Category: Identity

Going Virtual

I will be traveling for the next several months, maybe longer. This is part of the end-game for my dissertation and phd degree. However, I am still at the tender mercies of grad-school pay and cannot afford to maintain a separate residence. That means I have to “go virtual.”

What is Virtual?

First, we are not talking about virtual worlds, but rather a virtual residence, one which is nonetheless legitimate to those who insist on a fixed address. This is really all about the USPS but also the UPS and various marketplaces including eBay, Amazon, and every service provider there is, including cellular phone. Here is the beginning of my saga of going virtual.

Snail Mail

I decided to use Earth Class Mail, a fantastic service which allows for not only a legitimate address for receiving mail and remailing, but also includes a web-based management tool to control what one does with the various snailmail and package deliveries. I had decided on them when the very next day Stephen O’Grady of Redmonk gave a glowing write up of his 3-month experience with them. Decision validated.

The next step with these folks is to fill out a USPS Form 1583 which authorizes them to receive mail on my behalf. ECM has a wizard which creates the form as a PDF. Then I went to my bank to have the form and identity card photocopies notarized (a truly medieval practice) for $5, and sent off the paperwork in the mail.

It is possible to submit change of address to USPS online in most cases (for me it doesn’t work because of the strange zip code I currently live in).


As I have a current contract with a national cell provider, and a nationwide plan, it was straightforward to change my phone number to the new remailer virtual residence area code. That took about 10 minutes, including brief hold time.

Google acquisition GrandCentral is the real deal when it comes to virtualizing phone numbers. The are in closed beta, though I hear they do respond to number requests from their website (I have put one in for a 206). When I signed up with them I was nostalgic for Berkeley and got a 510 area code then. It works fine though the quality needs to be better. Functionality is made of win.


My online banks PayPal and ING Direct were the simplest thing. Online forms took only a minute or two.

My offline bank, no so much. As per the usual, Bank of Hawaii doesn’t have such forms online, or at least I couldn’t find them after five minutes of scurrying around the site like a rabid squirrel. I find phone calls to them more annoying and time consuming than physically visiting the branch. I will do that next.


My permanent address at the University requires a physical visit down to the registrar (no online love). I never was clear on why that was, as you can change the mailing address, pay online, and manage all the classes and grades that way. A lot at this university puzzles me.

For my alumni association at a different university, I simply asked them to remove my mailing address. I will miss the monthly Alumni magazine, but the insurance advertisements, not. I call it a wash (and can visit the website for monthly articles anyway).


The only places that really need my address online are Amazon and GoDaddy (as for some reason I always feel threatened by the ICANN requirement for a real physical address). I will go about hiding (making private) the address once I move the domains over to 1and1, so that the fake “domain renewal” “bills” don’t waste any of my items per month allotment at ECM.

That’s it so far. Something like $55 and maybe four hours with research, travel, setup fees, printing, photocopies, notary, and postage.