Thank you, Google. Thank you, Getty. Image Frustrations 2018

For my stamp and postcard blogs (and sometimes for this one as well), I rely on historic images and maps of places all over the world. Many of these images fall into the public domain and are free from copyright. To illustrate my articles, I seek out high-resolution images on a daily basis and most of these come courtesy of Wikipedia.

When I’ve had to do image searches, however (sometimes current maps but usually vintage maps especially for former African colonies that no longer exist), my go-to for many years has been Google as I found their “View Image” button extremely useful especially when setting the Tools to show Large-sized images first. In recent months, I’d become frustrated when so many of the top results had been watermarked with Getty Images becoming especially prevalent.

I even spied a few of MY SCANS OF STAMPS AND POSTCARDS THAT I OWN with the Getty Images branding (why do I have to pay for a license when THEY didn’t ASK ME!).

This weekend, I noticed that Google Images no longer includes the “View Image” button in their results. They apparently announced this “improvement” on Twitter recently, something I missed until somebody steered me in the right direction:

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This Is Thailand #2: What’s on the Menu?

I love to go out to eat in Thailand as it’s always an adventure. The best food is to be had from the myriad of road-side stalls, some of which appear after nightfall along random sidewalks and others are more permanent affairs in markets or other long-established locales. There are indications as to what is on offer at some of these vendors but I long ago perfected the method of pointing at what I’d like to eat as I often don’t know the name in either Thai or English. In restaurants, I follow the same method of pointing at the picture of what I’d like. Sometimes these have a number. If English is involved, there is guaranteed to be at least one big example “lost in translation.” Here are a few of my favorites….

I think the most common menu misspelling has to be “crap” for “crab”. In fact, a Thai-English menu isn’t complete without this.

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This Is Thailand #1: Overloaded Cargo

In my summary article late last month — “I’m Still Here!” — I mentioned having accumulated a number of photos on the theme of unusual, unexpected or humorous things seen in the Kingdom of Thailand. It is quite common here to see things that leave you scratching your head and the usual expat response is simply, “TIT” — short for “This is Thailand”, meaning “No explanation necessary”. The countless misspellings, odd translations, construction misalignments, entire families (plus the family pet!) riding tiny motorbikes, and so much more become part of the landscape after one has been here awhile. However, if you stop noticing them altogether that may be a sign you’ve stayed too long!

I’ve lived in the “Land of Smiles” for thirteen years and nothing really shocks me anymore. There are still pleasant surprises and for those I am grateful. Nothing here makes me really upset or angry (anymore). The occasional “unfortunate” incidents are dealt with in a more-or-less Thai sabai-sabai (“easy, no problem”) manner and quickly forgotten. I was even able to laugh at my near-arrest (paperwork completed but not filed) for walking on the sidewalk (“impeding traffic” as I couldn’t make room for motorbikes desiring a shortcut rather than using the road) within a day or so of it happening. Most of the “TIT” moments I take in stride and many I find endearing and part of the reason that I love living here. I hope that you find enjoyment in them as well.

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I’m Still Here!

Yes, I’m still in Phuket, Thailand. Still teaching English. Still collecting stamps and postcards. Still reading as much as I have time for. Still healthy. Still single. It my be a new year, but life continues at the same relaxing and stress-free pace that keeps me rooted in the “Land of Smiles.”

I cannot believe that I haven’t written an entry for this, my “flagship” blog, in nearly four months! Much of the blame rests with my own laziness or, perhaps, I have become too accustomed to what I previously called the “strangeness” of Thailand and don’t feel as compelled to write about “everyday” occurrences.

True, my daily routine has become a repetitive cycle of going to work, going home, while reading a bit and eating something along the way. It also includes writing each and every day, most of that being for my year-and-a-half old blog A Stamp A Day (ASAD) for which I have amassed 580 entries (not missing a single day since July 1, 2016!). The research and compilation of articles for ASAD takes away much of my free-time energy and my other blogs have suffered as a result.

I apologize.

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October is National Stamp Collecting Month

Since 1981, the month of October has been celebrated as National Stamp Collecting Month in the United States and Canada. November is National Stamp Collecting Month in the Philippines.

I began collecting stamps around the age of nine years old; counting a few breaks for other pursuits (girls, music, travel to name but three), I estimate that I have been involved in the hobby for a little more than 30 years. I promote it whenever and wherever I can these days, having begun collecting again following my move to Thailand more than a decade ago.

At the beginning of July 2016, I started a blog called A Stamp A Day on which I feature a different stamp (usually from a different place) each and every day. Different countries and territories have been included in a more or less alphabetical order and historic anniversaries and birthdays have been marked on occasion with an appropriate stamp. The write-ups (background histories on the issuing entities and details about the stamps) are often quite lengthy!

