Wow! Where Did May Go?

I cannot believe that it is time to once again attempt to summarize all that I did during the just-finished month. May just seemed to fly past, especially compared to April. I do not recall doing anything particularly different than in April.  It was simply another 31 days of remaining at home all day every day, other than the two or three times per week that I walk to 7-11 (probably 15 minutes total time: going, shopping, returning).  I suppose I have gotten used to the daily “grind”.

In a nutshell, my daily routine involves waking up early.  My first alarm sounds at 4:30 in the morning.  About half the time, I am already awake. If it is a “7-11 Day”, I snooze the alarm until five at which time I take a quick shower and head out afterwards, back home between 5:30 and six a.m. I do not think I have been outside while the sun was up since the end of March (standing on my covered balcony hardly counts). I always rated myself as a troglodyte!

By six or six-thirty, I have already booted-up my laptop and start figuring out my plan for the day.  The items on my to-do list stay essentially the same, just the content and the order that I do those tasks changes. There are occasional add-on items, but these are relatively rare.

Task one (sometimes first thing in the morning, sometimes in the late afternoon or early evening) involves Twitter. My various blogs (two about stamps, one about postcards and then there is the one you are reading now) automatically post a link whenever I publish anything.  For years, that was the extent of my Twitter feed and I never visited the program (app?, site?) itself. I have not even changed my profile or cover photos since 2008 which might be some sort of record (come to think of it, my Facebook profile photo has remained the same since New Year’s Day this year). I amassed around 4,500 tweets without actually being on Twitter!

Having somewhat more free time at the beginning of the pandemic/lockdown period, I began noticing that I had comments on those tweets and that a lot of people were following me. Many of those were fellow stamp collectors or philatelists (I tend to use the term interchangeably but usually a philatelist is considered to spend more time researching stamps or the subject matter portrayed upon them rather than “just” sticking the pretty pieces of paper into an album and forgetting about them). I began to get more and more involved and have found the stamp-related material and posts to be far more interesting than stamp groups on Facebook.

My favorite series of threads were started back in early March by a philatelist based in the UK and involve the alphabet and stamps.  He would name a particular topic of the day based on whatever letter of the alphabet he was up to. Followers would then check their collections to post a stamp representing that topic.  Thus, A could be a stamp with an animal starting with the letter (such as an aardvark or armadillo); B might be any stamp with a boat; and so on.  Every time he came to Z, he would think of some way to change the next series of letters.

Sometimes, you can win prizes on Twitter. I received a batch of British stamps from a collector in Canada by winning a contest. I even found a couple to the daily alphabet thread.

The latest alphabetic series (which finished this past Friday) dealt with places shown on stamps.  These could be the names of states or provinces, cities or towns, buildings, named locations in nature (or even the type of geological feature), etc. Country or territory names were also allowed but my own self-imposed “rule” was that these should not be printed on the stamp as identifiers of who issued the stamp.  For example, I did not want to use a stamp from Australia with “Australia” representing the letter A.  A stamp from Australia picturing Adelaide was just fine.  I managed to get all the way to Q before I broke my personal rule. I believe that was the only time I did this.

I was not content (most days) with simply finding some stamps to represent whichever letter we were on.  My goal was to find a minimum of ten places (sometimes it was more and I had less just a few times very late in the alphabet) and I wanted to include at least one real photo of each particular place (bonus points if this photo was the same scene as on the stamp). Finally, I needed to summarize the place shown on the stamp within the low character count utilized on Twitter (280 characters per Tweet).

My first attempt at a ‘Corona beard’ was not a success. It was itchy, and hot, and nothing around to trim it with…

I found this Twitter time each day extremely enjoyable and it usually took at least two hours between searching for stamps (some letters were much easier than others), searching for images and then to Wikipedia to get a thumbnail account of what is on the stamp and some small fact about that place.  It was a constant part of my daily routine all month — I did better the earlier I started on the task but there were days when I worried a

I finally found some disposable razor blades at 7-11. I think they must sell them pre-dulled as this was the result after going through three blades and using some right-handed baby scissors (I am left-handed).

bout being too late (I also did not want to use the same stamp that somebody else used).

My second major task each day involved Philatelic Pursuits.  This was my first stamp blog, started back in 2005.  I struggled for content for quite some time as I could not figure out exactly what I wanted to do with it.  Early articles involved profiles of different stamp-issuing entities (my catch-all term for the countries, territories, occupied areas, organizations, businesses, etc. that have released stamps over the past 180 years).  At the time, I was starting to collect “A Stamp From Everywhere” (which later became “Some Stamps From Many Places” as I found I some entities’ stamps were way out of my price range).  There were a number of days when I simply described what I received in the mail (stamp related, of course).  When I began my A Stamp A Day blog in July 2006, Philatelic Pursuits fell to the wayside.  I set a goal of writing about one stamp from my collection each and every day for 500 straight days.  Later, I extended this to 1,000 days and ended the project just a bit past that.

