I've always been a bit fascinated by the postal system. The idea that you can put a letter in the postbox on the corner, and then have it drop through someone else's letterbox the next day (usually) for only £0.41 is quite an incredible feat of logistics. Even more amazing is that you've been able to do that for over 100 years. Simon Gardner, an academic at Lincoln College Oxford has even written about how the postal system helped to shape aspects of the modern law of contract.
A couple of weeks ago my trusty laptop finally gave up after six and half years of faithful service when one of the hinges holding the screen in place snapped. So, it was new laptop time. I ordered a new one from Dell, which was to come from China, and it arrived today. But what was more exciting than receiving the laptop was tracking it on its way to me. UPS's online tracking service makes for compulsive viewing:
There was something quite compelling about following my laptop's progress as it made its way to my door. As much as I love Royal Mail's ability to get post around the UK within 24 hours, it doesn't quite compare to UPS getting my laptop from China to London in just over 30 hours. But then again, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, as UPS do love their logistics:
I didn't embrace the delivery man like the lady in the video (I was covered in oil from cleaning up the frame of my bicycle after some thief stole the wheels from it), but he did ask me all about the laptop contained within the box. I think I made a good stab of feigning knowledge, and he seemed to think I'd made a good choice, which is encouraging.
Douglas Adams' holistic detective, Dirk Gently, makes use of the "fundamental inconnectedness of things" to solve crime. From China to London via Koera, Kazakhstan, Poland and Germany, he'd have been impressed by UPS.