Welcome to Sunday Summary, the meme in which I attempt to summarize the week that came before.
This was a real “back to the real world” kind of week hampered by the fact that both Kan and I were quite ill up until late in the week. We both blame the overpowering air-conditioning in our room (the temperature could not be adjusted and the only way to turn it off was to remove the key-card from it’s slot) and the Lovely Lady also blames the very odd grilled fish she purchased at a nearby open-air market Sunday night. I only had a couple of bites of this sea creature before deciding it just did not taste right while she forced down the remainder. At least she had the luxury of remaining in bed all day while I tried to get better while teaching the Tiny Tots at school. It wasn’t until late Friday that I finally began to feel better although I did cancel my weekend classes in Phuket Town; I just wasn’t ready to spend an hour or so on a crowded songteaw to get there.
Blogging & Productivity
This was, however, the most blog-joyable week that I’ve experienced in quite some time. Since my New Year’s post around noontime last Sunday, I have published eleven blogs (including one on My Collections and two for Postcards to Phuket). I have really been enjoying putting together articles lately — most have been about new stamp issues and a number of these include the results of some extra research into what is portrayed on those stamps.
I think the main reason for this new enjoyment is that I am better organized now. I used to have bits and pieces of information randomly scattered across a myriad of bookmarked pages, saved Facebook posts, downloaded PDF’s and images, etc. Recently, I have revamped how I use Microsoft’s OneNote program (the desktop version) and now I consolidate everything that I need to write into tabs and pages in this one piece of software rather than a multitude of apps and folders. It certainly has been a game-changer in putting together the stamp articles and I hope to apply it to other types of blogs as well.
It doesn’t hurt that I am doing much better in time management and I have a pretty standard routine in place at the moment.
I arrive at my school every morning at 6:30 a.m., ascending the stairs to my office on the third floor. By the time I have my laptop set up and flashcards needed for the day’s lessons arranged, I usually have around 45 minutes until I have to go back downstairs for Gate Duty. Now that I have a more or less standard format for my “Stamps of 2023” articles, I often begin work on one of those right away. I already have a good idea of which country I want to focus on, based on previously-downloaded stamp and other philatelic item images and the amount of information available, so my first task is to design the article’s “featured image” which appears in the header of the blog and in the simultaneously published Twitter and Facebook group shares.
I do this in my go-to photo-editor, the simple but powerful PhotoScape X. I have a template in place for the “Stamps of 2023” images (and for many other of my regular types of articles) which makes this process quick, easy, and uniform in appearance — I just have to change the border colors to match national flags and then array some of the stamps and first day covers discussed in the article. Once that is finished, I upload this along with all the other images that I want to include in the article to my Flickr account. I use this for storage (my Pro account has unlimited storage) as my WordPress plan is fairly close to its maximum allowed storage. My aim is to have these images uploaded and the “Add New Post” page titled by Gate Duty time.
Gate Duty lasts until 8am at which time the kids will sing the Thai national anthem (either outside or upstairs, weather permitting — sometimes it is deemed “too sunny” for the kids to stand in front of the school), chant two Buddhist prayers, and sing/dance along to either the “Wash Your Hands Song” or the “Up And Down Song” before filing back to their classrooms. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have to present the Word of the Day which is always something “motivational” rather than the usual object vocabulary words which they get during every lesson. My last five Words of the Day were peace, family, celebrate, wish, and amazing. These are second-language kindergarten kids so it can be difficult to explain the meaning and I am starting to struggle on word choice. Sometimes, I incorporate stamps into the flashcards that I use in my presentations.
I am back at my desk upstairs by 8:30 which gives me thirty minutes of “free time” before my first lesson at nine. I can often get a pretty good start on the article by the time I have to teach. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I have four lessons in a row before a long mid-day break and a last class starting at 2pm (after the children have napped for a couple of hours so they are often quite groggy when I show up). Wednesdays and Fridays are much the same but I have two back-to-back lessons starting at nine, a thirty-minute break and then one or two additional classes before lunch and one or two in the afternoon. Thursdays, it’s two back-to-back, the thirty-minute break, two more back-to-back and then nothing in the afternoon. Needless to say, this is my favorite day.
Most of those breaks are taken up finishing whichever blog I started that morning. Sometimes, I finish during the mid-morning break and I am definitely done by lunchtime. I always write these in the online blogging platform and have a loose outline in my head rather than anything too terribly organized. Each new issue article is a bit different, depending on the amount of information and images provided by the postal administration’s website itself. Sometimes, a Wikipedia re-write constitutes the majority of the article while there are other instances when I cannot find ANY INFO at all on a certain stamp-portrayed subject. I often find adding images my least favorite part of the blogging process because — since I am using Flickr rather than WordPress to host my images — I have to manually add each into a block editor, stripping away meta-data to arrive at a postable URL. I also find adding tags a bit boring but do it anyway, sometimes adding way too many! It always feels great to hit the “Publish” button but then I need to be diligent about my post-blog tasks (making sure it was shared correctly to Twitter and my “Stamps of 2023” Facebook group, adding it to Instagram manually, and entering the entry into a spreadsheet).
