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11 Creative Postage Stamps from Around the World

These stamps bring out the inner philatelist in all of us.

1. Mini Phonograph Records

The small Himalayan nation of Bhutan is well-known for creative postage, having designed stamps out of unorthodox materials from plastic to steel. But in 1973, they issued stamps that doubled as tiny phonograph records. The record stamps contain traditional folk songs and an oral history of Bhutan, and can be played on a turntable. There's currently a full set of these stamps on eBay for a Buy It Now price of $495.

2. Coffee-Scented

As Frank Sinatra once sang, "They grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil." In 2001, Brazil issued an aromatically enticing coffee-scented stamp. Beans were roasted, ground, and filtered under pressure then mixed with varnish and laid on each stamp. As with a scratch 'n' sniff, the aroma was released by rubbing a finger across the stamp. Mmm.

3. Hockey Game Footage

Canadians love hockey, and their most storied team is the Montreal Canadiens. In 2009, Canada Post issued stamps that feature actual footage of historic goals scored by famous players like Maurice Richard and Guy Lafleur. The effect is achieved with a process called Motionstamp, with digital footage making the stamps into mini-movies. Other countries that have embedded video clips are Austria, Netherlands, and Australia.

4. Glow-in-the-Dark

In 2008, Malaysia figured out a novel way to increase awareness about their country's nocturnal animals. They put them on stamps that glow in the dark. The six designs include exotic creatures such as the moon rat and the flying fox. In 2003, Finland also had a glow in the dark series of stamps, celebrating their lighthouses.

5. Embroidered Edelweiss

A stamp that can be posted or worn, this Austrian design from 2005 was made of threads embroidered into the shape of the Edelweiss, queen of the alpine flowers. It was designed by Haemmerle & Vogel, a long-standing family-owned fabric mill in Austria.

6. Meteorite Dust

There must be some very creative types working in the Austrian postal system. In 2004, they issued crystal-coated stamps. In 2008, they unveiled the world's first stamp made of soccer ball material, to celebrate the Euro soccer tournament. Even wilder is a stamp they issued in 2006, featuring a meteorite streaking towards Earth. The rendering contains 0.03 grams of dust from an actual meteorite, fixed to the stamp with adhesive. For those letters from Vienna... to Venus.

7. The Rock of Gibraltar

Also in the geological-meets-philatelic department, Gibraltar issued a stamp in 2002 whose top layer was coated with finely pulverized pieces of The Rock of Gibraltar.

8. Cork

Portugal is the world's leading manufacturer of cork. In 2007, they celebrated this fact by issuing a lovely stamp depicting a cork tree on a hill. And the stamp itself was made entirely of cork – wafer thin, with a thickness of .35mm. And because of the cellular nature of cork, each stamp was unique.

9. Chocolate

The Swiss are famous for chocolate. For making it and eating it (they're estimated to be the number one consumer of chocolate in the world). So it makes perfect sense that they'd have a chocolate stamp. Well, it looks and smells like chocolate, and comes wrapped in foil like a chocolate bar. But if you're tempted to lick it, don't bother; it tastes like stamp glue.

10. Designer

For the past few years, at Valentine's Day, La Poste (the French postal service) has been issuing stamps designed by top names in the fashion industry, including Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, and Chanel. But the loveliest is Givenchy's elegant design of a simple wreathed heart.

11. Seed-Filled

And finally, stamps that bloom into living plants! In 2007, Dutch postal service TNT introduced a series of stamps that held seeds beneath a layer of plastic. Once you peeled it back, you could plant a variety of flowers, including pinks, petunias, and snapdragons.

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CVS Debuts Same-Day Prescription Delivery in Some Cities
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CVS just made it easier than ever to never leave your house. As Axios found, the pharmacy giant recently announced that it will be rolling out same- and next-day home delivery in certain cities. In some cases, you could get your medications delivered to your door in a matter of hours.

The free delivery service will start in early December 2017 with same-day delivery in Manhattan. In 2018, the program will expand to San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Other areas of the country will get next-day delivery service around the same time. You’ll be able to get both prescription products and a small selection of over-the-counter products delivered in tamper-proof packaging.

