying and junk mail will work best if people participate together.

I propose the hashtag #LysanderSpoonerDay in social media.  Please join me in spreading the word so that Lysander Spooner and the ideas he stood for are remembered across the nation.

All I ask is that you share a link to this page with your friends, and by all means, let me know if you’ll be participating!


Some of you might be wondering, “What happens if I do this for a while – will I get in trouble? Will my letter carrier get mad at me?” For the answer to those questions, I’ve detailed my experience with refusing United States Postal Service junk mail.

My experience with refusing United States Postal Service junk mail

Earlier today I discovered that I had 8.5 lbs. of mail in my house – none of it really important as evidenced by the fact that I ignore it to no ill effect for long stretches at a time – in this case, several months.

I had been refusing my mail using the process described in the USPS Domestic Mail Manual section 508 part 1.1.3 “Refusal After Delivery”.

But how did I get that much junk if I’m refusing it?  Well, I took a break because we added a new member to our family and I honestly didn’t have time to interact with mail at all – not even enough to refuse it.

But I did use this approach before for several months and here’s what happened.

At first, the mail simply disappeared.  This happened for a few weeks.  Then, one day when I wasn’t home, the letter carrier asked my wife a strange question.

Does your husband live here anymore?

My wife suspected something fishy and said that yes, of course I still lived here, and asked him what led to his question.

He said:

Oh, well, we’ve been getting a lot of mail addressed to him that is refused… so we’re going to assume that he doesn’t live here anymore and hold all of his mail.

Seriously? Threats?!? They didn’t like what I was doing so they were going to hold my mail hostage and make me go to their post office to beg for it – no doubt with a complimentary tongue lashing?

My wife responded that the mail man would need to discuss that with me first.

It took me a few days to catch my letter carrier to discuss it with him.

I asked him what the issue was and he explained that my refusal was causing a lot of confusion and frustration at the local post office.

Specifically, he was concerned that it was his sworn duty to deliver every piece of mail with proper postage to my house.

I explained that I did not in any way wish to interfere with anyone’s attempts to do so – only that, as documented in the Domestic Mail Manual, I would be exercising my authority to refuse any mail allowed by the policy.

He said that this left them in a bit of a pickle.

According to him, anything mailed first class would be sent back to the sender – at the sender’s expense (which is an easy way to use market forces to encourage organizations to stop sending junk mail – who wants to pay for useless junk mail?).

That was a hassle for them – but at least they knew what to do with it.

The problem was “bulk mail” that is delivered to everyone in an area as a service of the Postal Service.  Apparently they don’t have a process for returning it – and my junk mail was piling up in the post office.  Worse yet, they have strict policies against destroying or disposing of mail.

His proposal was that I continue to accept delivery of mail as before – and continue expending time and energy processing it as garbage or recycling.

I expressed that I was simply trying to simplify my life, and that while I planned to deal with any requested mail, the junk mail was tantamount to someone stopping by each day and littering in my living room.

I explained that I was unsympathetic to the concern that the perpetrators of this littering would now have to shoulder 100% of the burden for the trouble they’ve caused me and countless other Americans for years.

Since I have nothing against my letter carriers or US Postal Service employees personally, I notified him that I opted out of “bulk mail” and that as a result he would no longer have to shoulder my mail both to my home, and back to the post office after I had refused it.

Unfortunately, he was unwilling to accept my proposal, once again admonishing me that he was bound by sacred trust to deliver every fake foreign lottery winning notice some fraudster felt like sending.

I also explained that, perhaps he could obtain some relief by asking the USPS to amend the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) or other policies to address his concerns.  It was a real shame that people reading and following the instructions in the DMM were causing so many internal issues – but those were issues between the USPS and it’s employees, and as a customer there was little I could do about them.

Disappointed, he smiled and said that his supervisor would be paying me a visit and I responded by sharing my schedule so she could catch me on a weekday when I was home.

Unfortunately, I have yet to discuss the matter with a supervisor as none have ever attempted to contact me.

So, there you have it… refusing mail in compliance with DMM guidelines may result in threats and attempts to coerce you to stop, but so far I have not explored the limits of adhering to this approach in the long run, so my apologies if it results in less favorable outcomes in your particular case.

How to get Live.com accounts working in Windows 10 Mail Preview

Having trouble configuring your Live.com, Outlook.com or Hotmail.com email address working with the Mail Preview app in Windows 10 Technical Preview builds 10061 or 10074?

Symptoms

When you try to add an account in the Windows 10 Mail Preview app, you have a few options in the Choose an account screen. 

If you select the Exchange option (which lists Exchange and Office 365 compatibility – but none of the legacy free-email domains specifically) it will ask you for your address and take a while before responding with a prompt for your password.

Shortly after entering your password, the dialog box disappears.

Solution

This seems to be an issue for people using two-factor authentication with their Microsoft Accounts.  If so, you’ll need to look up your app password – or create a new one.

After that, simply follow the same steps listed above – but instead of your normal password, use the app password.

