One shucked and air dried oyster

Art, Mail Art

On July 25th, Wired’s Danger Room Blog reported that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington had posted a request for quote on (now moved to was soliciting the delivery of 4,000 bushels of “shucked and air dried” oyster shells. “Bushels”?!

That sounded intriguing. So I went surfing the net and became very confused in the attempt to read and understand the jungle of provisions and clauses a possible contractor of oyster shells is required to meet. There are specific provisions on Child Labor (52.222-19), Convict Labor (52.222-3) , Trafficking of Persons, Buy American (52.225-1 and -2) and, one of my favorites, Encouraging Contractor Policies to Ban Text Messaging While Driving (52.223-18). In it, the government needs 70 words to define what “driving” means in this context, then another 100 words to define “text messaging” to then finally come to a point: “The Contractor is encouraged to Adopt and enforce policies that ban text messaging while driving”.

Just because I like it so much:

Text messaging means reading from or entering data into any handheld or other electronic device, including for the purpose of short message service texting, e-mailing, instant messaging, obtaining navigational information, or engaging in any other form of electronic data retrieval or electronic data communication. The term does not include glancing at or listening to a navigational device that is secured in a commercially designed holder affixed to the vehicle, provided that the destination and route are programmed into the device either before driving or while stopped in a location off the roadway where it is safe and legal to park.

52.223-18 Encouraging Contractor Policies to Ban Text Messaging While Driving

Well, no wonder government is so expensive. First, it needs to pay people who make up those provisions. Then it needs people who can express them in legalese. Then it has to pay people to format those and put them somewhere on the web (and file a ton of paper in the meantime). Then the contractors have to pay someone to find, read, understand, implement and enforce those regulations, allthewhile factoring those costs into their bills to the government. And in the end the government has to pay someone inspect the implementation of regulations. To make this clear: I am not against a ban on texting while driving or child labor, and while all those regulations might have originated from plausible and good intentions, I still am idealist enough to hope that there is some way to make all this somewhat less bureaucratic.

Anyway, after reading through a couple of these I decided I didn’t care too much (besides the fact that I have no idea where to get that many oysters) and that I would send the USACE just a single shell. AFAIK there was only one place that sold oysters in Freiburg, which would be the fish stall at Markthalle, where I went and had an oyster or two. I don’t like them too much by the way.

Two oysters, bought at Markthalle Freiburg, 2012

After a couple days of air drying oysters on my balcony, I was ready to apply to become a US-govt contractor:

Shucked and air dried oyster, 2012
Shucked and air dried oyster, 2012

I never received an answer, though. I guess, “Buy American I+II” applied.