sending postcards to anonymous strangers

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LSK
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sending postcards to anonymous strangers

Postby LSK » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:20 am UTC

I used a random number generator and some home-baked algorithms to make a letter to be sent to a person I've never met. Now, I want to send it off, but my mother says that if the person doesn't want it, they could file charges on grounds of harassment and abuse of the mail system.

Is this true? What are the odds?

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Postby Castaway » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:22 am UTC

It's probably true, but very unlikely. I heard a story once about someone who wrote a letter on a balloon asking for a penpal and let it go. Somebody in England found it (the sender was in the states) and they became penpals. I would do it in a way that didn't go directly to someones house. However, I realize that the goal is to use the random generator, not just to meet someone new.
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Postby Sulla158 » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:28 am UTC

I kinda doubt you could get in trouble if you only send one and see if they reply. Its only harassment if you keep it up right?

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Postby Castaway » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:29 am UTC

Also, if it's a postcard, they don't have to open anything, so it may be legal.
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Postby joeframbach » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:33 am UTC

I think you would have a better reply rate by waiting until the fall semester starts, then apply your random address generator to college residence halls. Become a penpal with some random college student. Chances are, they would love some outside contact (I know I would).

[EDIT] - Oh, we already have this system in place. It's called Facebook.
Ah, people should use pen-and-paper more often anyways.

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Postby LSK » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:41 am UTC

Castaway wrote:Also, if it's a postcard, they don't have to open anything, so it may be legal.


Is it different for an envelope?

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Postby umbrae » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:46 am UTC

Screw what your mommy says.

It's an innocent, fun idea. If anyone tried to sue you over being sent one letter, it'd be thrown out of court immediately. Bulk mailers would be sued into oblivion.

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Postby LSK » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:48 am UTC

Alright. I'll type and print the letter, and set up a Gmail address to forward to my actual Gmail address.

(someone try sending pagodatastic at you know where an e-mail)

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Postby Castaway » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:50 am UTC

LSK wrote:
Castaway wrote:Also, if it's a postcard, they don't have to open anything, so it may be legal.


Is it different for an envelope?

It may be. Especially in the U.S. history with the unabomber and anthrax scares. You can't do that on postcards...
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Postby Emmaskillz » Mon Jul 30, 2007 2:04 am UTC

That's an awesome idea. I doubt you would get in trouble for sending one postcard. Also if it's a postcard they'll read it automatically.

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Postby Verysillyman » Mon Jul 30, 2007 3:06 am UTC

Castaway wrote:It's probably true, but very unlikely. I heard a story once about someone who wrote a letter on a balloon asking for a penpal and let it go. Somebody in England found it (the sender was in the states) and they became penpals. I would do it in a way that didn't go directly to someones house. However, I realize that the goal is to use the random generator, not just to meet someone new.


I think that was the queen.

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Postby Bakemaster » Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:48 am UTC

Not to be a negative nancy, but what are the odds that a helium balloon will stay inflated whilst traversing over 3,000 miles of ocean? Zero, give or take?
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Postby Szczypior » Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:59 am UTC

I sent a postcard to someone randomly once. Well, not quite randomly. Back before email had reached the ubiquity it has now, I actually got chain mails by post. Real letters, saying "Write your name at the bottom and mail it to 5 people you know". I hated them even then. I picked someone near the top of the list and sent them an abusive postcard. There was something pornographic on the front, it was quite rude. (well, I thought so when I was 12, anyway).

I actually got a reply that just said 'Who are you? What the hell is this? Fuck off"

I didn't reply.
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Postby Insignificant Deifaction » Mon Jul 30, 2007 7:42 am UTC

1) The air-mailer was in Britain
2) The balloon landed in one of the Palaces, and was replied to by one of the Queen's aides.
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Postby Unforgiven » Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:18 am UTC

Bakemaster wrote:Not to be a negative nancy, but what are the odds that a helium balloon will stay inflated whilst traversing over 3,000 miles of ocean? Zero, give or take?

During world war two Japan constructed balloons with bombs on them which they floated across the pacific in the hopes to hit the US. The Japanese had the advantage that they knew of the jet stream, something which the US didn't know of back then.

Nine thousand of these balloons were let up, but the odds that they would hit anything important were astronomically small, and none of them did. The bombs managed only 6 casualties: an American minister and his wife and kids found an undetonated balloon bomb while on a picnic in Oregon. The bomb detonated as they were standing around it. These six people are the only World War 2 casualties on American soil.

