We have arrived in the Twenties and I am ready to see a lot of new stamps.  Promo artwork is fine but it is so much nicer to have an actual stamp to hold in your tongs as you place it into an album or stockbook for the first time. I will have my first chance in 2020 when Thailand’s Year of the Mouse Zodiac stamp is issued tomorrow.

My New Year’s Eve was a quiet affair spent at home although I did go out to the balcony at midnight to watch the fireworks over Phuket Town. They may not have been as impressive as those in Singapore or North Korea (both of which were broadcast live on television here), but there was a nice breeze making it much cooler to be outside than in my non-air conditioned apartment.

I did take the time to create a new handstamp inspired by one I saw on Timbre Phil-Ouest’s Facebook page:

Continue reading “And So It Begins…. Welcome to 2020!”

Less than a week ago, I decided the primary focus of Philatelic Pursuits for the upcoming year of 2020 would be new stamp issues. I attempted something similar last year but began much too late to ever get caught up and I made a few early bad decisions.  I soon became overwhelmed and had all but given up just a few months into 2019.

Part of the problem with my previous approach was trying to update via pages dedicated to each month.  The page for January became difficult to edit due to the time it took images to load.  One had to scroll quite a ways to find new content.  I felt that that solution was to post blog entries for each new stamp encountered, much in the same way as other New Issue blogs.  In addition, there will be a page dedicated to each entity issuing stamps during the year.  These pages will serve as indices to the stamps themselves, linking to the individual entries.  I believe that I will be able to post updates much more quickly this way. Menus in the header and on the sidebar of the blog allow for easy navigation.

In the last five days, I have added 51 entries to the blog — one for each stamp issue that I have either an image or a date of issue for.  These are from 14 separate stamp issuers:

Åland | Alderney | Canada | China | Denmark | Faroe Islands | Finland | Greenland | Guernsey | Hong Kong | Iceland | Macau | United Nations | United States

Currently, I am caught up on these. I will start creating pages for other countries/entities as I await further programme and individual issue announcements. Each time I add a country, the initial page takes a bit of time as I have decided to include images of flags, postal administration logos with links to their philatelic bureaus, and coats of arms. Once that’s done, the individual entries are relatively easy (and quick) as they retain that formatting.

I have also created a Google Calendar to help keep track of the issues throughout the year.  My only real gripe is that it doesn’t offer enough different colors for events and categories. I have also added those stamp issues scheduled for the remainder of 2019 (November and December). Check it out below and in the sidebar.

[googleapps domain=”calendar” dir=”calendar/embed” query=”src=j6te8dfj6j2s8dqi6067itucn8%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=Asia%2FBangkok” width=”800″ height=”600″ /]

I hope that you like the new focus for Philatelic Pursuits. Along the way, there will be occasional articles marking various holidays (I just realized that I managed to miss Día de los Muertos — one of my favorite holidays — but there’s always next year).  Please feel free to contact me with any information and images that I can include on this blog. The dedicated email address is PhilatelicPursuits -at- gmail dot com.

For now, I am caught up and feel I deserve a bit of a rest.  It feels good….

My work has not only intruded upon my various hobbies including philately and maintaing my blogs but has completely taken over my life to an unprecedented degree. I believe the last time I was this busy may have been back in my university days during which I also worked in restaurant management.

While I am quite exhausted, the majority of this work is stress-free. I do enjoy all that I do. However, once I return home at the end of each long day, I am almost always too tired to do anything except watch a bit of TV and read a chapter or two before my eyes shut involuntarily.

What has occupied my time, you ask?  Much of my “free time” at work last month involved preparing and then conducting a three-day English camp for 55 young students at a beach resort in northern Phuket.  Our clients, once they sign the contracts, determine the camp’s main theme and then it is up to me to break that down into manageable , teachable parts around which we can still have a great deal of fun games and other activities.  In this case, the client was an administrative sub-district which operates several schools in the eastern portion of the island.  Their chosen topics were Global Warming and the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle).  Try teaching that material to 10-year-olds with extremely limited English skills!

I prepared numerous flash cards, worksheets, as well as props and backdrops plus I created around 15 different games for this camp which was held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week.  Thankfully, the usual rainy season wet weather did not make much of an appearance (five minutes during the second morning) and the camp was a great success.  The most difficult part was during the second afternoon when the children needed to use what they learnt the previous day about their assigned topics and put together 15-minute skits.  They were given approximately two hours time to write scripts (in English!), learn their lines (each child had to say at least one sentence), and create visual materials out of a rather limited amount of paper, future board and tape/glue.  Only one or two students completely froze but nobody gave up (or cried!).