After that, everything should work like a charm.

Michael Stinziano Quiz Results

As part of my research into Columbus City Council candidates in the May 5, 2015 Primary, I sent each candidate a list of the questions from The World’s Smallest Political Quiz (WSPQ)

These are the results from Columbus City Council Candidate Michael Stinziano

Note: Since the final question was un-answered, I treated it as disagree due to the way the quiz is scored with 20 points for Agree, 10 points for Maybe, and 0 points for Disagree.  I just didn’t want to skew it by giving points for a non-answer.

Personal Issues

Government should not censor speech, press, media, or internet. – Agree

Military service should be voluntary. There should be no draft. – Agree

There should be no laws regarding sex for consenting adults. – Agree

Repeal laws prohibiting adult possession and use of drugs. –  Disagree

There should be no National ID card. – Agree

Economic Issues

End “corporate welfare.” No government handouts to business. – Maybe

Creating more and better jobs to grow our economy and restore economic prosperity is my top priority.  I am dedicated to creating jobs, particularly to foster small business growth, fund essential services, to help promote neighborhood safety, support our schools, and provide everyone with effective, responsive constituent service.

End government barriers to international free trade. – Maybe

Let people control their own retirement; privatize Social Security. – Maybe

“The devil is in the details” of any plan to privatize Social Security.

Replace government welfare with private charity. – Disagree

Cut taxes and government spending by 50% or more. – NO ANSWER

May 5, 2015 Columbus City Primary Race

People often ask me who a Libertarian should vote for in various political races such as the upcoming May 5, 2015 Primary.  While I’d advise people to vote for Libertarian candidates while available, sometimes none are available in a given race.

Luckily, public sentiments seem to be leaning more libertarian – so there are votes to be won for the establishment parties by running candidates who stake out libertarian positions on key issues.

Over the years it seems like the World’s Smallest Political Quiz (WSPQ) has been as good an indicator of libertarian philosophy of a person as any, so I tend to use it to get a quick overview of where a candidate stands.

With that in mind, I obtained the campaign email addresses for all of the candidates in this year’s Columbus City Council and Columbus Mayor’s race.  I wanted to find Columbus School Board candidate emails as well but too few of them had phone, email, or websites listed.

I’m listing the candidates, WSPQ score (if they responded to my request – a perfect score is 100/100 on Personal/Economic freedoms) and their campaign Twitter and email accounts in case you’d like to ask them questions before you cast your vote.  Candidates who responded will also have a clickable name with details of their response.

Here’s the list of candidates for this year’s May Primary.

Columbus Mayor

Name

WSPQ Score

Twitter

Email

Terry A. Boyd

? @BoydforColumbus northcoastboyd@gmail.com

Jeff
Brown

?   jbrown75n@gmail.com

Andrew J.
Ginther

? @AndrewGinther andrew@andrewginther.com

Selina R.Miller

?   selinamiller7@hotmail.com

James C.Ragland

? @Ragland4Mayor ragland4mayor@gmail.com

Zach
Scott

? @ZachScott2015 scottforcolumbus@gmail.com

Columbus City Council

Name

WSPQ Score

Twitter

Email

Orie
Givens
?   ideasfororie@gmail.com
Zach
Klein
? @zmklein zach@zachklein.org
Kiwan R.
Lawson
?   FriendsForKiwanLawson@gmail.com
Michelle M.Mills ?   michellemarle.mills8@gmail.com
Jaiza
Page
? @Jaiza_Page jaiza.page@gmail.com
Will
Petrik
? @WillPetrik will@willpetrik.org
John
Rush
? @Citizens4Rush john@citizensforrush.com
Besmira
Sharrah
?   bsharra@gmail.com
Ibrahima
Sow
? @VoteSow2015 votesow@gmail.com
Dimitrious
Stanley
? @Dimitrious4cbus stanleyforcolumbuscouncil@gmail.com
Michael Stinziano 80/30 @Stinziano mstinziano@citizensforstinziano.com

If you’re one of the candidates listed, and didn’t receive my initial email, feel free to contact me via Skype and I’d be happy to re-send it.

Mark Zuckerberg is being a jerk

In order to expand his stranglehold on your personal data, Mark Zuckerberg has decided to hold Facebook users hostage to grow his clout in the Instant Messaging (IM) business.

For years Skype helped them to offer features that weren’t available in Facebook Messenger – like voice and video calls from within Facebook. This also brought people together – billions of Facebook users could now talk to billions of Skype users.

Now Mr. Zuckerberg has decided to get into the IM business (everybody’s doing it!) and they can’t stand the competition – so they’re building walls to ensure that if you use Facebook IM you can ONLY talk to other Facebook users.

Sound odd? Well, it is odd if your goal is to help people the world over communicate with each other – but if your goal is to make money off of ad revenue and consumer data while leveraging your large user base to make you a dominant player in the IM space it makes perfect sense.