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Postby Easton » Mon Jul 30, 2007 11:40 am UTC

Might a better idea perhaps be to send postcards to random XKCD members? At least then you're guaranteed no lawsuits, and you have the added chance of a possible pleasant reply!

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Postby Verysillyman » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:24 pm UTC

You could send them anonymously, but the impression seems to be that you want a reply.

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Postby bookishbunny » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:38 pm UTC

Unforgiven wrote:Nine thousand of these balloons were let up, but the odds that they would hit anything important were astronomically small, and none of them did. The bombs managed only 6 casualties: an American minister and his wife and kids found an undetonated balloon bomb while on a picnic in Oregon. The bomb detonated as they were standing around it. These six people are the only World War 2 casualties on American soil.


Not to be nit-picky, but the minister was not killed, and the kids were not theirs. They were 5 students they had taken on a fishing trip. This was the event that lead to the end of the ban on stories in the media about the balloons.
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Postby Unforgiven » Mon Jul 30, 2007 2:22 pm UTC

bookishbunny wrote:
Unforgiven wrote:Nine thousand of these balloons were let up, but the odds that they would hit anything important were astronomically small, and none of them did. The bombs managed only 6 casualties: an American minister and his wife and kids found an undetonated balloon bomb while on a picnic in Oregon. The bomb detonated as they were standing around it. These six people are the only World War 2 casualties on American soil.


Not to be nit-picky, but the minister was not killed, and the kids were not theirs. They were 5 students they had taken on a fishing trip. This was the event that lead to the end of the ban on stories in the media about the balloons.

Ok, it was a while since I read the story, so I'm not surprised I got some details wrong. :)

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Postby bookishbunny » Mon Jul 30, 2007 2:24 pm UTC

Unforgiven wrote:
bookishbunny wrote:
Unforgiven wrote:Nine thousand of these balloons were let up, but the odds that they would hit anything important were astronomically small, and none of them did. The bombs managed only 6 casualties: an American minister and his wife and kids found an undetonated balloon bomb while on a picnic in Oregon. The bomb detonated as they were standing around it. These six people are the only World War 2 casualties on American soil.


Not to be nit-picky, but the minister was not killed, and the kids were not theirs. They were 5 students they had taken on a fishing trip. This was the event that lead to the end of the ban on stories in the media about the balloons.

Ok, it was a while since I read the story, so I'm not surprised I got some details wrong. :)


I was thinking it almost made it worse than if they were all the same family. It upped the number of families that lost children. I can't imagine how that minister felt.
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Postby the tree » Mon Jul 30, 2007 2:38 pm UTC

The idea is too cute and harmless for any reasonable person to press charges, but simple probability says that isn't the point, still I think it's worth a try.

On the postcard you should give a brief description of the algorithm you used and an explanation of what you're trying to demonstrate.

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Postby warhorse » Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:15 pm UTC

When I was a kid I got the "mail postcards" chain letter. I figured it would be fun and harmless to continue the chain and send out letters to people. I had just gotten back from a summer camp and they gave us a list of everyone's names and addresses. I mailed the chain letter to a few people I had met at camp.

At camp the next year they said they weren't giving out address lists because they were being used for chain letters. oops

Also, I got zero postcards. :cry:
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Postby LSK » Mon Jul 30, 2007 10:12 pm UTC

a dilemma of sorts follows.

Where the xkcd do I buy postcards, anyways?

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Postby joeframbach » Mon Jul 30, 2007 11:37 pm UTC

Unforgiven wrote:Nine thousand of these balloons were let up...

Well at least it wasn't... OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND!

Also,
Where can I buy xkcd postcards?

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Postby Verysillyman » Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:21 am UTC

joeframbach wrote:
Unforgiven wrote:Nine thousand of these balloons were let up...

Well at least it wasn't... OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND!

Also,
Where can I buy xkcd postcards?


print them off.

And normal postcards can be got from tourist shops.

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Postby Cheese » Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:11 am UTC

If you're all that desperate for a postcard, and there is no tourist industry near you, just get a postcard-sized piece of thin card, and write on it in the order of a postcard (stamp in top right, address on right, message on left, funny picture on front).