Many insurance companies already offer (or require) mail-order pharmacy service, where you get regular deliveries of 90-day supplies of your medications. CVS’s program can be used on an as-needed basis, though, and if you’re already a CVS customer, it means that you don’t have to abandon your regular pharmacist. Walgreen's mail-order service, by contrast, costs $20 in shipping if you want to receive your meds within one business day.

The CVS service might be particularly useful in two ways: if you’re at home sick and don’t want to show up to wait in line for meds, or if you use a pharmacy near your workplace but want to fill your prescription without leaving your neighborhood on the weekends.

[h/t Axios]

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14 Secrets of U.S. Postal Carriers
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Yes, the post office lines can be long. Yes, your mail can occasionally arrive wet. But when you think about the fact that the United States Postal Service (USPS) processes well in excess of 154 billion pieces of mail annually, you might be impressed at just how much they get right.

At the core of the USPS are its postal carriers, the men and women who run up and down porch steps, dodge unfriendly animals, and brave inclement weather to make sure your personal correspondence arrives on time. We spoke to several to learn more about the job, from their biggest fears (aside from mean dogs) to hidden surprises in mail receptacles. Here’s what we found out.

1. YOUR MAILBOX IS HOME TO HIDDEN DANGER.

Cliches are clichés for a reason, and most postal workers will admit to having some concern over unfriendly dogs on their route. But a smaller, equally painful danger remains under-publicized. According to Kenny, a carrier in the Midwest, reaching into a mailbox to deposit your letters can sometimes be hazardous to his health. “Wasps like to get into mailboxes,” he says. “Especially if they have an outgoing mail slot. They build a nest in there. I’ve been stung quite a few times.”

2. THEIR SATCHEL HAS A HIDDEN PURPOSE.

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The shoulder-slung sack of mail on a carrier’s shoulder isn’t just to tote credit card offers. During carrier orientation, workers are taught that the satchel is their first line of defense against aggressive dogs. (They can also use parcels to parry attacks.) “There’s a whole training program on it,” Kenny says. “You try to keep it between you and the dog.” Carriers are also issued pepper spray. “I hate to use it, but sometimes you have to,” Kenny admits. He estimates he’s been bit nine or 10 times. “I’ve never needed stitches, but I’ve known carriers who have.”

3. THE JOB WILL GIVE YOU LEGS OF STEEL.

Those shorts don't just keep carriers cool: They allow room for the inevitable, Hulk-like lower-body growth that happens to new hires. When Adin, a carrier in the Northeast, started working his route over two years ago, the long-duration cardio had a highly beneficial effect on his frame. “I lost 15 to 20 pounds initially,” he says, “but gained it back in leg muscle. I can no longer fit into skinny jeans.” (Many carriers can walk in excess of 12 miles a day.)

4. THEY CAN MAKE SOME SERIOUS CASH WITH HOLIDAY TIPS.

The gift-giving season means a marked increase in the number of parcels delivered, and many postal customers acknowledge their carrier’s efforts by leaving money with the outgoing mail. Dan, a carrier in the Northeast, doesn’t work a regular holiday route, but says carriers who do can cash in. “Some carriers claim it comes to $1000 or $2000 in cash or gift cards,” he says.

Kenny estimates 5 to 10 percent of his 500 customers leave a tip or gift. “I’ve gotten hand warmers, cocoa, and popcorn,” he says. 

5. SUMMER CAN TURN THEIR ROUTE INTO AN OBSTACLE COURSE.

Postal carriers say they tend to get so used to “mapping” their route in their brain that they can navigate it while still looking down at the mail. But come summer, customers add decorations—like hanging plants on porches—that can result in collisions. “Hanging plants, wind chimes, new trees, and gardens are all new obstacles to get used to,” Adin says. “There's a house on my route which put a watering can on the last step before I go to the next house, I tripped over it at least three times before I ‘learned’ that house again.”

6. THEY MIGHT SAVE YOUR LIFE.

It doesn’t take long for carriers to get a sense of customers on their route: who works from home, who’s out of town a lot, and when an overstuffed mailbox might be cause for concern. Kenny has called 911 a few times when he noticed retirees on his route hadn’t been collecting their mail. “I knew one customer had health issues and dementia,” he says. “They got in and found out she had fallen and was severely dehydrated.”