“ASAD” is my second stamp blog; Philatelic Pursuits is still active with a post or two each month. I also have a blog dedicated to postcards that I receive through Postcrossing, trades, or traveling friends and family members. I feel that the hobbies of philately (stamps) and deltiology (postcards) compliment each other. I recently changed the name (for the third time) and it is now called Postcards to Phuket.

I live in Phuket, an island province in the south of Thailand. It wasn’t long after I’d arrived that I discovered the Phuket Philatelic Museum in the administrative capital of Phuket Town. My first visit was in the midst of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the reign of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I’d already been struck at how Thai people worshiped the king as a deity and had been swept up in royal fever. Seeing the beautiful stamps issued in his honor spurred me to return to the hobby.

While never much of a museum (a few dusty displays of telegraph equipment and several frames of stamp “reproductions” at the present), the Phuket Philatelic Museum contained a large shop which was filled with Thai stamps dating back to the early 1970s (all sold for face value), first day covers for the previous year’s releases, albums and supplies in a dedicated room.

About three years ago, the shop was moved to a counter in the museum lobby to make room for Thailand’s first drive-thru post office. Many of the supplies such as albums and ornate stamp pages plus older stamps were gone but at least I could still purchase the new-release stamps and first day covers (going back a year or so) as well as the annual yearbooks. The main clerk spoke good English and was extremely helpful. She was reassigned about a year ago, replaced by a woman who speaks very little English but is quite cheerful and always let me go through the stock books.

I recently visited the Phuket Philatelic Museum for the first time in quite a while and was told that they weren’t selling stamps anymore. There were a few first day covers remaining (most of which I already had). The clerk told me she didn’t know if they would receive any stamps in the future. She seemed quite upset about it. I’m actually worried that the museum itself might close down as I believe the sales counter was the only income source. There’s a meeting room that I believe used to be used by a local stamp club but I could never get any information about meetings, etc. I’ve had ideas in the past to organize a Postcrossing meeting there amongst members who live on the island or to form my own stamp club, but I just haven’t had the time.

I am now unable to purchase any Thai stamps locally; one visit to a nearby post office left me wondering if the two clerks on duty even knew what a stamp was!) I will have to rely on mail order until I find someplace else. It’s a shame as there have been some very interesting stamps issued by Thailand recently. I am looking forward to finding out what Thailand Post has planned to mark the one-year anniversary of King Bhumibol’s death; there’s already been an extensive series of banknotes and coins announced by the Royal Thai Mint.

The whole of October leading up to His Majesty’s cremation at the end of the month will be a period of intensified mourning in Thailand. The initial period lasted from his death on October 13, 2016, to the beginning of December (his birthday) when his son formally accepted the succession and became King Rama X.

While a number of people have remained wearing black for the entire year (including all teachers such as myself), it will once again be expected in public starting (I believe) today. Since midnight last night, all Thai television stations are broadcasting in black and white only; most of my Thai friends have changed their Facebook profile and cover photos to greyscale today. The public are requested not to engage in any festivities during the month of October and many entertainment and sporting events will be canceled.  There will be many other signs of mourning and I will put together another article in the near future detailing some of those.

I plan to do my part by combining my celebration of National Stamp Collecting Month with a memorial to the late king. I’ve decided to feature only Thai stamps on A Stamp A Day during the month of October, mainly those portraying King Bhumibol. I plan to keep the commentary to a minimum so that I’ll have the time (and energy!) to write a few how-to-collect articles for Philatelic Pursuits and add a few things to Postcards to Phuket as well.

Happy Stamp Collecting Month(s)!


A Flag for Phuket

Tri-Color Flag of Thailand, 1917-2017

Tri-Color Flag of Thailand, 1917-2017

I love flags. Since starting my A Stamp A Day blog some fourteen months ago, I have made flags and coats of arms a feature of each entry.

Indeed, my daily commitment to that blog is one of the reasons that there are often long periods of inactivity on my other blogs. I decided to take a brief break from “ASAD” this weekend; I’d published a more than 16,300-word article about the discovery of RMS Titanic on Friday that wore me out. My intention was to stay away from the computer this weekend…

“Creating” a flag for Phuket was never on my to-do list.

Phuket Provincial Emblem

Phuket Provincial Emblem

I never really paid attention to provincial flags growing up and very few of the flags of the individual United States intrigued me aside from those of Hawaii and New Mexico. I was thrilled, however, to discover the flag of Penang in Malaysia when I first visited there around 2010. I wondered why didn’t Phuket have its own banner.

Recently, I taught a class about the current tricolor flag of Thailand which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its adoption later this month. The main reason that the colors of red, white and blue were chosen were that the king of Siam wanted to show his support for the Allied nations against Germany after he’d joined them in the First World War. I thought again that Phuket needed its own flag.