At the beginning of 2019, I decided that I wanted to use Philatelic Pursuits to record all the stamps issued within that one year.  However, I started too late and was not very organized in my approach and abandoned this project by the end of February.  Last October, I spent some time brain-storming on how best to approach a New Issues record of a single year.  The time I spent thinking about it has paid off and my approach seems to work and I have not lost any steam since.  In fact, I am approaching post #1,000 for the site (there were 157 articles before I published my first New Issues 2020 post on 30 October 2019 for Canada). In January, I switched from my original WordPress-hosted (free) site to hosting on my own domain. My primary reason for that was because I was running out of space for storing images!

The chin-fuzz doesn’t look too bad but the stuff on my neck is driving me crazy! Cannot wait to get back to the mall and track down some decent clippers when I have some income once again.

Most days, I want to post five New Issues posts to the blog.  Some days, I have the energy to do more.  Other times, I lose steam early.  Some are easy, others are very difficult or time-consuming.  If my home office were more comfortable (I sit at a tray table on my bed and do not have air-conditioning), I believe I could do more.  Probably much more.  I have many stamps in my image folders waiting for their articles while I receive almost daily emails or messages or just stumble across new announcements by accident.

Sometimes the lack of any decent images of a new stamp are a problem. I can deal with lack of information; as long as I have a verified release date with a copy of the design, I can put together a post. Sometimes the problem is that there are TOO MANY images.  Certain issuers (Australia and Great Britain are two prime examples) will issue large multi-stamp sets accompanied by loads of options including different sheet formats, booklet panes with a variety of adhesives, all manner of covers (not just the regular first day cover), presentation packs, and much more.  It takes time to find and download all of the images (I don’t like to miss any available item as somebody out there collects solely that particular item).  Once downloaded, I need to “process” those images.  I like to have transparent backgrounds so that the perforations will stand out on the site and will continue to do so if (when?) I change the site’s color scheme.  Most of the time this is relatively easy but I am beginning to hate the “shadow” and am increasingly just giving up if an entity uses this in their available stamp designs.

There are days when the Philatelic Pursuits portion can involve six, eight and even ten hours of non-stop work.  I have had several during the lockdown period on which I sat down at 6:30 in the morning and had to force myself to get up to make a sandwich (more on those in a bit) at one or two in the afternoon!  Lately, I have been trying to limit my stretches at any one task to no more than three hours (two is better).  I will do one thing for that amount of time, go do something else, and return for another (hopefully shorter) stretch later on.  If I haven’t caught up the issues by a certain entity in a while, I may set my daily goal to just do posts from that particular place.  Sometimes, that turns into a two- or three-day stretch but it is satisfying to finish and be able to move on to someplace else (although sometimes when I finish, the entity will announce another batch of stamps that day!).

As you can see, the majority of each day revolves around stamps.

I also make time to read every day, averaging around 90 minutes reading time per day and just over 120 pages.  Some days more, some days less.  I am in a bit of a hurry to finish this post now as I am about 120 pages from finishing my fifth book of the month (a David Balducci thriller in his Memory Man series which I tend to read fairly quickly).

My other daily task is simply eating.  My regular purchase at 7-11 two or three times each week is a half-loaf of white bread and two packages of four hot dogs each. My lunches and dinners consist of one slice of bread with a line of mustard and a line of ketchup squirted down the middle upon which is placed one hot dog (room temperature as I do not have a refrigerator or a heating device in my apartment).  This is folded in half and enjoyed while I am reading. Most days, I will have one hot dog sandwich for lunch and two for dinner.  One more constitutes a late evening snack.

These are washed down with either Coca-Cola (room temperature straight from the bottle) or my favorite brand of Thai fruit juice in three different flavors (my favorite is guava-pineapple).  On the weekend, I dispense with the hot dogs and eat massaman curry instead (a green curry made with chicken and potatoes with coconut milk and spice to taste).  I eat this at room temperature as well, with some bread slices to soak up the juice (rice not available, amazingly enough). Snacks are usually a green apple or two and perhaps some cookies or popcorn (there’s a nice toffee-cheese blend that I like).

I have also ordered a larger grocery delivery from Tesco-Lotus several times since mid-April.  I always try to buy A&W Root Beer but it is usually not delivered.  Once, I asked why (not that there is a big demand for it here) and the driver told me that no alcohol was allowed (Thailand had a ban on booze sales for more than a month).  I tried to explain that root beer is not the same as beer but he was not convinced. This is also my source for fruit and curry.  And snacks.

While I lost weight in April, I believe that I gained most of it back in May.

This was the free food given to me by the local government in late April. Early this month, I donated it all to a starving family. Nobody ever said ‘thank you’ and that bothers me. C’est la vie.

Better than alcohol!

