“Most Wanted” Playing Cards Part I: “Patriots” Support Spam

I just read last week’s NYT article about the “Iraq’s Most Wanted” playing cards. Fascinating. GreatUSAFlags.com has apparently sold 1.5 million decks of these cards, and from the tone of the article, it sounds like spam is mostly to blame. It starts with Zac Brandenberg sending two million emails with one click. “[He] had no idea the kind of success he would achieve.” He thought he was just going to annoy two million people.
The “success” was the result of (1) an in-demand product, and (2) spam marketing. A hierarchy of affiliate programs encouraged spammers to send out the messages. Each affiliate gets paid by the sale, but has virtually no costs when marketing by email. Thus spam is encouraged. (I’m not bashing affiliate marketing. When used responsibly it’s a great innovation.) If people didn’t respond to spam email, it would probably stop. Despite the extremely low conversion rate (purchases divided by messages), the cost is so low that profitability is easy.
The truth of the matter, however, is that spam is not cheap. It might not cost the spammer much, but what about the costs that are shifted to the recipients? What about the internet resources used? The recipients time in deleting messages?
Lets assume it takes one second to identify and delete a spam email. This guy sent two million messages, at a temporal cost of two million seconds. That’s roughly 555 hours: over 23 full days. If these emails were opened during work hours, and the average salary was $40k for a 40 hour work week (just a hypothetical), it would have cost the recipients (not the sender) over $10,000! “On the best days, the cards generated commissions of $5,000 to $6,000 for every one million e-mail messages sent.” (note – this calculation was done with the Microsoft calculator, so if I got it wrong that’s probably why).

First Day Survived

I survived the first day of my summer job. It was the typical: “there’s the bathroom, here’s your phone, your computer should have been here by now, but it’ll be here soon”, etc. The people are really nice, and the work sounds interesting. I think it’ll be a great job.
I signed a nice little non-disclosure agreement where I said I wouldn’t publicly talk about the company without approval. It’s going to be a lot easier simply not to talk about the company at all, so you won’t be hearing much from me about work this summer. I doubt you’d want to anyway. I’ll go back to complaining about society’s quirks.

Summer Job Search: Concluded

Tomorrow is the first day of my summer internship. Technically, I’ve been looking for a summer job for over nine months. Of course that’s not all I’ve been doing, there’s always schoolwork, class, exams, the journal, and fun stuff like tortfeasor shirts. I’m really amazed at how difficult it has been though. Countless potential employers have failed to send so much as a “thanks but no thanks” email, and countless interviews have seemed to have gone really well, only to ultimately result in unemployment. Actually, I could count all these things, since I have a pretty detailed record of everything that I’ve sent, everywhere I’ve interviewed, and every official rejection – but who’s keeping track?
I’m happy to announce that I’ve actually found something fairly spectacular to do this summer. I won’t be getting paid, but I’ll be getting great experience doing the type of things I’d want to do as a lawyer. Perhaps the latecomer will be entertained. The normal night-before-the-first-day nervousness is minimal this time.
This concludes my job search for legal related work. I might still try to make some money somewhere this summer, but if so it’ll be doing something mindless.
This is the state of the job market for law students:
paid legal related summer job = golden
unpaid legal related job = pretty good
paid non-legal job = at least your getting paid
paid illegal job = off the hizzle
nothin’ = not terribly unusual

Chinatown Bus – “Late comer will not be entertained”

