Oysters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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 FedBizOpps.gov was soliciting the delivery of 4,000 bushels of “shucked and air dried” oyster shells. By the way, come on, “bushels”?!

That was just too good to be true. So I went surfing the net and almost perished in the attempt to read and understand the jungle of provisions and clauses a possible vendor 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 (amongst the oysters?), 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 goverment expenses 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”.

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 facoring 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. I mean, come on. 100 words to define text-messaging?

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 is only one place that sells oysters in Freiburg, which would be the fish stall at Markthalle, where I went and got this:

I hate eating oysters by the way. Anyway, I gulped it down, treated myself to some candied Kumquats as compensation and went home to clean and “air dry” my oyster (it stank!).

A couple of days later it was ready to be sent to Denese Kushinsky who was mentioned as USACE Wilmington’s contact for the RFC. And this is what it looks like:

One Oyster shell sent to the USACE Wilmington as a response to their RFC Solicitation Number: W912PM-12-T-0

I am curious as to whether it crosses the ocean safely;-)

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