In addition to using Facebook users like pawns, he’s also terrified of their more established competitor, Skype. Later this summer Microsoft will make Windows 10 available at no cost to anyone with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Skype will be included – so you’ll be able to reach ANYONE via Skype.

Businesses have already made the switch to Skype for Business – so suddenly everyone with a PC will be able to talk to business users too. The idea that you could talk to ANYONE without him knowing about it has Mr. Zuckerberg TERRIFIED.

I’ve really enjoyed using Facebook to talk with friends over the years – and if Mark Zuckerberg is afraid that it will be easier for more people to use Skype; they should be doing the same with their IM network – instead of raising the drawbridge and trapping all of the peasants inside.

For more on what Facebook is doing, you can read this article explaining more of the details.

Thanks for taking the time to listen – and if you don’t add your Facebook friends on Skype now, maybe we’ll see you later this year if you upgrade to Windows 10.

Skype N Scale Train Club

Over the past few months I’ve been looking for some kind of virtual model train club using Skype as a communications medium to connect modelers around the globe.  The idea is to improve productivity by discussing obstacles, planning to get past them, and sharing inspiration to get some work done on layouts that have become idle.

While there are a few groups on Facebook, these lack the real-time interaction I’m looking for.  The closest thing I’ve found is the Model Railroad Radio podcast’s Off-Show Chat (OSC) – which are usually coordinated by posting to Facebook that someone wishes to start one.

Since I’ve run quite a few persistent Skype chats over many years on a variety of topics, the idea of creating a new group chat so frequently seems perplexing and inconvenient for all involved.  I’m guessing they do it that way because group chats are limited to 300 users and they have over 2,000 followers.

To deal with this, I’m going with a more narrow focus of N Scale model railroading.  It’d be easy to create other groups if there is interest (I know I’d be interested in a similar group for HO and G scales as well).

Interested in helping to pioneer this?

Joining is easy.  Simply:

  1. Install Skype
  2. Click this link to join

A few things to note for courtesy as the group grows…

  • If you don’t want the chat to beep at you when you’re away, use the /alertsoff command (this can also be set under Conversation > Notification Settings… on the PC version 7.2)
  • If you’d like to chat, use the /golive command – don’t use the call buttons (they’d ring everyone’s phones and devices).

That’s all for now!  If you have trouble joining or have other questions, just ask me by clicking here to chat.

SMS Texting via Skype

I was talking with some people about all of the neat technologies people could use – if only their mobile carriers allowed the technology to work and how Skype can be a great replacement when one of the participants asked “What about SMS, can I do that with Skype?”

Skype supports SMS… but it’s more than I’m willing to pay (presently 11.2¢/message to US numbers). Instead, I just ask the person to get Skype on their device (which is free and easy) and then when I send them IM’s they are encrypted. SMS is not.

Also, if you’re in the US and know the mobile carrier of the person you’re trying to reach, you can use the mobile carrier’s email-to-SMS gateway.

You can also give people a direct link to send a Skype IM to you (if Skype is installed on their device). The link looks like this:

skype:{username}?chat

Just replace {username} with your Skype username and you’re all set.

You can also start Skype calls with a similar link – just change the word “chat” to “call”. If you have Skype installed, try it by clicking here.

Microsoft Store introduces Video Chat with Store Reps

A few weeks back I was talking to a Microsoft Store rep over the phone and commented that I thought it was kind of silly that we’re all still using telephones to talk with companies that make products like Lync (soon to be Skype for Business) and Skype. I was in another call with a Google support person – and they also used the phone – instead of Hangouts.

I’ve been wondering when it’d become commonplace for people to interact with companies via video call and today we’ve moved another step in that direction.

While Amazon’s Kindle Fire has featured video support for a while via their 24/7 Mayday Video Support service, we see Microsoft joining in with a vendor called VideoDesk.

Here’s what it looks like…

Figure 1: The Teaser.

Figure 2: A quick demo showing what to expect.

 

Figure 3: The chat element minimized.

It looks like a similar service to LivePerson. I helped set up LivePerson at my employer, and later we moved to a less mature Cisco-based chat platform so it’s nice to see something like VideoDesk come along to fill that niche.

Microsoft had a FAQ that answers some questions about the service.

Ultimately I think the best user experience will come when I can use a Skype URI (click here to say “Hi” if you have Skype installed) on a website to join the chat queue for a call center (or is that chat-center?). Such functionality would be part of a Lync or Skype-For-Business offering, but currently this appears to be a long way off.

One way to integrate an older business with Skype (without maintaining a Skype account) is through Bing Ads call extensions. Skype users can click to call the business on their existing land-line. Seems like an interesting way to drum up call volume.

As for me, I just interact with businesses via Skype the old fashioned way – by asking the employees if they’re on Skype and if they’d be willing to answer questions about their products periodically. Occasionally the answer is yes – usually with smaller businesses and it’s been really convenient. The business owners seemed to think it worked well too.

Have you used Skype or another video calling service to contact a business? Or have you used video calling for customer service as a part of your business? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!