I created a video using photos and video taken by myself and some of the other teachers and students at the camp:

The camp and its preparation were in addition to three 2-hours per day, five days per week private lessons.  The earliest student (9-11) is preparing to take the entrance examination for one of the most exclusive international schools in Phuket; my 11-1 student will enter university next month and is strengthening his grammar skills while the 1-3 course is helping a TOIEC (Test of English for International Communication) candidate.  All three enrolled for 30-hour courses.  The early morning student has renewed twice (the most recent was yesterday) so she will learn for a total of 90 hours.  The 11-1 student has renewed once and the 1-3 is at the mid-course point.  Tomorrow, I will add a fourth class to this already grueling schedule, 3-5 preparing a student for the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. The latter, in my mind, is the most difficult of these types of tests (I am also certified to teach preparation courses for TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) which I rate as the most enjoyable to teach.

I am also scheduled to begin my annual courses for staff members of Thailand’s fifth largest bank, Krungsri Bank of Ayudhya, in about two weeks’ time.  I spent several days last month conducting placement exams and interviews for this year’s crop of eager tellers and exchange booth personnel.  All of these courses involve a great deal of preparation (and study in some cases) in addition to the actual classroom lessons.Oh, and there are two more English camps scheduled to begin about three weeks from now. The theme for each of these (different grade levels from the same school) is English for Tourism with the students becoming “Junior Guides”.  The younger students will conduct surveys of tourists on one of our beaches during the last day of camp while the high school students will act as tourist guides in one of the resort communities.  I certainly hope their English skills are better than those at the last camp!  For this, I need to create a “manual” for our Questioning Kids and Junior Guides including sections on Local Transportation, Attractions, Culture and Food.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, June was probably my busiest month ever.  As far as billable hours are concerned (a significant portion of my work is not billable), I ended up with nearly 30 hours in overtime pay (I have a base number of teaching hours as salaried management).  If there are no additions or subtractions (students occasionally need to cancel due to illness or inclement weather), my schedule for this month will put me at around 75 hours of overtime (nearly double my required teaching hours).

Normally, I would try to do a lot of work at home (designing flashcards and other camp materials, creating the books, etc.) but by the time I arrive at my apartment following a 90-minute local (open-air) bus ride, I can barely keep my eyes open long enough to eat dinner.  I have still maintained my reading streak, although some evenings may see only 10 pages read, and there are one or two television programs I watch each week.  I am far behind reading blogs, not to mention writing my own entries.The only philatelic activity that I have managed since mid-May has been the occasional purchase of Thai stamps from the nearby Phuket Philatelic Museum.  However, one first day cover (for His Majesty the King’s Coronation) sold out before I got there and Bangkok failed to send two stamp issues (no stamps or first day covers) to Phuket at all.  They do that from time to time; I think they feel that there isn’t as much interest in non-Buddhist or non-Royal issues so they simply do not distribute them to very many post offices outside of the capital.  It is frustrating to say the least.  Every year, I end up buying half of that particular year’s stamp issues from an online dealer (I cannot order stamps from Thailand Post itself for some unknown reason).

I think that, realisticly, I won’t be able to return to even occasional blog entries for quite some time. I hope my workload will lessen by mid-August but at this rate, who knows? All I know for certain that the our teaching agency/ language school is set to move to a location in Old Phuket Town at some point in the near future (possibly in August or September). That will involve an emtirely different kind of hard work! Perhaps I will be able to return to a high degree of philatelic pursuits, Postcrossing, blogging, and the rest of my hobbies before the start of 2020. I certainly hope so!

 

Not here, but on my “other” stamp blog — A Stamp A Day. It just snuck up on me. I published an article a few minutes ago about Trinidad & Tobago, illustrating the ½ penny green Britannia (my copy might be Scott #1, released in 1913, but it’s probably a later issue as the postmark is dated in 1924), and noticed the post count. The amazing thing is that I started the blog just over one year ago — July 1, 2016. I never thought I would be able to maintain daily entries for more than a few months; the blog’s name kept me going — even when it was the last thing I wanted to do on certain days, even when work or the weather or unreliable Internet all seemed to transpire against me. Four hundred posts. Wow, indeed!

By contrast, I started this blog — Philatelic Pursuits — on May 25, 2015. This will be my 97th entry. I’ll have to think of something special for #100, just as I’ll need to pick a significant stamp for ASAD’s 500th post. I can’t let that one sneak past me like this one nearly did….

Well, not really…

I never have fun when using Photoshop and there are only about two functions that I can perform using the unwieldy program (and not always with the same degree of success).  “Fun with Paint” isn’t quite as good a title, however…

If I attempt to design something, I use a combination of Microsoft’s Paint (and not that new 3D version they tried to force upon me a few Windows 10 auto-updates ago) and an open-source program called PhotoScape which is great for things like placing (and resizing) transparent background images upon other images and manipulating lettering amongst other functions.

This weekend, I decided that it was time to change the small logo at the top of my “other” stamp blog, A Stamp A Day. After all, I hadn’t done anything to the design of the blog since I started it over a year ago (I am VERY happy with the theme — a free WordPress theme called Spun).A Stamp A Day

That logo was just a simple “edit” of a stamp issued by France in 1963 for an upcoming philatelic exhibition (Scott #1078):

France #1078 (1963)
France #1078 (1963)

But this didn’t even include the name of the blog, something that kind of bothered me but also allowed me to use the image from time to time here on Philatelic Pursuits and as an avatar on various stamp forums that I’m a member of.