I took a last minute, one day trip down to New York yesterday to deliver a large order of tortfeasor shirts, and transportation cost me a total of $22. Apparently, competition between rival independent bus companies has brought the price of a one-way ticket from Boston to New York, or back, to $10!
I’m not sure as to the evolution of what people refer to as “the Chinatown bus”. Greyhound operates a bus to New York from Boston’s South Station (an actual bus station). They used to charge something like $75 (now $20-$25). I’ve taken an independent bus called “Entertainment Tours” for $15 – $20 (now $25), also departing from South Station (but arriving at the curb next to Penn Station, which is only a train station). Meanwhile, Chinatown has buses on street corners that used to charge $20-$25, but are now down to $10.
The whole system is extremely confused. Lucky Tours, Travel Pack, and Fung Wah all have websites, but they seem to be related. I went to Chinatown looking for the travel pack bus, but saw that the lucky tours bus was about to leave. I bought a roundtrip ticket and got down to New York. Coming back from New York, I went into a little office next to a Chinese bakery where someone took my ticket and gave me a new one that said “Travel Pack” on it. Then four of us got on one of those little buses (I call them “retirement buses” because you often see them dropping of senior citizens at shopping malls ie). That bus then drove us around the block and dropped us off. Then a full size bus (3/4 full) pulled up and we were rushed onto it.
The whole Chinatown bus industry fascinates me. It’s an example of a supply and demand structure that drives prices so low that profits seem unattainable. The price cuts are made possible by the large demand (the bus was pretty full), and the reducing of overhead (no stations, old buses). The companies seem to be in competition, but then they work together – saving trips by absorbing passengers onto one bus. The marketing is mostly word of mouth, completmented by ads on the buses themselves and cheap banners hanging next to chinese bakeries. The industry is bigger than Boston to New York; I saw buses leaving New York’s Chinatown bound for Philadelphia and Washington DC too.
The only drawback to the system is that it isn’t as reliable as the more established carriers. My bus broke down 1.5 hours away from Boston, which ended up adding about 2 hours to the trip. Too bad there is a clear legal disclaimer on the ticket: “We do not responsible for any items left behind and any time loss or subsequent expenses due to the traffic delay, mechanic failure, inclement weather etc. Late comer will not be entertained. All your base are belong to us.” (okay that last sentence wasn’t actually on there, but it was implied.)

Law School Bible

The law school bible promises to help you become a lawyer even if you’ve been “rejected by every single school”. Look – if you’ve been rejected by every ABA law school, maybe you should start to think about alternative career paths, or at least do what a real law student would do: retake the LSAT, re-apply, and push past anyone that gets in your way.
I’m not going to judge this book by its cover (I’ll judge it by its title…), but I will judge this book’s cover. What’s with the bad design in small-law*? There’s so much gold and brown, and so many incomplete websites. I respect small firms and the work that they do, but some of these places really need to fix up their “online presence”.
*I don’t know if anyone uses the term “small-law”. By it I mean (as you might have guessed) small law firms, especially those that cater to small business – in contrast to big-law (large law firms that cater to large corporations).

Best Chair in the World

Another cool discovery at the Mary Baker Eddy library was these really cool stools. These things are a cross between an actual office chair and those spring-loaded horses at the playground. The website markets them as ergonomic and healthy, but I’m not interested in the health aspects of my chair. I want a bouncy bendy chair for the purposes of bouncing around and reaching for stuff. This thing would be perfect for a music studio where you had to reach for different equipment. I’d get one for myself if they weren’t $500.
P.S. the marketing video is pretty funny: “the revoluntionary new seating device”.

Best Map in/of the World

I was really impressed by the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library last week. It’s one of those things you see in the papers (they recently re-opened it) that you’d probably visit if you were a tourist, but you wouldn’t often think to stop by if you were just in the neighborhood. I had just finished looking at the disappointing “Pluse: Art, Healing, and Transformation” exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art, and I figured it was due time to check out this fabled map.
The Mapparium, despite the fact that it’s part of a library devoted to the Christian Science religion, is actually very cool. It’s a three story stained-glass spherical map of the world. You stand on a walkway suspended at the equator and look around. The map is actually backwards – because if you were really standing in the center of the earth looking out, Boston would be to the left of San Francisco, so it’s more like looking at an inside-out earth than looking at earth “from the inside looking out”.
Despite that inaccuracy, and the fact that the map shows the political world of the 30’s, the map has one huge advantage over all others: it’s proportionally accurate. True, you can get this from a globe, but the Mapparium is so large, and you can see so much of it at once (because it’s concave instead of convex), that you can really get an idea of relative sizes and distances. For example, you can see why a plane from London to San Francisco flies over Washington and Oregon. You also notice just how far north the United States, Europe, and Asia are. Standing at the equator, you really have strain your neck to see them. Really cool.