Massaman curry is my favorite Thai food but oh, how I miss the rice. My first purchase with my first post-pandemic salary will be a rice cooker.

I took very few photos during the month, a precious few selfies (none of which are flattering in the least).  Most of the pictures were of my grocery deliveries and one of stamps on a day when I was looking through stock books for an elusive Twitter alphabet letter.

I spent a lot of time early in the month learning how to use PowerPoint and Google Slides as it looked as if we would teach online exclusively once the school year begins again on 1 July. Now, nobody really knows what we will do but it is looking increasingly like we will return to the classrooms albeit with a huge number of restrictions and safety measures.  Anyway, I got good enough on PowerPoint to use it to make some pretty cool photo slideshow videos to mark my dad’s and sister’s birthdays (13 and 14 May, respectively). Right about that time, I did one video chat with just my sister to test the waters and then a full-scale one involving little sis, my brother-in-law and my dad.  Too many years had passed since our last “face-to-face” and it was amazing how much they looked the same while I was the only one who had aged significantly.  It’s that wonderful Thai sun that’ll do that do ya!

I am still trying to learn more about how to improve my online teaching for kids if I need to do any of that.  Today, I worked a bit on creating a Bitmoji virtual classroom and a banner for it.  My character looks pretty good, but I will probably shave my beard before returning to work.

It has been a while since I had anything arrive in the mail. I did have one package of stamps arrive in mid-May which were my last pre-lockdown purchase, having been mailed from Saigon, Vietnam, by Registered Mail on 3 April (paid for on 26 March), they sat at the Laksi Mail Centre in Bangkok from 6 April until 6 May and then took another nine days to travel the 455 miles to Phuket.  That was Registered Mail with tracking….

I also received one postcard (from Hong Kong) early in the month.  I blogged about it (as well as the maximum cards from Vietnam) on my postcard blog earlier today.

Ordinarily, I would scan items received in the mail once or twice a week as a change in my daily routine but that hasn’t happened much during the lockdown. I have had a few people from around the world text me saying they had sent postcards or other items but I haven’t received any of these yet.  I hope that one day I go downstairs to find a huge stack of mail with my name on it.

You’ve got mail!

I cleaned my entire apartment so well back in late March that it has only needed the occasional sweeping-out since.  It has remained organized and I remove most of the bottles soon after I empty them (I used to save all bottles and refill them with water).  The trash goes out on the mornings that I make my trip to 7-11.  I am a bit surprised that I have not had a problem at all with ants. Maybe that comes from being home all the time and not generating a whole lot of trash.  I have discovered that the full-proof way to prevent cockroaches from coming up the shower drain is to leave the bathroom light on all night long.  I think I had to kill only two or three in the entire month of May.

I listened to 891 songs in MusicBee during the month, up from 674 in April.  The most-played artist was The Jayhawks followed closely by Wilco, Los Lonely Boys, Little Richard, and Linda Ronstadt (only up to 1982, thank you very much).  For the first time during the pandemic, I also listened to a bit of Bruce Springsteen — three live tracks.  I just have not been in the mood for the Boss during this time.  I have yet to listen to any Marillion which is another of my favorites.  Their time will come.

While I do have my favorite YouTube channels, I did not spend much time on any of them this month.  I discovered a few new favorites involving tech and teaching but spent considerably less time watching video content in May.  That includes downloaded TV shows and movies.  I don’t remember any of the latter and once the finale of “Survivor” rolled around, I have had no interest in finding another series to watch.  As for “Survivor”, it had been YEARS since I had watched more than a couple of episodes in a season but I got hooked on this one from the start (before the start, I happened across the preview segment). I loved every bit of watching it, particularly when I stopped working.  It gave me something to look forward to each week (and sometimes Thursdays were the only day of the week when I knew for certain what day of the week it was!).  I am now looking forward to the start of “The Amazing Race” this fall (I have NEVER missed an episode of that!).

Mmmm. Fruit, cereal, and some squirt-milk.

Well, what else?

It looks like we have another month of this stay-at-home stuff in front of us.  Schools are supposedly still set to open on 1 July.  Hopefully, my agency’s office will open enough in advance of that to get things done like figuring out who is still here (those of our teachers who went back to their home countries certainly will not be able to return for a very long time), signing contracts (between the schools and the agency first before any teachers can sign their contracts), and so much more.  I am certain it will be chaos for quite some time when we do get back into the office.  I just hope that others are as patient and understanding with our staff as I aim to be.

Something I am looking forward to is a planned reunion with my mother’s side of the family, taking advantage of the ZOOM video platform.  That should be happening in the near future. I am a bit shy about it as I have not seen many of these relatives since around 1996 or so.  Nearly a quarter of a century!  Can you believe that?

On that note, I will draw this update to a close.  For a month in which nothing much happened, I certainly had a lot to say about it!  Until next time, Stay Safe and Stay Happy….

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