I’d planned to make a new one for quite some time but it’s just hard to find the free time (another detractor is that I didn’t save a copy of the “unlettered” version so I’d have to start from scratch). This weekend, I finally had plenty of downtime and made several versions:


After I made those, I thought, “Let’s do some more!” Once I get started on something, it’s hard for me to stop.

My second try with “editing” a stamp was an attempt using Monaco #C16 issued in 1947, my favorite stamp-collecting themed stamp (I also collect FDR topicals):

Monaco #C16 (1947)
Monaco #C16 (1947)

My first tries at obscuring the cross-hatching in the upper-left and below the country tablet were fairly awful:

I then decided on a “wipe” approach to the upper-left cross-hatching (mainly because any lettering I placed over the cross-hatching was completely unreadable):

Hey! This is fun! Let’s see what the United States #1474 from 1972 looks like:

United States #1474 (1972)
United States #1474 (1972)

German Democratic Republic #91 issued in 1951 for Stamp Day:

For my final stabs at stamp “editing” this weekend were to work on two booklet panes issued in 1986 with a stamp collecting theme: Sweden #1588a and United States #2201a:

Sweden #1588a (1986)
Sweden #1588a (1986)

United States #2201a (1986)
United States #2201a (1986)


I even added a couple of items to the selvage of the Swedish stamp (at the top is the Phuket provincial seal) and at the bottom is a stylized entwined U.S. and Thai flag design. I had some problems removing elements and some of the quadrilles on the U.S. issue in particular are out of alignment. I will go back and fix these at some point, but my “free time” on a Sunday morning had come to end….

Admittedly, what I’ve done is quite basic. But the point is: If I can do this, then anybody can.

My biggest problem now is deciding which of these that I like the best. Which one shall have the upper left corner of the “A Stamp A Day” blog for the next year? I applied the Monaco stamp yesterday but it appears too large so I’ll resize that. I may end up setting it so that a different image appears on each separate click.

In preparing this article, I thought I’d also share a few stamp “designs” I made earlier this year. They may see eventual “release” through my Muang Phuket Local Post; I haven’t printed any of my creations for that project in almost two years (the last being a souvenir sheet for ASEAN Day on August 8, 2015). I have found somebody who can print these labels on dry gum paper and apply perforations so I may do that at some point in the future. The personalized image at the head of this article was created entirely in Photoshop (one of my few “successes”, I suppose but I’m still not entirely happy about it); I’d planned to make covers for my 50th birthday at the end of 2015 but never finished it.

united-states-2201a-1986

NOTE: This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on my “other” stamp blog, A Stamp A Day.

October is my favorite month, Here in Thailand, the long monsoon season is just coming to an end and I usually refer to the month as one of black and white: the nine-day Vegetarian Festival (thetsakan gin jeh — เทศกาลกินเจ) sees everyone dressed entirely in white while the month ends with Halloween which Thai women mark by wearing the skimpiest of little black dresses and donning black lipstick coupled with very white face powder in their version of a witch. Even better, October sees the annual celebration in the United States of National Stamp Collecting Month which was first designated some 35 years ago.

united-states-1474-1972

National Stamp Collecting Month began in 1981 as a joint venture between the United States Postal Service and the Council of Philatelic Organizations. Then-Postmaster General William F. Bolger had made the initial announcement in the Postal Service’s internal Postal Bulletin, calling stamp collecting “the world’s most popular hobby,” and urged “employees and customers alike to discover the joy of stamp collecting — the hobby of a lifetime.” The USPS often issues special stamps designed to promote the hobby among youngsters and numerous post offices and local stamp clubs hold activities during the month of October. The National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. often has special exhibits centered around National Stamp Collecting Month.

scan_20160510-11

I’m not sure which new stamp release is this year’s designated NSCM release; I suspect it’s the four designs to be issued on October 7 portraying comic book heroine Wonder Woman. However, I am a big fan of the four Jack-O-Lantern stamps released on September 29 which are the most overtly Halloween-themed stamps ever released by the United States (1974’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow release — Scott #1548 — would be a close second and I’d group others in there including the five Classic Movie Monsters stamps of 1997 — Scott #1368-72).

wonderwomanstamps

halloweenstamps

The American Philatelic Society, which bills itself as “America’s Stamp Club”, has a number of great suggestions for things one can do to help promote the hobby during the month (and, indeed, all year round). You can download a printable version (PDF) here. The October 2012 issue of The American Philatelist included a brief origin of National Stamp Collecting Month which you can read by clicking here. I try to promote the hobby each day of the year through my articles on A Stamp A Day and occasional musings on Philatelic Pursuits.

scan_20160520-9