Saturday, January 28, 2012

Been Awhile Despite Promises

to myself and whoever might be still reading this. I thought I could just keep posts simple and shoot em off. But I have a way of making the simple difficult, either before acting or while. In any case here's a new post and a list some of what's been keeping me from the blog in no particular order:

Been on a Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart kick lately after some chance run-ins with these old favorites in a few places. One of my favorite run-ins thanks to a friend of a friend and a really really old friend we all have in common.

Reading a lot of fiction lately. Trying to get used to following more than one book at a good pace instead of my usual habit of starting a few books and diving into one. Murukami's 1Q84 has run ahead of the pack, but Rushdie's Midnight's Children has remained a great (though at times bewildering) bedtime book. Both have stopped me halfway through RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire. So it seems I'm up to two books at a time; gotta start somewhere. Speaking of which, I highly recommend reading on your iPhone. I used to want a tablet for reading, but I've come to love reading from my old 3GS. I've read about 6 novels on it over the last year, fairly big ones too, and it's a wonderful operating system for reading, especially if you're like me and occasionally (or often) need to look up a word or two (iBooks comes with a dictionary) and if you like to highlight and write the occasional marginalia (habits of mine that have sadly become less habitual in recent times, but I suppose it looks better than my old books where I basically underlined each word as I read it).

Also, quitting my job to get back to my writing. Love teaching the kids, but damn it takes a lot. I'll miss it though. Amazing the bond you can make with children when you see them everyday. I feel like I have 16 6-year-old children. Graduation will be tough, but then it's back to teaching adults and the old challenges of that racket. Still, will give me time to write and study Japanese. Hopefully get around to some translating in 2012.

Going to continue this list in visual form for kicks, mine and yours. Thanks for reading along.

Ah, Europe!

 Well, going to leave it at that for now to get to the latest on the list: my new addiction to Justified.

Oh I lied. Also wanted to share this fascinating (to me at least) email I'd received in response to my bellyaching over my New Yorker subscription showing up sporadically. I'm going to copy and paste it below just because I think it's an amazing bit of history that most people know nothing about, and it's also the best customer-service experience I've ever had.

Dear Steven,
First, let me say I am sorry for all the problems that you have had over the last couple of years. The problem lies with the service that we use for distribution into Japan. The service is called ISAL and stands for International Surface Air Lift and is a product of the USPS. It was launched at a time when the airline industry was very much different than it is today. At the time the airlines were looking for ways to "ballast" their half empty or nearly empty planes as they flew them around the globe. The USPS had millions of kilos of flat, dense heavy material in the way of magazines and mail and a partnership was formed in the service called ISAL. For a discounted rate, the airlines would charge the USPS to move this material anywhere on the planet it needed to go. It was the 1970's, magazine publishing was exploding, air travel was skyrocketing, they couldn't build new aircraft fast enough to keep up with demand and transit times for mail was days into most places. Needless to say, it aint' that way anymore and although the ISAL service remains, there is no available space at times to move their material. Keep in mind that we are in Chicago. Not Los Angeles or NewYork so the number of direct flights to Japan are fewer than if we were on either coast. You probably notice service problems in the summer and at this time of year. That is because passenger travel peaks during those times of year and the cargo holds are full of luggage. This is also why you receive two or more issues together or out of sequence. They move what they can when they can. Sometimes that might be two shipments or sometimes this weeks shipment gets pushed back because it is larger than the shipment that just came in. 
All I can do is try and reroute your copy via another method. One would be via USPS first class air. It is basically the same service as ISAL except first class mail rides no matter what becuase it is generally only a bag or two  whereas the ISAL shipments are often several hundred kilos or more so obviously they have to wait. But with that guaranteed service is an incredibly high price. Average price for a copy of The New Yorker to go first class airmail to Tokyo is around 7-10 dollars. So, before we go down road, I am going to try to re route you through Paris as priority airmail. Since you are missing copies anyway, I will send you a few using this method and see how it goes. Is this o.k. with you? Are you still missing all the most recent issues or have some of them surfaced? Please advise as to what you have missed. I will send you one of the missing issues via La Poste and DHL the rest so you have them before the end of the year.
Again very sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused you. Hopefully this email helps you understand the obstacles we face in the distribution industry. incidentally, the reason that prior emails have been met with an almost robotic lack of compassion is because you were contacting the New Yorker customer service desk and not the distributor which would be Pitney Bowes. I work for Pitney Bowes. The New Yorker customer service desk deals mainly with subscription renewals, gift subscriptions, address corrections for DOMESTIC subscribers. They know absolutely nothing about foreign distribution or how to even investigate a foreign complaint. They have only just recently started forwarding these to me and I am a department of one. So I am sorry it took so long to get back to you. I will do my best to correct this problem going forward. Let me know what you are still missing.
Kind Regards,
 <Really intelligent guy giving you hope that the business of shipping magazines is in capable hands>

Anyway, till next post!