Oh, and great idea, it should touch someone in a special way to know that they were chosen completely at random, by you.
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Postby Briareos » Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:32 am UTC

This reminds me of "Post Secret." My sister has these books, but I've never read them, so I may have the premise slightly off:

As I recall, the author of the book spread ads around inviting people to send him anonymous postcards confessing to whatever misdeeds they had committed or terrible thoughts they had thought. When he received thousands of such anonymous postcards, he assembled them into a book. (I'm pretty sure he recopied the postcards, though, so that handwriting wouldn't be recognized.)
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Postby bookishbunny » Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:20 pm UTC

Have you guys checked out Postcrossing.com???
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Postby Urbal T » Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:40 pm UTC

Briareos wrote:This reminds me of "Post Secret." My sister has these books, but I've never read them, so I may have the premise slightly off:

As I recall, the author of the book spread ads around inviting people to send him anonymous postcards confessing to whatever misdeeds they had committed or terrible thoughts they had thought. When he received thousands of such anonymous postcards, he assembled them into a book. (I'm pretty sure he recopied the postcards, though, so that handwriting wouldn't be recognized.)


http://postsecret.blogspot.com/

As I understand it, the books are effectively archives, since only the current week's cards are available online.
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Postby bookishbunny » Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:43 pm UTC

Urbal T wrote:
Briareos wrote:This reminds me of "Post Secret." My sister has these books, but I've never read them, so I may have the premise slightly off:

As I recall, the author of the book spread ads around inviting people to send him anonymous postcards confessing to whatever misdeeds they had committed or terrible thoughts they had thought. When he received thousands of such anonymous postcards, he assembled them into a book. (I'm pretty sure he recopied the postcards, though, so that handwriting wouldn't be recognized.)


http://postsecret.blogspot.com/

As I understand it, the books are effectively archives, since only the current week's cards are available online.


I think it was also triggered by a friend's suicide (?). There is a suicide prevention site associated with Postsecret.
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Postby LSK » Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:55 pm UTC

Verysillyman wrote:
joeframbach wrote:
Unforgiven wrote:Nine thousand of these balloons were let up...

Well at least it wasn't... OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND!

Also,
Where can I buy xkcd postcards?


print them off.

And normal postcards can be got from tourist shops.


...

I live in Chicago. I do not know the location of a single tourist shop.

Does that make me a bad city-dweller?

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Postby Urbal T » Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:56 pm UTC

LSK wrote:I live in Chicago. I do not know the location of a single tourist shop.


Try a gas station.
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Postby Cheese » Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:58 pm UTC

Urbal T wrote:
LSK wrote:I live in Chicago. I do not know the location of a single tourist shop.


Try a gas station.


Or possibly a supermarket, near the magazines
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Postby Arancaytar » Tue Jul 31, 2007 1:22 pm UTC

joeframbach wrote:
Unforgiven wrote:Nine thousand of these balloons were let up...

Well at least it wasn't... OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND!


But it was much more than 99.

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Postby Cheese » Tue Jul 31, 2007 1:27 pm UTC

Arancaytar wrote:
joeframbach wrote:
Unforgiven wrote:Nine thousand of these balloons were let up...

Well at least it wasn't... OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND!


But it was much more than 99.


Are these references to the words of LSK (forever recorded in my sig), or is there some other in-joke that I wasn't around to read?
And it was slightly less than 91 times more than 99.

EDIT: thank you Durinthal, although I haven't watched the video, my computer would give up and die if I tried to.
Last edited by Cheese on Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:20 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Meaux_Pas wrote:I hereby disagree and declare Cheese to be brilliant.
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Postby Durinthal » Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:24 pm UTC


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Postby LSK » Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:28 pm UTC

i still have no idea where to get postcards.

Might a local store's

Hallmark Aisle

have some?

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Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:30 pm UTC

LSK wrote:i still have no idea where to get postcards.

Might a local store's

Hallmark Aisle

have some?


Okay, look. Get on the train to downtown. Go to the Sears Tower. Buy a damn postcard.

It's that easy!
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Postby Kawa » Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:30 pm UTC

LSK wrote:i still have no idea where to get postcards.

Might a local store's

Hallmark Aisle

have some?

Perhaps. Sometimes restaurants have those freebie advertising ones. Or, go to your nearest tourist attraction and look for any nearby souvenir shops.
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Postby LSK » Tue Jul 31, 2007 4:37 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
LSK wrote:i still have no idea where to get postcards.

Might a local store's

Hallmark Aisle

have some?


Okay, look. Get on the train to downtown. Go to the Sears Tower. Buy a damn postcard.

It's that easy!


THANK YOU

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