The Mailman Kissed My Mail

  
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How the post office shot missiles full of mail to Florida! The insanely difficult zip code game (play along while you listen!) The history of sending people through the mail! Nixon’s mail vendetta! And more. Listen to the full episode and subscribe at garbagebrainuniversity.com to get each episode the second it drops. (We’re also on iTunes, Spotify and a handful of other services.)

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The United States Postal Service handles 47% of the mail in the entire world, and operates 143,000 of its famous “blue box” mailboxes. There are around 42,000 zip codes, from 00501 (Holtsville, NY) to 99950 (Ketchikan, AK.) And zero percent of its budget comes from taxation - it’s supported solely by retail sales.

The smallest post office in America? That’s the Ochopee, FL branch (above) which measures seven by eight feet. It employees a single clerk and a single mail carrier, whose daily route is 132 miles long.

We talked extensively on this ‘cast episode about the weird ties between the famous USPS “Long Life Vehicle” mail trucks and the war industry. They were built well enough to drive a million miles each and were designed to last 24 years, but since no new LLVs have been manufactured since 1994, they’ve gone beyond their intended lifetime and are now catching fire here and there. (Don’t worry - the carrier from that picture above got out okay, but here’s an article about LLVs self-igniting.)

Mail carriers have difficult jobs with long hours and exorbitant physical labor, but they’re also burdened with the responsibility of not committing a federal crime by misdelivering the mail. In fact, the longest prison sentence ever handed down in Spain was to a mailman who failed to deliver 42,768 pieces of mail, and whose prosecutor requested a sentence of 384,912 years. He ended up serving 19 years, which was no doubt terrible, though less than the nine-years-per-letter sentence that was originally requested. (Photo: Milwaukee Journal, 1972.)

Hey, remember this band, The Postal Service? They were served with a cease & desist from the USPS in 2003, but ended up negotiating a deal where they were allowed to continue using the name. The deal included a gig at the USPS’s National Executive Conference, which may have been their only show where the audience was more boring than the pensive indie-pop The Postal Service was gleeking out on stage.

Mail is still delivered to the town of Supai, Arizona (the capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation) by mule. That’s because Supai has no vehicles, is over eight miles from the nearest road, and cannot be reached except by mule, on foot, or via helicopter. It’s worth a click-through on Google Street View, unless you’re willing to ride a mule down into the Grand Canyon anytime soon.


As always, hosting for garbagebrainuniversity.com, both the newsletter and podcast, were provided by Substack Inc. Thanks to The Melvins for our theme song, “Electric Flower”, to the USPS for bringing us the mail, and, of course, to Ben Franklin for inventing it. Our first paid episode is coming soon, so slam this “50% off” button today and you’ll get it as soon as it drops!

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Bye for now! - drew & natalie

I Accidentally Murdered A Squirrel

  
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In this episode of Garbage Brain University, we’ve got thousands of squirrel facts, a squirrel quiz, and one very unfortunately dead squirrel. Our new theme song is “Electric Flower” by The Melvins, used with the permission of Ipecac Recordings and The Melvins. If you haven’t already, subscribe @ garbagebrainuniversity.com to get the newsletter that holds all the facts we were unable to cram into the podcast!

Squirrels may be the cutest of all invasive species, but they’re fucking everywhere, ranked as “Least Concern” on the Red List Of Threatened Species. Girl squirrels have multiple litters a year, giving birth to anywhere from two to eight smaller squirrels per litter. They’ve been around for millions of years, with squirrel fossils dating back to the Pleistocene era, which makes it no less tragic that Drew murdered one. It wasn’t on purpose. (You’ll have to listen to the episode to find out why.)

Even though urban squirrels are often unafraid of people, some people are definitely afraid of squirrels. Sciurophobia is the term for medical-grade squirrel fear, and although the name isn’t familiar to many, it affects up to 250,000 people in the United States alone. On the cast, Natalie talked about how her friend was trapped on the roof by a squirrel, and we were surprised to find out how common this fear actually is.

