Sunday Summary #39

Welcome to Sunday Summary, the meme in which I attempt to summarize the week that came before.

This was another week spent largely at home. In fact, the only day that I absolutely had to be somewhere on the other side of the island at a specific time was the day that we had the worst of the torrential thunderstorms that are currently inundating Phuket. That was Saturday and it was raining so heavily while I awaited the local bus that the sheets of water obscured everything just a few feet away. The songteaw was 25 minutes late which was a first (the latest they have ever arrived since I moved to this part of town was about three or four minutes).

Luckily, the rest of the week was much less stressful. It was also much less wet as I was able to stay inside other than brief forays out for food. When the school year finally resumes (one week from tomorrow!), I won’t have that luxury so I am trying to bring a few projects up to date.

That has mostly meant blogging my brains out. Not only has that meant writing and publishing numerous articles (seven on Philatelic Pursuits and four over here) but also quite a bit of preparation work. My Book Catalogue is turning into the most time-consuming activity at the moment.

When I moved late last month, I brought along several long-dead laptops. I did not want to throw them into an outside trash bin without first removing their hard drives. In all but one case, I have been able to restore those drives just by inserting them into external enclosures and hooking them up to my trusty HP. I was even able to get one of my early external drives to work (my first — the “Rock” will not power-up no matter what I try). My 15-year old Kindle took a long time to charge but it eventually came to life.

Land of Dead Devices — This represents nearly 25 years of electronics that just stopped working (most victims of the tiny ants we have in Thailand that like to go inside computers and feast on cables). The only items not here are a Toshiba laptop that failed on me in China and an Acer All-In-One whose screen failed within four months of purchase; that might still be repairable.
Once I remove an old hard drive from a machine, I place it in an external enclosure and attach it to my laptop. It’s always satisfying to see that blue light come on and the drive folder pop up on my screen. I have only had to use recovery software on one drive and was able to recover MOST of the files. I highly recommend Disk Drill by CleverFiles.

At any rate, each of those old hard drives had folders of eBooks (with very few duplicates!) so I have been adding them into the calibre eBook management program to catalogue them. I have added more than a thousand books in the past few days and it really kills the day making sure all the books have covers (and that those are decent resolution) and that all the meta-data is correct. Luckily, all of the library folders are alphabetical by author and then individual folders for each book. I never have had the huge, unsorted folders that I see sometimes. I am thinking, however, of organizing some subject folders but that is somewhat further down the line.

All of that organization in calibre is essential to keeping me sane while slowly adding these books to the My Book Catalogue section of this site. Of course, it shows me which books I own and I make sure that the authors are properly formatted so they stay in alphabetical order by last names and publication dates are correct so they remain in chronological order for each author as well.

More than that, I have added a few custom columns. Long ago, I started using a simple Yes/No query for whether or not I had read a particular book. I recently found a old spreadsheet that tracked my reading activities. Predating the Read More app I have used for a few years now, it includes “started to read” and “finished this book” dates between about 2006 and 2017. I find it interesting to learn when I finished certain books (particularly series) and to see how my reading interests have changed or developed. Today, I added a “Date Finished” column in calibre and have started filling it in using my old tracking spreadsheet. I can probably add the dates read information for a few more books from my Goodreads account. But let’s save that task for after I finish this one!

I have been adding the My Book Collection articles in alphabetical order by author as this was the easiest for me to do. But I am already thinking of switching it around some (my next entry may just start with an “H”). Rather than constantly check between the program and the blog, I decided to add a custom column so that I could check-off when I published the article on a particular book. The little hacks really do make my life that little bit easier.

Posts to Mark Joseph (14-21 May 2021):

Over on Philatelic Pursuits, I started a new weekly series which I am calling “Philatelic Round-Up!“. Throughout the week, I will do my usual surfing of stamp-related websites and social media but will earmark items that I find especially interesting. I enjoy learning new things and it seems a shame to not share these in my usual comprehensive style. I don’t like simply sharing something the way I find it (single tweets bug me but I love tweet threads with multiple parts). If the subject matter interests me, I want to find out more and then provide the information I found so others don’t have to do the research. Each installment of Philatelic Round-Up! will include a mix of new issue news, some aspect of “classic” philately, a review of recent “YouTube” videos about the hobby, a “Stamp of the Week” and reports on other items culled from Facebook, Twitter or stamp forums (although I rarely visit the latter).