7. THE MAIL TRUCKS ARE REALLY OLD.

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Driving a truck with a right-mounted steering wheel might seem like it takes quite a bit of getting used to. It does, but the USPS largely lets carriers fend for themselves. “There’s one day of training on the right-hand drive truck,” Dan says. “Actually, about half a day of actual training. You have to become accustomed to limited visibility [and] learn to drive using the mirrors.” The truck fleet, he says, is actually made up of vehicles that might be older than most everything else on the road. “The standard boxy mail truck people are accustomed to seeing is called a Grumman LLV, a Long Life Vehicle. It's basically an aluminum box on a modified Chevy S-10 Blazer chassis and drive train. They're all 25 to 30 years old at this point.”

8. THEY WISH YOU’D SPARE THEM THE JOKES.

All of the carriers we spoke with stressed how much they enjoy interacting with customers, but sometimes the jokes can wear a little thin. “I get a lot of, ‘Oh, you can keep the bills,’” Kenny says. “Everyone thinks they’re the first person who’s said it to you.”

Dan says he often has customers asking if they have a check for them, which he finds puzzling. “As a rule, we don’t know what’s in the mail.”

9. THEY ALSO WISH PEOPLE WOULD STOP USING BOXES AS TRASH CANS.

Those nice blue mail collection depositories? They’re for mail, not wadded-up trash. Adin has found garbage when picking up mail from the drop-offs.

And as a rule, only mail should go into the mailboxes at people's homes, though residents don’t always oblige. “People sometimes use them for storage. I’ve found tennis balls and house or car keys.” (Adin cautions you shouldn’t put keys in the box; it’s kind of an obvious place for burglars to look.)

10. THERE MAY BE A SYSTEM TO HOW YOUR MAIL IS ARRANGED. 

The next time you empty your mailbox, you may want to check how the correspondence has been arranged. Many carriers have a system for organizing your batch. Adin puts cards and personalized letters (typically good news) on top, with social security checks next. “Then it’s other First Class mail, [like] bills and insurance information,” he says, “and then bulk mail and then in order of size I sort the flats, magazines, and catalogs, so the largest is on bottom.”

And yes, carriers can typically tell when it’s your birthday, although they might refrain from congratulating you just in case they’re wrong. “I thought it was someone’s birthday one time,” Kenny says. “I said, ‘Hey, is it your birthday?’ But they were sympathy cards. Her husband had just passed away.”

11. CATS AREN’T BIG FANS.

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On one of Adin’s previous routes, trying to put mail through a door-mounted slot was a delicate operation. “Cats can sometimes be aggressive,” he says. “On my previous route, there was a cat which would strike through the mail slot. I had to be careful putting anything into it. My current route has a cat which purrs and meows playfully through a screened-in porch window until you get close, then attacks.”

12. NO, THEY PROBABLY CAN’T DRINK WITH YOU.

In the heat of summer, Kenny gets frequent offers for bottled water or iced tea. Some customers who happen to be grilling outdoors might extend the courtesy further. “I’ve had people offer me a cold beer,” he says. “If they’re cooking out, they might offer me a burger." Most carriers keep themselves hydrated by carrying water in their trucks—and while beer might sound good, the government prefers their workers remain sober.

13. THEY ACTUALLY DON’T HAVE TO DELIVER YOUR MAIL.

Neither snow nor rain will prevent a carrier from doing his or her duty, but you being inconsiderate might. “There are a number of reasons why we can refuse to deliver to a given address,” Dan says. “Primarily it comes down to the safety of the carrier. If I can't safely get to your mailbox, I can bring the mail back. Reasons might include a dog which is loose or able to get to me when I try to get to the box, unsafe steps to the porch, icy conditions.” (The snow mandate doesn’t apply when you deposit a bunch of white stuff in front of the mailbox.)

In extreme cases, the post office can actually require customers to get a post office box and pick up mail themselves. “Anything which presents a hazard to the carrier, the carrier is within his rights to not deliver the mail. That would also apply to a customer who was harassing a carrier. But in that case we'd call the police. It's a fairly serious crime to interfere with a mail carrier doing their duties.”

14. THEY DON’T MIND JUNK MAIL.

“We don’t call it junk mail,” Kenny says. “We call it job security mail.”

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