Twenty-twenty thus far has been nineteen days of unstressed productivity and that looks to continue for the foreseeable future. I do not recall as being as organized as I have been since the New Year fireworks faded to silence and that certainly has helped with my overall positive attitude. I am happy and content and I owe a lot of credit to Microsoft To-Do along with my own dedication to using it (finally figuring out how to adapt it to my rather unique needs).
It has been an extremely busy January despite the distinct lack of actual teaching hours (more on that in a bit). Most of my daily routine revolves around maintaining Philatelic Pursuits.com and keep on top of a never-ending stream of new stamp issues. I picked a nice round year to do this during as I will not attempt such a comprehensive undertaking again. For 2021, I may chose to cover just a few favorite topics (similar to my cataloging of last year’s Christmas stamps) rather than covering EVERY SINGLE STAMP.
One topic I am already contemplating trying to avoid is that of Lunar New Year. Here we are still a week away from the official start of the second of three New Years celebrated in this part of the world and I am sick of seeing stamps with rats (or mice) on them and of the different shades of red and yellow covering them Workers began hanging Chinese lanterns over our town’s streets a few days ago; I failed to become excited. As I walked home this afternoon from the bus stop, I could hear a rehearsal in front of my local market complete with lots of drums and gongs. Okay, I do like the percussion.
The only combination of red and yellow (and gold) that I get excited about right now are on the uniforms of the Kansas City Chiefs. I became a fan of this American football team soon after moving to the Kansas side of the state line in August 1977. They have had a lot of losing seasons since then but have become much, much stronger with the addition of starting Quarterback Patrick Maholmes last year. A week ago, they played the Divisional Playoff game against the Houston Texans at their home of Arrowhead Stadium (measured as the LOUDEST in the world!). There were a few mistakes early in the first quarter of the game and it was a matter of minutes before we were all shocked that they were losing with a score of 24 to zero. The team (and fans) needed a miracle and we got a few in quick succession. The final score saw the Chiefs win 51 points to 31. It’s the largest come-from-behind victory in franchise history, just to mention of several recorded broken during that game.
Tonight (which translates to very early morning here in Thailand), the Chiefs will play the Tennessee Titans in the Conference Championship game. Once again, they have home-field advantage playing at Arrowhead. The winner of this game advances to the Super Bowl which is the penultimate championship. The team last played (and won) the Super Bowl 50 years ago. Win or lose, I will stick by the team and the city as there are so many things that are special about each. I am not a fair weather fan by any means.
The beginning of the month had me in classrooms at Ban Bangneaw Municipal School in the southern reaches of Phuket Town (covering a couple of extremely well-behaved lower Primary classes) and at Wat Kajornrangsen School just to the west of the downtown fresh market area. I was at the temple school for a two-day English camp with three teachers and more than a hundred students. To call them “well-behaved” would be a lie as they were some of the most disrespectful that I have encountered in many a year (although they still are far behind the “winners” of that category, Koh Siray School on an island east of Phuket Town). The majority of the boys and a few of the girls on Day One just would not listen to anybody including the Thai teachers and our Thai staff. I had to dig my whistle out of my back packet (I hate using it) and give it to one of the “big bosses” who made an attempt to quiet the children to no avail. It was chaos but we got through it as we always do. Day Two was not a whole lot better (different groups of older students). Personally, I don’t mind huge masses of unruly kids and I find ways to use the chaos but the other adults involved would disagree.
Since then, my teaching hours have dwindled to near-nothingness. This is always a slow period for me while May through October or November sees me at my maximum capacity (often beyond it). I still have to work my six days per week.
Most days, I wake up between four and six in the morning and work on website-related tasks. I use Twitter to post images of each particular day’s stamp releases along with links to the articles on Philatelic Pursuits, When I remember, I will post an image of my favorite stamp of that day (I usually forget). I also spend this early morning period searching my Facebook, Twitter, and RSS news feeds for images or news of newly released or upcoming stamps. Some days, there is little to find. Other times it is a virtual avalanche.
At eight A.M., I jump in the shower and get ready for work. I am out of my apartment by 8:50 so I can walk to the bus stop and catch the Airport Bus to Central Festival. It arrives between 9:05 and 9:15; the air-conditioned ride costs 30 baht and takes about twenty minutes depending on the traffic. I much prefer it to the ubiquitous pink bus system (15 baht) as it’s more reliable, quieter, safer, more comfortable, etc. I do still use the pink buses (locally known as the Porthong) to return home each afternoon, a trip that can take as little as 45 minutes and as long as an hour and a half.
Upon arrival at our third-floor facility (temporary in this location), I chat briefly with a colleague or two and then set up my laptop. I will spend the next six or seven hours sitting there, usually working on the same type of tasks I started during the two to four hours before getting ready for work. I only have regular classes scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays at this time; cancellations have been frequent for all teachers, mostly because many of the parents are waiting for our return to proper classrooms. Yes, the space we are stuck in now is completely open and extremely loud when two or three or four teachers are trying to conduct concurrent lessons with loud youngsters. I am blessed that two of my students are very studious and respectful.
I do get called upon to do some work-related tasks (a nationwide course proposal for the employees of a chain of sporting goods stores or an update to a draft schedule for an English camp to be held about three months from now, for example) but those are few and far between I am usually left to my own devices. Yesterday, my scheduled lesson was cancelled so I ended up putting together eight or nine new posts and scores of updated pages on the stamp site. It helps to put together my to-do list at the time I discover things I need to do rather than try to compile it all at once. It does change throughout each day and I have learned how best to name entries and shuffle them around to different days or months.