Philatelic Round-Up! #1 had a report on a new stamp from Mauritius. This is an area that I have collected for a long time so I shared my page of Mauritius stamps from Volume 1 of my worldwide stamp album (which only covers 1840-1940). Someday, I will fill a few more of those empty spaces…

So many topics tend to send me down a rabbit hole so I am limiting each installment of “Philatelic Pursuits!” to 3500 words. I put together the debut article on Monday and Tuesday and began the second one Friday afternoon, finally finishing it on Saturday evening (I was out for most of that day). When school starts, I won’t have much time for lengthy research and writing (“Sunday Summary” included) so some streamlining will need to be done. The first article came in at 3,511 words while the second one topped out at 3,035 (only because I was falling asleep as I was trying to finish it!).

Most of the Philatelic Pursuits articles published last week were stand-alone reports on Europa 2023 stamps that I had previously included in my “Catalogue” of this topical. I back-dated many of these to the date the stamps were issued but stopped doing that with the posts I made yesterday. I also published one non-Europa new issue article about Albania’s stamps commemorating the 15th anniversary of Kosovo’s independence.

Last night, I found that there are now 18 countries, territories or organizations (collectively, I call them “entities”) that have issued stamps in 2023 but do not have a dedicated schedule page on Philatelic Pursuits. I plan to start adding several each day until that is done before moving on to a comprehensive update of schedules and galleries (as well as the Google Calendar — finally!).

Recent Posts to Philatelic Pursuits:

While cooped-up inside surfing the Internet, cataloguing books, editing images of stamps, and writing about books and stamps, I generally have some music playing in the background. I will usually take a break if a favorite song comes on so I can listen intensely but most of the time albums just fly by.

Towards the end of April, I began playing the entire recorded output of the Rolling Stones in chronological order, starting with their first single — “Come On” b/w “I Want To Be Loved”, released on 7 June 1963. That includes all of their official single, EP and album releases, a fair amount of outtakes and live material. Quite a bit of archival material was released long after initial recording on various box sets and “Super Deluxe Editions” (SDEs) of the remastered original albums but I also have a large number of bootlegs. (The same holds true for many artists, not just the Stones.)

Last week, I needed a break from the “Stones Listening Project” as I was getting bogged-down in bootlegs of the 1976 tour. I returned to Mick, Keith & Co. early this week playing the Emotional Rescue album, a couple of early 1980s compilations (Slow Rollers being MUCH better than Sucking in the Seventies — the former even has an Italian version of “As Tears Go By”!), and the SDE of Tattoo You. I wasn’t really into it so I played several artists that I don’t get around to very much: Brian Setzer Orchestra (I listened to all of the non-Christmas albums), one album by Eagles of Death Metal (much better than I thought it would be including a cover of Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra”), a several 1989 live albums by Jeff Healey Band (many of these were officially released after Healey died), and the 50th anniversary deluxe edition of Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Today, I’ve been playing The Band starting with the 2021 deluxe editions of Stage Fright and Cahoots plus a couple of compilations of multiple artists covering The Band. I think I may start a stroll through The Last Waltz later this week — I have the original version (2002 remaster) plus the 4-disc 40th anniversary edition not to mention a soundboard recording of the entire Winterland concert on 25 November 1976 (no overdubs! no resequencing! no edits!). Maybe I will listen to all of those in a row.

I didn’t read as much as I would have liked this week. I was busy with all of that research, cataloguing and writing as mentioned already. I did finish one book — Phillip Done’s 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons From Teaching. I was around halfway through with it when I realized that I had read it before — from 30 June to 2 July 2010 in fact (thank you, old spreadsheet). There were enough laugh-out-loud and “That happened to me!” moments that I continued on to the end. I wish I could write about my classroom experiences as humorously as Done.

I started reading another “Images of America” book last night about Theatres of San Francisco and so will probably finish it tonight or tomorrow. I am also still working on Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman and need to make a concerted effort to finish it this coming week.

Every time I venture into a 7-Eleven, I spend a few minutes in the “local flavors” potato chips aisle, searching for the Hat Yai Fried Chicken flavor of Lay’s. I only had this twice but it remains my absolute favorite snack. I usually leave empty-handed but I was feeling bold one day this week so purchased two flavors I had never tried before. The Boat Noodles Lay’s were quite good although confusing. Just like the real soup, there was a multitude of flavors competing against each other. I think it would have been better had the chips not been so darn thin!

I will almost always choose chips that are ridged (i.e., Ruffles) or a thicker cut. Lay’s Max Xtra Crunch line offers both qualities simultaneously and I often choose their Sour Cream & Onion flavor. I had wanted to try the Double Cheeseburger variety for a while but usually I only see it in the Super Pack size. This time it was in the smallest bag and I snatched one up. It looked like most barbecue chips and tasted similar to those, a bit spicy. I couldn’t taste the beef (or, perhaps it was a pork burger this being Thailand) and the cheese flavor was very subtle. It was okay but not something I will buy regularly.

