Monday, 27 April 2009

The Postie Bike Challenge

From the Outback to the Snow
Brisbane to Melbourne - the long way!

3-12 October 2009

Australian Posties get around on these beautiful little Honda
CT110 motorcycles...

How do you fancy a trip of a lifetime and raise funds for charity at the same time..?

"The Challenge
The Postie Bike Challenge is a truly unique experience. It is not a tour or a rally. There is nothing we can say that will ever prepare you for the way you'll feel travelling through the outback, sun in your face, awe-inspiring expansive landscape, having not seen another rider for the past hour, or riding in a pack through pristine world heritage rainforest.

Since 2002 adventurous motorcyclists from all walks of life leave behind their "everyday lives" to take part in the Postie Bike Challenge, to ride 3-4000 kilometres through some of Australia's most spectacular country. Originally started as a one-off event to prove that small motorcycles could travel long distances over both bitumen and dirt roads, the Postie Bike Challenge has gained a life of its own through the enthusiasm of motorcycle riders from all over the world".

The Postie Bike Challenge 2009

Previous Postie Bike Challenges (click links for images):
2002 and 2003 Brisbane to Darwin
2004 and 2005 Brisbane to Adelaide
2006 Brisbane to Alice Springs
2007 & 2008 Brisbane to the Gulf of Carpentaria

Thursday, 23 April 2009

500 Days of Summer

Greeting card writer, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets the delightful Summer (Zooey Deschanel) in the romantic comedy '500 Days of Summer'.

Review from IMDB:
"What a delightful film. From the opening screen, which offers a very funny disclaimer, it is clear that 500 Days of Summer dares to be different. And as the opening sequence clearly states, it is not a love story. Except that's only a technicality. It really is. Sort of.

Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Webber, along with director Marc Webber, have put together a charming, fresh and very funny romantic comedy. Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) start an office romance when Summer comes to LA from Michigan for an internship at a greeting card company. Tom writes cards, although he quietly aspires to be an architect. Tom is a romantic idealist who has never found his soul mate. Summer is a disillusioned pragmatist who doesn't believe in love. But Summer immediately takes to Tom, Tom is smitten with Summer and their relationship proceeds as so many do in the movies.

Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt play their roles well, although it occurred to me more than once that they lacked chemistry. But remember, this is not a love story, which is what makes 500 Days of Summer more realistic and poignant than what we have come to expect from the movies. But it is a refreshing and thought-provoking take on what we often describe as being in love—about taking risks, dealing with disappointments, finding yourself and bumping into fate when you least expect it.

The film includes a couple of movie-making devices that some might find distracting. It uses a timeline to tell the story, but jumps forward and back, which still manages to effectively provide a narrative without feeling like a contrivance. In contrast, the film also pays homage to a number of classic movies, including several clips and snippets, which feels out of place and doesn't quite fit.

As currently constructed, 500 Days of Summer will get an R rating. If they can edit it to a PG-13, which would be quite easily done, it could do nicely at the box office.

Notes from Sundance: At opening night at the Eccles Center, Deschanel commented on how attracted she was to the script. Director Marc Webber made the point that he wanted to shoot on location in LA, but show a bit of the city's architectural heritage, which did very subtly separate 500 Days from typical Hollywood-Indie fare".

It's not as easy as it may seem, being a greeting card writer you know...

Friday, 17 April 2009

Royal Mail - History

Cool Cards use Royal Mail every day, but we know little about it's history. It's one of those taken-for-granted givens of every day life...

Current UK population: 58,789,194
Royal Mail delivers 84 million items every working day.

The Royal Mail traces its history back to 1516, when Henry VIII established a "Master of the Posts", a post which eventually evolved into the office of the Postmaster General. The Royal Mail service was first made available to the public by Charles I on 31 July, 1635, with postage being paid by the recipient, and the General Post Office (GPO) was officially established by Charles II in 1660.

Between 1719 and 1763, Ralph Allen, Postmaster at Bath, signed a series of contracts with the post office to develop and expand Britain's postal network. He organised mail coaches which were provided by both Wilson & Company of London and Williams & Company of Bath. The early Royal Mail Coaches were similar to ordinary family mail coaches but with Post Office livery.

