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Keep Your Stamps in the Box of Envelopes

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A collection of canceled U.S. postage of various types

Photo: Joel Carillet (Getty Images)

Last I checked, I have very good credit, but that fact has little to do with fiscal responsibility and a lot to do with automatic online bill pay. Every time I wind up with a bill I can’t set and forget—like the rent at my last apartment—I fail to pay it on time almost every month. And even when I do remember I need to drop a check in the mail, I can’t find a stamp and wind up having to go to the post office—not something I want to do during the pandemic.

But former Lifehacker staffer Nick Douglas recently clued us in to his own personal hack for that: He suggests keeping stamps in the box your envelopes came in. That way you’ll always know where they are and they’ll be close at hand when you’re most likely need them.

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Now that I’m not going into an office every day, this is an excellent supplement to my own stamp hack, which was to keep one or two of them in my wallet in case I needed to mail something at work. Yes, many offices have a mailroom where you can buy stamps, but every office I’ve ever worked in required you to pay for postage with a personal check instead of cash, and who carries checks around in 2020? I don’t even remember the last time I used a check for anything other than confirming my routing number. (Nevertheless, Lifehacker parenting editor Meghan Walbert suggests a supplemental hack—keep a single check in your wallet—but you probably don’t want to write a 55 cent check to buy one stamp.)

And now that you can rest assured you’ll always be able to find a stamp, it’s time to begin sending hand-written personal letters to all the people you aren’t able to go visit in person right now. Future historians documenting the collapse of society will thank you.

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Prop 22 opponents say Yes on 22 should not be able to mail flyers as nonprofit

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Opponents of California’s Proposition 22, the measure that seeks to continue classifying rideshare drivers and delivery workers as independent contractors, filed a complaint this morning with the United States Postal Service. The No on 22 campaign alleges the Yes side is not eligible for a nonprofit postal status and is asking USPS to revoke its permit.

It’s much cheaper to send campaign mailers as a nonprofit organization. For example, sending between 1 – 200.000 small mailers to every door normally costs $0.302 per piece. As a non-profit, that costs $0.226 per piece, according to USPS. To be clear, the Yes on 22 campaign confirmed it was formed as a nonprofit organization under IRS section 501(c)(4), which pertains to social welfare organizations. But the No on 22 side says USPS erred in approving the Yes on 22 campaign.

“The Yes on 22 nonprofit permit was unlawfully issued,” a lawyer for No on 22 wrote to USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. “[…] This misuse of the nonprofit permit coming from a corporate backed $200 million campaign is unprecedented and should be remedied by the Postal Service immediately.”

According to USPS, any organization that wants to send mail as a non-profit must first be authorized by the postal service as being eligible. Those that are eligible for nonprofit privileges, according to USPS, include “some political committees” but not “certain political organizations.” The political committees that may qualify for nonprofit prices regardless of nonprofit status, according to USPS, are the national or state committees of a political party, and the Democratic or Republican congressional or senatorial campaign committees.

“Campaign committees participating in ballot measure advocacy routinely form themselves as non-profits under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, as the No on 22 lawyers know well,” Yes on 22 campaign spokesperson Geoff Vetter told TechCrunch. “Furthermore, the IRS granted Yes on 22’s non-profit status. As a 501(c)(4) organization, Yes on 22 is eligible for the appropriate non-profit postage rates with the USPS, which we applied for and were granted by the U.S. Postmaster. Moreover, pursuant to USPS Customer Support Ruling 128 – the USPS has a long-term policy in place of allowing the ballot measure committee of a duly authorized nonprofit to mail under the non-profit’s authorization. The above is true for many ballot measure campaigns, and as stated, like all entities, our applications were reviewed and approved by both the IRS and the USPS.”

To date, the Yes on 22 campaign has contributed $185,096,892 to its cause. The Yes on 22 committee consists of companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash, as well as drivers, small businesses, and public safety and community organizations. The bulk of its funding has come from Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. In comparison, No on 22 has contributed $12,166,063.

“It’s outrageous but not surprising that the app companies that are going to the mat to keep shortchanging workers would shamelessly rip off the postal service,” No on Prop 22 spokesperson Mike Roth said in a statement. “This is just more evidence of the kind of greed we are dealing with from these companies who are spending $186 million in their selfish quest to buy themselves a new law but refused to buy their workers PPE in a pandemic.”

TechCrunch has reached out to USPS and will update this story if we hear back.

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Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck is coming to TC Sessions: Space 2020

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Over the last few years Rocket Lab has gone from its very first orbital launch to regular commercial missions, with the goal of being the most responsive launch provider on the planet. Founder and CEO Peter Beck will join us at our all virtual TC Sessions: Space event happening on December 16 & 17 in December to talk about the new launch ecosystem and building a company to compete with industry giants.

Rocket Lab’s 15th mission, “In Focus,” is scheduled to take off this very afternoon, with 10 Earth observation satellites from Canon Electronics and Planet. It has already put satellites in orbit for NASA, the NRO, and numerous private companies. The company’s launch cadence has slowly increased, though the loss of a mission in July soured its plan to go from months to weeks between launches.

But Beck, who has led the company from its inception in 2006, saw this as just another challenge to take head-on, and within the month Rocket Lab had gotten to the bottom of the issue and was clear to fly again.

“If you’re going to own a rocket company and launch vehicles, you have to be prepared for this kind of thing,” he said at the time. And now Electron is even more reliable than it was before, he pointed out.

Now Rocket Lab is expanding into adjacent businesses as well with the secretive launch of its First Light satellite platform, demonstrating tech that it hoped to share with customers who don’t want to build a satellite from scratch. “It’s just really painful to go from an idea to getting something in orbit,” he said, and by making it easier to actually build a spacecraft, it both democratizes space and creates customers out of thin air.

At TC Sessions: Space, Beck will discuss all of this and more. You can get early-bird tickets right now, and save $100 before prices go up on November 13 — and you can even get a fifth person free if you bring a group of four from your company. Special discounts for current members of the government/military/nonprofit and student tickets are also available directly on the website. And if you are an early-stage space startup looking to get exposure to decision makers, you can even exhibit for the day for just $360.

Is your company interested in presenting your company at TC Sessions: Space 2020Click here to talk with us about available opportunities.

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New AI-powered sensor measures starlight distortion to help discover new planets

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Sydney University scientists have invented a sensor that neutralizes a star’s twinkle, which could help astronomers find new planets in distant solar systems.

The sensor uses an advanced light convertor and AI to measure and correct the distortion of starlight caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. It will now be installed on the 8.2m Subaru telescope on the summit of Maunakea, Hawaii, one of the largest optical-infrared telescopes in the world.

“The main way we identify planets orbiting distant stars is by measuring regular dips in starlight caused by planets blocking out bits of their sun,” said study lead author Dr Barnaby Norris in a statement.

“This is really difficult from the ground, so we needed to develop a new way of looking up at the stars. We also wanted to find a way to directly observe these planets from Earth.”

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

The “photonic wavefront sensor” will help astronomers directly image exoplanets around distant stars from Earth.

“Unlike conventional wavefront sensors, it can be placed at the same location in the optical instrument where the image is formed,” explained Dr Norris. “This means it is sensitive to types of distortions invisible to other wavefront sensors currently used today in large observatories.”

You can read the full research study in Nature Communications.

Published October 21, 2020 — 17:32 UTC

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