On Tuesday or Wednesday, we began getting a bit of rain each day — usually in mid-morning and again in the early evening and usually just steady showers. The indoor temperature began cooling down as a result.

Saturdays, I teach a one-hour class in the far northeast corner of the island. A driver picks me up at 11am in Phuket Town and then ferries me the rest of the way to the location. Getting to Phuket Town involves standing on the side of the road outside of my apartment in Kata and flagging-down a local bus known as the songteaw. Most of these are very old with an open-sided wooden passenger compartment. The trip to the bus stop in Phuket Town takes around 45 minutes to an hour and then I have a 10-minute walk the remainder of the way to my pick-up point.

In order to meet my driver on time, I need to take the 9:00 songteaw. I can see the road from my second-floor apartment and often note the time these local buses pass by. I have never seen one more than three minutes late. Every so often, they go by a minute or two early! This Saturday, it began to rain heavily at 8:30. I prayed for it to stop by nine and it did slow to a medium downpour by the time I walked outside (I do that about five minutes before I expect the songteaw).

The ground-level pathway to the street is at an incline and becomes a raging waterfall with even a little bit of rain. I was able to navigate this without completely soaking my feet (my socks were in my backpack) but there was a pickup parked right against the exit to the street. I struggled to squeeze by but managed to step into a muddy puddle in the process. So much for dry feet!

It then began to pour heavily. Luckily, there is a covered motorbike parking area there so I ducked under that as I opened my umbrella. The pickup truck that was parked against my apartment’s entrance also blocked my sight up the road so I had to keep stepping out to look around it. Five minutes passed, then ten. It began to pour rain so heavily that it was just a solid sheet of water that was also coming UP from the street. I only saw phantom-like headlights that would zoom towards me and I had to squint in order to see if the songteaw was coming. The wind threatened to rip apart my umbrella (you have to hold it at a forty-five degree angle against the rain to prevent that from happening and still remain a bit dry). I could hear thunder. At one point, I struggled into my rain poncho which I had wisely put into my backpack; it was very difficult trying to zip it up while holding my umbrella (setting it on the ground caused the wind to try and steal it). It was now raining sideways so the covered parking area offered absolutely no protection.

Finally, I saw a bit of blue hood over a pair of misty headlights and extended my arm to flag it down. He was in the middle lane rather than the left one (for passenger pick-up) I went as far out into the street as I could, furiously flapping my arm and yelling for him to “Stop!” He slammed on his breaks and pulled over to the side (kind of) and I had to run about ten car lengths up a hill in a full-on gale in order to hop aboard. Whew! Thankfully, it was one of the newer versions — a metal bed with fixed windows that becomes an oven when the sun is shining on it — so I only got wetter whenever he stopped and the rain entered the rear opening. He picked me up 25 minutes late — it had seemed like an eternity but I would still get to my pick-up point with time to spare.

For most of the way up the hill that eventually drops down to Chalong and the center of the island, I was the only passenger. But he again slammed on his breaks at one point and soon two teenage girls ran out of the sheet of rain and hopped aboard. We picked up two more passengers on the other side of the pass and I think he decided that was enough. The rain hadn’t dissipated in the least. At an east-west street well before the usual route, the driver suddenly turned east and roared down the empty streets. It didn’t matter if any of the passengers were planning to journey to stops he was avoiding. I soon realized that he was coming into Phuket Town from the south and because he was now an “Express”, we ended up at the bus stop (end of the line) just five or ten minutes later than usual! It had also stopped raining!

Somewhere in northeastern Phuket — I think the sun is starting to come through the clouds…

Almost to Ao Por.

I walked to my meeting place and waited with the other teacher inside. Just as the driver arrived, we could hear heavy rain on the roof. Yes, it was another squall. We kept going in and out of thunderstorms all the way to Ao Por in northeast Phuket. It stopped raining as we got close and I didn’t need my umbrella to walk to the sales office where I teach my classes. The lesson went well (lots of laughing as the students are becoming comfortable with me and are enjoying the classes the more they learn). It wasn’t raining when I exited the building but began to pour again right after I entered the car. We went to pick up the other teacher (his classes are in the boat yard itself) and then headed back to Phuket Town.

Here comes the rain again!
Don’t crash into the boat!

We made pretty good time going south again and I got back to Phuket Town by 2pm. I had time to make it to the bus station near the old fresh market and catch the 2:30 bus. The Old Town area was especially crowded as the rains finally seemed to have stopped for the day. It was slow-going avoiding the tourists who stop suddenly with no regard to their surroundings or to avoid getting in someone’s line of shot. Lots of amateur photographers along Thalang Road. I snapped a few myself but didn’t have the patience to wait for mini-vans to cruise by.