"The postal delivery service in Britain had existed in the same form for about 150 years - from its introduction in 1635, mounted carriers had ridden between "posts" where the postmaster would remove the letters for the local area before handing the remaining letters and any additions to the next rider. The riders were frequent targets for robbers, and the system was inefficient.

John Palmer, a theatre owner from Bath, believed that the coach service he had previously run for transporting actors and materials between theatres could be utilised for a countrywide mail delivery service, so in 1782, he suggested to the Post Office in London that they take up the idea. He met resistance from officials who believed that the existing system could not be improved, but eventually the Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Pitt, allowed him to carry out an experimental run between Bristol and London. Under the old system the journey had taken up to 38 hours. The coach, funded by Palmer, left Bristol at 4pm on 2 August 1784 and arrived in London just 16 hours later.

Impressed by the trial run, Pitt authorised the creation of new routes. By the end of 1785 there were services from London to Norwich, Liverpool, Leeds, Dover, Portsmouth, Poole, Exeter, Gloucester, Worcester, Holyhead and Carlisle. A service to Edinburgh was added the next year and Palmer was rewarded by being made Surveyor and Comptroller General of the Post Office.

Initially the coach, horses and driver were all supplied by contractors. There was strong competition for the contracts as they provided a fixed regular income on top of which the companies could charge fares for the passengers. By the beginning of the 19th century the Post Office had their own fleet of coaches with black and scarlet livery. The early coaches were poorly built, but in 1787 the Post Office adopted John Besant's improved and patented design, after which Besant, with his partner John Vidler, enjoyed a monopoly on the supply of coaches, and a virtual monopoly on their upkeep and servicing.

The mail coaches continued unchallenged until the 1830s but the development of railways spelt the end for the service. The first rail delivery between Liverpool and Manchester took place on 11 November 1830. By the early 1840s other rail lines had been constructed and many London-based mail coaches were starting to be withdrawn from service; the final service from London (to Norwich) was shut down in 1846. Regional mail coaches continued into the 1850s, but these too were eventually replaced by rail services.

Richard Cobden and John Ramsey McCulloch, both advocates of free trade, attacked the Conservative government's policies of privilege and protection, including the archaic postal system. McCulloch, in 1833, advanced the view that "nothing contributes more to facilitate commerce than the safe, speedy and cheap conveyance of letters.

By the late 1800's, there were between six and twelve mail deliveries per day in London, permitting correspondents to exchange multiple letters within a single day.
The mail underwent substantial reforms in order to combat abuse and corruption when the Uniform Penny Post was introduced on 10 January, 1840 whereby a single rate for delivery (one penny for carriage and delivery between any two places anywhere in the UK) was pre-paid by the sender - the postal service then became a government monopoly. A few months later, in order to certify that postage had been paid on a letter, the sender could affix the first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black that was available for use from May 6 of the same year - 1840.

As the first country to issue stamps, British stamps are the only stamps that do not bear the name of the country of issue on them, nor the currency in which they are issued.

Source: Wiki

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Get Well Soon Hallmark

Hallmark cutting up to 8 percent of US work force:

"Hallmark Cards Inc. on Tuesday said it will cut its U.S. work force by up to 8 percent as the nation's largest greeting card-maker struggles with falling sales.

The Kansas City-based company told employees it will lay off between 550 and 750 of its 9,200 full-time U.S. employees over the next six months.

The cuts don't include Hallmark's overseas operations or its U.S. subsidiaries DaySpring, Sunrise Greetings, Crayola, William Arthur or Crown Center, a shopping center and hotel complex in Kansas City. Some of those companies already have trimmed their ranks, said Hallmark spokeswoman Julie O'Dell.

"Reducing our work force by this many jobs is something we wish we did not have to do," said Chief Executive Officer Donald Hall Jr. "Despite all the steps we have taken to date to avoid eliminating additional jobs, the state of the economy and its impact on our business require us to take further action."