Since I never go out to eat (too dangerous to cross the highway most times of the day), I spend the long break before afternoon classes searching for suitable graphics to use for flashcards or other teaching materials. I often have the cards completely designed by mid-week, printing and laminating them during the evening at home. All of these routines are so streamlined by now that I have plenty of free time during any given day or night. I spend some time adding to my To Do Lists (all in OneNote now, which I like much better than Microsoft To Do) and completing any tasks that I can do while sitting in my office.
Lately, a lot of these tasks involve tracking down more stamp issuing programs for different countries and other entities. I have many sources that I will resort to first — often these are posts seen on social media or one of several very useful blogs and websites. Some of these can be a bit frustrating as they might be missing the release date or decent resolution images. There are an increasing number of postal administrations that include excellent stamp images in advance on their websites but there are also an increasing number that make it difficult to save such images! Some philatelic bureaus provide a wealth of technical details and background information about their issues online while others make you wonder if they are still in the business of selling stamps to collectors. Some are a delight while others make me cringe when I am forced to try and find out about one of their new stamps. It’s this sort of thing that hastened my decision to abandon maintaining the Philatelic Pursuits website at the height of its popularity.
Of course, I wasn’t as organized then as I have become. Now, whatever information that I find, wherever I find it, is cut-and-pasted directly into OneNote. I have a section set up for New Issues and this is divided by stamp-issuing entity (this is how I refer to them as some are organizations or territories). Each scheduled issue gets its own page, named by date and title and the information is pasted onto these pages which automatically generates a source URL should I need to refer back to the website, blog or social media post at a later date. I will add images once I have found those of decent resolution and performed some minor editing (I like to give them transparent backgrounds as I believe the stamps look better this way when placed on a dark background). When it comes time to select an entity to blog about, I just look at those that I haven’t yet tackled and choose largely based on my mood. I decided to do these on a month by month basis because I have found that release dates (and even designs) can change if publicized too far in advance).
Whenever I blog about one of these New Issues, I add a notation (along with the date and published URL) right on the stamps’ OneNote page. I keep finding new ways to adapt this program to my needs, particularly where philately is involved. Someday soon, I plan to reformat and continue a project started during the COVID lockdowns which aims to include all of my collections (stamps, covers, postcards, coins, etc.) in a digital form including scans of all of my album pages (my Big Blue Part I is bound rather than loose-leaf making that particular album extremely difficult to scan). I may not be able to truly devote myself to this project until I reach retirement age (not as far off as I would like!) but I want to design the format now while I am “on fire” with such ideas!
This is the motivation that begat so many articles during the past week…
Latest posts on MarkJosephJochim.com:
- Sunday Summary #31
- Sunday Summary #30
- Sunday Summary #29
- Sunday Summary #28
- Sunday Summary #27
- Sunday Summary #26
- Sunday Summary #25
- Welcome, February!
- Stamps of 2023: New Zealand (February 2023)
- Stamps of 2023: Monthly Wrap-Up (January)
- Stamps of 2023: Canada (January 2023)
Latest posts on Postcards to Phuket:
Latest posts on My Collections:
It was a short week as we returned to school on Tuesday. As I mentioned already, I was sick through the entire work week. This began with a bad cough and headache for the first couple of days, became a high fever for a day-and-a-half, and then began to subside starting Friday morning. I still managed to teach through it all (there weren’t any teachers available to cover my lessons if I had called-in) although not always successfully! A number of the Thai teachers were also ill so I was not alone. The first couple of days of the week saw many kids absent as well. If I didn’t have the blogging and class prep routines detailed above, I probably would have been much more miserable.
The vocabulary covered the letter “L” in the K1 and K2 levels while the K3 kids learned words starting with “U”. The young kids also learned the names of some Body Parts to which my finale was a chant based on “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and a dance routine to something I found on YouTube called “The Move Song” which is a lot of fun by the second action (moving left and right while touching their toes) once kids start to follow their teacher. I actually felt the best while performing the latter routine and I kept it in my repertoire for Nursery 2 (only four children showed up) and for K2 as well (I tried to teach the curriculum mandated “What is this?”/”It’s a…” during the first lesson on Tuesday but it bored me to tears). I may try it out on K3 next week just to get the slightly older students a bit more active. Most of those classes loved the “Night Sky” material I presented to them but one just didn’t get it at all.
The odd thing was that I did not take a single photograph at school all week until late Friday afternoon when somebody came around with a box of the local government’s New Year’s gifts for teachers. This was a tiny Chinese-style calendar that was smaller than my 2023 daily record book (which is A5 size, I believe). Talk about sparing no expense!
What I did take photos of (and pretty much the only photos after Kan and my night out on Monday, the first) was my food. But since I was ill, most nights I didn’t eat at all. When I did, it was invariably microwaved cheap eats from the hilltop 7-Eleven. Each of the three nights that I actually pushed myself to make the up-and-down trek along the always busy highway to the convenience store, I bought three “main meals” as they are never really that filling. The Caesar salad (not pictured) was the best thing I ate all week.