The Eastern Gray Squirrel is the predominant species in most of North America, and the typical member of the species hides more food than they recover, meaning that squirrels are the cause of millions of hidden caches of nuts, seeds and acorns which are left to rot every year. Don’t get too mad, though. Unlike squirrels, humans can’t eat raw acorns, anyway. (You can process them and eat them, and here’s a guide on how to do it, though we don’t recommend it.) Acorns contain high levels of tannins, a bitter compound that’s toxic to humans in a large dose, but which squirrels can eat with apparent impunity.

Did you know squirrels are related to woodchucks? You do, now. They’re also related to marmots (above,) an animal you may have never thought of before, unless you’re a big animal-head. Two people were hospitalized just this weekend for contracting the bubonic plague (The Black Death) from eating marmot meat. This is probably a good time to point out that if you pick up a paid subscription to Garbage Brain University now, you’ll have access to our mega-Black-Death episode as soon as it drops. We’ve got a massive and weird ‘cast on the way that’s all about the bubonic plague, but it’ll be for paid subscribers only. Slam this “50% off” subscription button and you’ll get your first month at half-price:

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Thanks for reading and listening, and if you haven’t already, follow @drewtoothpaste and @NatalieDee on Twitter, “An App Which Mostly Functions As A Symptom Of Our Societal Decline.” And thanks to Substack, the service that let us create this newsletter and host our podcast! See you next week!

A new podcast & newsletter by Drew & Natalie Dee.

  
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Hello! It’s Drew & Natalie Dee, who you know from Married To The Sea, The Worst Things For Sale, and other online projects. We’re working with Substack to create Garbage Brain University, a brand-new weekly newsletter and podcast where we’re collecting and sharing weird facts and stories. Some of our episodes will be for paid subscribers only, and some will be for everyone to listen to for free.

You’ll be able to listen to Garbage Brain University on your favorite podcast app soon, but since this is your sneak preview from being an OG reader, we don’t have syndication set up quite yet. The first episode is attached here, and you’ll be able to re-listen or download it, along with our future eps, at garbagebrainuniversity.com.


Our first installment explores the weirdest parts of Ohio, the heart-shaped state where 11,700,000 people reside today.

We talked about Ohio’s weird flag on Episode 1 of Garbage Brain University, but in case you haven’t listened yet, here it is. It’s the only non-rectangular state flag, and as we discovered, this shape is called a “burgee.” Ohio didn’t have a state flag for almost a hundred years after it became a state, finally adopting the design above when the Cleveland architect John Eisenmann created it for a World’s Fair in 1901, leading state leaders to declare “Fuck it, that’s our state flag now.”

Until recently, the worst President in American history was Ohioan Warren G. Harding. You’ll have to listen to the ‘cast to hear exactly why, but Natalie shares some knowledge of his misdeeds she picked up from living in his hometown of Marion, Ohio. One of the facts we didn’t touch on is that he bought the failing Marion Star, built up its bottom line by refusing to pay its employees, and turned it into a successful paper by manipulating and conning everyone he could. If this (or naming his dong Jerry and talking at length about Jerry in letters to his mistress) intrigues you, the book “Dead Last: The Public Memory Of Warren G. Harding’s Scandalous Legacy” might be up your alley.

This is the Merchant Ball, which mysteriously rotates on its stone base over time. What causes it? Nobody knows. But we’ve been to this cemetery a few times, and the damn spot is always in a different place. It’s probably ghosts, because that’s the coolest explanation. Atlas Obscura suggests it moves through “imperceptable vibration.” But what causes the vibration? Probably ghosts.

Did you know there are 14 to 18 islands in Ohio, depending on how you define “island”? We talked this week on Garbage Brain University about how harrowing it can be to cross Lake Erie, the body of water that separates Ohio from Canada, just to get to one of them. There’s also Rattlesnake Island, Starve Island, Mouse Island, Sugar Island, and a dozen more.

We also talked about the Ohio glaciers, Gummo, local climate-change deniers, “butter lung” (a real medical condition,) the super-tornado, and other local facts and lore. Give it a listen now - it’s less than an hour long - and if you like it, consider subscribing. Here’s a button that gives you half-off your first month, if you’re cool enough to subscribe right now.

Subscribe - 50% off first month

As always, we hope you enjoy this new project and consider throwing us a bone so we can keep making more! Thanks to Substack for providing the newsletter/podcast service, and to you, our readers and listeners, for continuing to enjoy our work.

Drew & Natalie Dee

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