After the rain: traffic-clogged Thalang Road in Old Town — mostly taxis and mini-vans bringing tourists out for shopping and eating.
Lots of photogs at the entrance to Soi Rommannee — Phuket Town’s Red Light District a century and more ago.

Mobile ice-cream cart: He also seems to be selling dried squid snacks and prawn crackers (of course, those might be toppings for the ice cream — no chocolate sprinkles here!). These are most often seen in school yards during the afternoon after classes dismiss.
Sneaking a shot of the Phuket Phoenix between mini-vans. On this particular day, they were full of Chinese tourists. Most days, they are full of Chinese tourists. The Chinese have only recently returned to Phuket Town while Kata is full of Russians.

I got to the Kata/Karon stop at 2:25 and the bus wasn’t there (usually, they are sitting in their spot at least 15 minutes before departure time). A bald and toothless motorbike driver was standing there and did the expected “Where you go?” query. I asked if the 2:30 songteaw had left already and he said they don’t have one at that time anymore. As the Kata/Karon route is the only one that actually posts a schedule, I walked over to take a look. Yes, it has changed (meaning the songteaw that morning wasn’t late at all and had arrived in town early!).

The times on the schedule are from bus station to bus station. For the left section (“To Phuket Town”), that station is streetside in front of the Karon Municipality Building just a few steps away from Kata (Yai) Beach. There is ample signage (including a rate card!) and there is almost always a blue songteaw sitting there. Upon departure, they turn left (north) and make a very slow journey through Kata and alongside the nearly non-stop sandy coastline to the seahorse circle in Karon. They turn east through a bar area that almost obscures Wat Suwankiriket (another temple where I once taught at) before swinging south again towards Kata.

The bus will pass by my home about thirty minutes after its departure time. So, in order to reach school on time starting next Monday, I will catch the 6:00 bus at 6:30 (I am very happy that this hasn’t changed!). On the previous schedule, the songteaws would leave Kata every thirty minutes throughout the day. Now, the second bus isn’t until 6:50 (which I would catch outside my home at 7:20). On Saturdays, to complete the first stage of my journey to teach my single one-hour class (it does seem like a lot of trouble, doesn’t it?), I could try waiting outside for a songteaw expected about 8:40 (having departed at 8:10) or 9:20 (8:50 start time). The #6 bus would also be possible but I would have to RUN from the ending stop to meet my driver to Ao Por on time). Returning to Kata (righthand section) doesn’t really matter to me other than the fact that the latest bus now leaves at 18:10 rather than 18:00. Hey, ten more minutes that I could spend “over there”.

Kan went back to her home village in Buriram Province earlier this month to participate in the national elections. These were the first elections to be held since General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Commander of the Royal Thai Army, seized power on 22 May 2014, Thailand’s 12th coup d’état since 1932. (The result? The young guy won — maybe — we won’t know for sure until at least 60 days has passed.) Although she hasn’t directly told me, I think her dad (long divorced from her mom) was running for Village Headman. It’s hard to tell from his Facebook page whether or not he won.

The original plan was for Kan to return to Phuket not long after the elections. She loves spending time with her mom but the lack of anything to do in her village apart from watching the rice grow soon bores her. Her mom, however, wanted a holiday at the beach but didn’t want to spend more than 20 hours on a bus to Phuket (Mom doesn’t trust airplanes). So, they are spending a week enjoying the waves at Jomtien Beach in Pattaya. It’s not my idea of a holiday destination but perhaps Thais view “Sin City” differently. At least it’s not raining up there. . . yet. Kan now promises “next month” for her return to the Pearl of the Andaman. We’ll see…

Raining a lot, but no flooding yet!

And that’s it. I finally finished this edition of “Sunday Summary”, having started five hours ago. That does include the prep time — transferring my photos from camera to laptop and deciding which ones to use (there weren’t many this week), creating the thumbnail/featured image (I used the same template as last week so it was fairly quick) and a few other tasks. This time around, I created banners for “Blogging”, “Music” and “Reading” so that probably added a half-hour or so. Add in a break to do laundry (my landlord texted me saying they were shutting off the water from 9-5 tomorrow) and also to make a sandwich for dinner. Call it around three hours of actual writing and formatting.

Once the school term begins, I need to find a faster way to do these summaries. Actually summarizing would be the obvious choice. Write less is definitely a step in the right direction. I’m not sure if I can do that but I will try. Also, I can probably start doing the graphics earlier in the week. I just know that I would rather spend my Sunday afternoons relaxing instead of sat in front of a screen for hours on end.

I had five more tasks on today’s To Do list but have decided to put those off until tomorrow, including another entry for “My Book Collection”. I will salvage the rest of my evening with a bit of reading and maybe even go to sleep early for once (before midnight would be nice).

Bye for now. I hope the week ahead is all that you want it to be!

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