My busiest site-work starts Thursday and continues until Sunday. All week long, I add posts about new and upcoming stamps (sometimes months in the future, sometimes I learn about them a week after the stamp was issues). My aim is to publish a summary article for each upcoming week either late Saturday or early Sunday. The summaries list every scheduled stamp for the upcoming week in an easy-to-understand format and linked to the relevant original article. As schedules change and get added, this gives me a chance to see what I am missing — some of the articles published back in October when I began this project may have incorrect information or low-resolution stamp design images (or none at all) while other stamps due that week have yet to even have an announcing article. Hopefully, there aren’t very many of the latter during any given week. I had four or five this week that I had to quickly compile.
Yes, it’s a lot of work but I love seeking out all of these new stamps and then providing the information so others only have to check my website and the number of tools that I provide to make it as easy as I can think of. Some have praised my use of Google Calendar in this regard.
I am enjoying finding the information (and sometimes researching the subject matter if the postal administration doesn’t provide that information in their press releases) and am thrilled whenever I come across particularly high-resolution stamp images. I already have some distinct favorite philatelic agencies who provide a good combination of both easy-to-find information and images. Unfortunately, many nations’ postal systems make it difficult to find stamps at all on their websites! I am contemplating adding reviews of the online postal administrations at some point when things die down a bit (late summer, perhaps?).
The fact that all of this keeps me so busy has turned me into a “virtual” collector of sorts. I strive to have great images of the stamps on my site but I don’t have time (or the money) to buy any of them. There have been some really beautiful designs so far this year and many more are coming soon but there have been relatively few that I feel a need to actually purchase myself (the Russian EUROPA stamp being one). Of course, I will continue to collect every stamp released by Thailand throughout the year but that is mainly a dedication to the country rather than an endorsement of the design work as there have been a few uglies lately.
Apart from a bit of teaching and playing games, away from the writing and maintenance of my website and its environs, and other than watching the Kansas City Chiefs win back to back to back to back, what else have I been doing with myself? As it turns out, a fair amount….
I have been reading books a great deal every day. Twelve days from now, I will reach 700 straight book days in my current reading streak (which is nowhere close to my record of 2,279 days but I am making progress). I have read more than 4500 pages in the first eighteen days of the year and finished two books (already tied with last year). I have been trying to finish books that I started long ago and put down for whatever reason. Those include Mexico by James A. Michener (a book in which long reading sessions seem to make but a tiny dent), Christopher G. Moore’s Missing In Rangoon (I finally turned the last page a few days ago, after starting it back in August), a huge compendium of reviews titled 1,001 Movies To See Before You Die (I spent quite a bit of time searching torrent sites for movies I hadn’t seen during the time spent plowing through this volume), and The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan (picked up partly due to renewed interest in Persia because of U.S. President’s threat to target cultural sites in Iran during missile attacks).
I have been taking photos each and every day as well. Not great photos. I have had to put a reminder in my to-do list to take one per day as this is one of my “goals” for the year. I started out posting a self-a-day to Instagram but decided I wasn’t photogenic enough to maintain that for very long. Scattered throughout this post are a few of my favorites; for more, please check out this album on Flickr.
Speaking of daily accomplishments, I have entered my second year of non-stop journal entries. Many of them are fairly epic in length as well and I’ve been weaving ALL the photos I take each day into those. I feel some sort of “mission” to fully document this year. Perhaps there is some unconscious premonition that is compelling me to do all of this. It doesn’t matter because I feel good that I can get all of this done and still find time to relax (sleep?) almost as much as I need.
Yet, there are still a number of things where time and motivation have yet to align.
I would like to write more postcards this year than last. I sent my first Postcrossing card of the year yesterday and felt really good about it. Because I had to use five stamps, there wasn’t much room for the message. I drew a small sketch instead of trying to write small and added one of my local post stamps and postmark. This one is going to Germany. I think I will request another address tomorrow but first I will buy some new postcards.
I would like to start doing real exercise. I walk a lot every day. But all that walking is usually to get from Point A to Point B. I want to start jogging. Round and around or straight and return. It doesn’t matter. As with almost everything, getting started is the hardest part. I have scheduled my first “jog” for tomorrow. Right after the Chiefs win the AFC Championship. Or not.
I have put off organizing my home space for far too long. That constitutes a one-room apartment and tiny bathroom/shower area. Plus a balcony that I rarely spent time on except to observe occasional fireworks displays in the sky. A friend who moved back to the United States brought over an entire tuk tuk full of music magazines and CD’s before he left. They are still stacked willy-nilly under my desk and shelving units more than two years later. I would really like to haul these out to the trash. Might take me a hundred trips down four flights of stairs to do so. Meanwhile, all of the mail I received last year completely covers the desk. The envelopes contain stamps and first day covers I purchased throughout 2019 (and it was a heavy buying year for me) and there are many postcards woven amongst these. Once I receive something in the mail, I take the items to work where I scan them. Brought back home, they are stacked (neatly) on the desk. I would like to put them into stock books or proper cover storage boxes by the middle of this year. It will likely happen much later than that….
Something else I haven’t done much of this year yet is listen to music. Only 16 hours and 50 minutes, according to Music Bee. Usually, I have music playing constantly in the background as I do almost everything else. The artist I have played the most thus far has been Wilco with 37 songs. I have also listened to the following artists from tracks on my external hard drive: Air, two discs of The Greatest Southern Rock Songs Ever, St. Vincent, Steely Dan, The Allman Brothers Band, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Linda Ronstadt, The Rolling Stones, REO Speedwagon, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Blue Rodeo. I have yet to play anything on Spotify in 2020.
In summary, it has been a busy but enjoyable first nineteen days of the new year (not to mention the new decade). I have established some positive routines and eliminated (most of) my bad habits. I have little doubt that 2020 will be one of my best years ever. Now ready for Day 20….