Although I felt rather ill most of the week, I still managed to finish my first book of 2023 — Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903) — and make fairly good progress on my second — Adam Oyebanji’s 2022 thriller, A Quiet Teacher. I am reading a bit earlier each evening which means I can read more pages before starting to feel my eyes tire. I think that I may need to get my eyes checked again fairly soon as the eyeglasses I got two years ago don’t seem to be helping that much.
I also watched the most recent episodes of Yellowstone (just on its mid-season hiatus) and 1923. The former is actually decreasing in quality episode by episode although it still provides a wealth of great lines in any given scene. The latter is still very fresh and gripping. I did feel it was a bit too early for Harrison Ford’s character to undergo the treatment he did on this latest episode, however. I hope he survives the wounds just as Kevin Costner did when his character underwent the same basic scenario on the parent series. Oops! Almost spoilers…
As I felt much better starting late Friday, I put in some serious music listening — Sheryl Crow, Kevn Kinney (solo and with drivin’ n’ cryin’), Eagles, Steve Earle, Warren Zevon, and ZZ Top all sounded out through my Bluetooth speakers which formed a bit of a desperado/Old West theme. I had to break that up a bit in the middle with a sole Earth, Wind & Fire album. I also added some “new” music into my player which necessitated my first album cover artwork for 2023. The current batch mainly feature a rectangular image in the center with artist name up top and venue/date below, most in the same font inspired by a recent Eagles concert poster. Whenever possible, I try to use a photograph from the actual concert that the recording is from. Here’s a sample…
Kan and I spent the New Year’s holiday (Saturday through Monday) in the resort/party town of Patong on the west coast of Phuket. This town has a really bad reputation, often referred to as “Sin City” but if you venture away from the more high-powered areas (as Kan and I prefer to do), there are many charming pockets of local Thai everyday living. Or, at least genuine Thais trying to scrape together some sort of living in these still desperate post-pandemic times.
As such, I cannot be too critical of the hotel in which we stayed as the staff really struggled to make our stay an enjoyable one. The hotel, in an ancient high-rise building just 700 meters from the beach, opened for the first time since early April 2020 on the date of our arrival. In fact, I was the very first guest to check-in. We had stopped by on Christmas Day to determine its location and one of the staff members let us take a look inside. We had severe misgivings — the rooms we were shown looked as if they had been through a war (or worse!). There were no fixtures, no furniture, not much of anything that identified itself as a place where guests would be staying in less than one week’s time. We were assured that all would be ready in time for our check-in. I think Kan was more worried about climbing four flights of extremely narrow and steep stairs than in the room being in a good state.
When I checked-in, the lobby still looked as if it had barely survived a flood (it probably really was underwater at least as recently as November) and the stairwells remained extremely dark throughout our weekend. But our room was a bright and clean wonder (albeit with twin beds rather than the requested King size). The bathroom contained the best-functioning hot shower that I have experienced in years and the bum hose could be used to propel objects into space (always test the pressure on these spray hoses before you use them for their intended purpose). The only faults were the aforementioned arctic air-conditioning that we couldn’t adjust and a non-functioning wall-mounted television — the cable line wasn’t attached to the building yet. Also, there wasn’t anybody available in the lobby at check-out time necessitating a rather long wait so I could retrieve my key-card deposit.
Despite these faults, the welcome we received from every member of the staff made the visit one of my best in this part of the world. We truly felt like members of the family (and I think the entire staff was indeed related to each other in some way). They were really working hard to get the place past this rough re-opening and I think they deserve a great deal of credit. Kan and I both agreed that we would definitely stay here again (she climbed up and down the stairs even more than I did!). The location is great and the price is amazing, particularly considering what others in the area were charging for the holiday. We also liked the fact that there was a Family Mart right around the corner (the reason for Kan’s many descents and ascents of the creepy stairs).
We parted ways after check-out, Kan was headed to a job interview (alas, the owner never showed up to the appointment due to a family emergency) and I wanted to return to Kata in order to do laundry and I was already feeling a bit sick. My original plan was to buy a foot-long at Subway before catching the bus back south but the time waiting to get my deposit made me change my mind. As it turned out, when I arrived at the bus stop there were a number of people waiting for the already very late bus and I would have had time (probably) to trek to the sandwich shop and return. I am still kicking myself that I didn’t try as I did not eat anything again until Wednesday, nausea descending upon me that evening.
The only thing I did that evening was to print and laminate flashcards between frequent trips to the porcelain throne for deposits from both major holes. Fish or too-cold a/c? Either one but this was the first genuine flu that I have suffered through since my bouts with the pandemic. Those were more enjoyable but at least this didn’t linger or cause any missed work.
And that is my Sunday Summary for January 2-8, 2023. I hope the week to come is just how you want it to be. Cheers!