The company plans to cut between 350 and 450 jobs from its manufacturing and distribution operations in Liberty, Mo.; Enfield, Conn.; Center, Texas; Metamora, Ill.; and the Kansas towns of Lawrence, Leavenworth and Topeka. Hallmark is offering a voluntary severance program for eligible workers in those locations, which could push the number of eliminated positions higher.

An additional 200 to 250 positions will be cut from the company's Kansas City headquarters, which currently employs 4,000 people. Those workers will also receive severance packages, the company said.

Hallmark, which is privately held, reported last month that 2008 revenues fell 2 percent to $4.3 billion as the recession has cut into consumer spending.

"We did have excess capacity and it's from the economy," O'Dell said. "We do expect continued pressure on revenue and earnings and we have to adjust our cost structure for the long term."

Source: Google AP

Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Simpsons Postage Stamps


Sadly, only available in the USA from the 7th May 2009...

The Simpsons, currently in its 20th year as a regularly scheduled half-hour series, is the longest-running comedy in television history. The show is a cultural phenomenon, recognizable throughout the world.

“This is the biggest and most adhesive honor The Simpsons has ever received,” said Matt Groening, creator and executive producer of The Simpsons.

“We are emotionally moved by the Postal Service selecting us rather than making the lazy choice of someone who has benefited society,” said James L. Brooks, executive producer of The Simpsons.

Simpsons Beat the Odds: The U.S. Postal Service receives approximately 50,000 suggestions for stamp subjects each year, yet only about 20 topics are selected for postage. The Simpsons is the only television show to be featured as the sole subject of a stamp set while still in primetime production.

Source: U.S. Postal Service

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Ethnic and Multi-cultural greeting cards

‘The only thing that should be separated by colour is laundry’

Cool Cards are delighted to add a beautiful range of ethnic and multicultural greeting cards and birthday cards to our extensive range...

"It’s been a long time coming but Colorblind Cards present their beautiful range of greeting cards for the whole family. If you’ve ever searched for a personal card for someone you love and left frustrated at the lack of choice stocked by mainstream retailers, you’ll be pleased to hear that Colorblind are changing things. It’s time to add the afro to the range and bring multicultural cards to the high-street!"

"Jessica Huie was recently honoured with an invitation to make a personal appearance on the forth season of BBC Two’s The Apprentice: You’re fired. Jessica appeared as an expert panellist in the show Jessica because of her hugely successful greeting card company Colorblind Cards. Jessica used her own experiences to convey her views and opinions about the apprentice participants and their completion of the task that week, which was to design a collection of greeting Cards."

"The Colorblind founder appeared on the show along with broadcaster Lorraine Kelly, Sir Alan's aide Nick Hewer to discover just ‘What went wrong’ and to shed some light over which of the contestant would go the distance or who would get left trailing behind!"

"Colorblind MD Jessica Huie was honoured with a personal invitation to No. 10 Dowing Street recently, for a round-table seminar to discuss creating and building an enterprising culture in Britain. Seated opposite the Prime Minister, Jessica used her Entrepreneurial experience to express her ideas for increasing the number of business start-ups in Britain.

“ I was delighted to receive an invitation to No.10, and sit amongst some of the country’s most successful business people. I am passionate about inspiring school aged children to think of going into business as a career option, and was keen to share my ideas on how to incorporate this into the curriculum, with the Prime Minister.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown first met Jessica in November at the Daily Mail‘s ‘Enterprising Young Brits Awards’ where he presented her with the ‘Creative Award.’"

View: Multi-cultural and Ethnic greeting cards at Cool Cards

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Clinton Cards sees profits halved

"Clinton Cards has extended its banking facilities after reporting a big drop in half-year profits.

Clinton reported a pre-tax profit of £12.6m for the 26 weeks to 1 February, down 46% from the £23.3m it made for the same period a year earlier.

A £12m loan which had been due to be repaid in November will now be repaid over an extended period up until January 2012.

The firm has been hit by the consumer downturn and store closures.

Clinton said it was trading from 70 fewer stores, compared with a year ago.

The group currently trades from 1,030 stores, comprising 695 Clinton stores and 335 Birthdays shops".

Source: BBC News