A design idea popped into my head as I was writing my “ASAD” entry last night about taking a blogging break. The entries there always end with an appropriate flag and coat of arms.

Some of my favorite flags have always been those of the British Commonwealth which featured the Union Jack in the canton (upper left portion) of the flags along with an emblem, coat of arms, or other symbol in the fly portion. It’s an enduring symbol of power, I feel. It was only recently that I discovered a few French territories had the same sort of flag with the French tricolor in the canton.

This provided the inspiration I needed for the Phuket provincial flag design. I placed the Thai tricolor flag in the canton and placed the provincial emblem in the fly. Simple but it looks great. I only tried two backgrounds — red didn’t look good (too much like the British red ensigns of the Royal Navy, plus the red “bled” into the Thai flag portion); light blue reminded me both of the surrounding Andaman Sea (one of the colors of the Penang flag) and the Royal Standard of Her Majesty Queen Dowager Sirikit, the widow of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

I like it!

I then decided to find out how to make an animated “waving” version, expecting complicated Adobe Photoshop tutorials. While I did see a few of those in the Google search results, I found two websites with online tools to create the effect. One didn’t work but I’m very pleased with the results from Marijn Kampf’s abFlags.com. I simply uploaded a (maximum) 500 pixel version of my image and waited a couple of minutes before downloading a zipped folder containing static and animated waving versions of the flag. Very cool!

Don’t be surprised if I start creating even more flags. I am just now thinking of how a Muang Phuket Local Post flag might appear. Or a Jochim Family flag…


My Family, My Life: The Marstellers (Part 3)

Philip Marsteller, painting by Jacob Frymire (July 1800)

Philip Marsteller, painting by Jacob Frymire (July 1800)

I’m sure that all families have at least one notable person whom everyone talks about, whether they are famous outside of the family or memorable for another reason. Amongst my mother’s side of our family, my “cousin seven times removed” — Philip Marsteller — is the major notable, having been a personal friend of George Washington and the only non-Mason pallbearer at President Washington’s funeral.

Born Philippus Balthasar Marsteller on January 4, 1742 in Philadelphia County (now Montgomery County), Pennsylvania, Philip received a good German and English education and attended the Augustus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Trappe, PA. His father, Frederick Ludwig Marsteller, died when he was 12 and his mother, Anna Barbara Stark, finished raising him on the family homestead. Both parents immigrated to America from Pfungstadt, Hesse, Germany in 1729, joining Frederick’s brother, Johann Georg Marsteller.

When he reached the age of 21, Philip received his portion of his father’s estate which he used to purchase; a tract of land in what is now Mill Creek Township in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania where he remained several years.

On April 22, 1766, Philip married Magdalena Reiss in Trappe, Philadelphia County, who was born on December 22, 1745, in Berks County, Pennsylvania. She died in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1809, aged 63. They had two children: Barbara, born after 1767 in Mill Creek Township, Lebanon County, and died after 1796 in Alexandria; and Philip Gotthelp, born on February 11, 1770, in Mill Creek Township.

At the outset of the American Revolution, he became one of the earliest “associators” and he was very active in raising troops for George Washington’s army in 1775-1776. A Battalion of Associators was formed within Lebanon County in the autumn of 1775. It was commanded by Col. Philip Lorentz Greenwaltz. Philip Marsteller was the Lieutenant Colonel (second in command) of this battalion. In 1776, Philip Marsteller was a member of the Associators Second Battalion, Lancaster County, commanded by Colonel Curtis Grubb.

Philip was a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1776 (which adopted the first state Constitution), and during that and the following year he was chosen to the Assembly. In 1777, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Battalion, Lancaster County Associators. He was appointed Paymaster of the militia on August 20, 1777, and, on July 13, was appointed agent to superintend the purchase of flour for the French fleet. He was appointed Assistant Forage-Master on April 5, 1780, for which he received a personal letter of commendation from George Washington thanking him for faithful and prompt performance of his duties. This letter was addressed to Major Philip Marsteller and is in the Library of Congress. He was later named Assistant Deputy Quartermaster General.

Philip settled in the Alexandria, VA area after the war (approximately 1783). With his son, Philip Gotthelp, he engaged in the commission business. He was the auctioneer of Alexandria, and accumulated much valuable furniture, silverware, china, fowling pieces, saddles, pistols, a rare print of Washington, and similar items.

Colonel Marsteller was Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, from 1790-1792. He was also a member of the Sun Fire Company. In 1793, he advertised as “to let” the property known in 1790 as 130 Prince Street in Alexandria. He lived in a house that was reportedly still standing in 1928 at the southeast corner of Washington and Wolfe streets. The Alexandria Academy stood next to this house built by Col. Marsteller shortly after his arrival in Alexandria. In 1882, the Board of Trustees of the Academy bought the adjoining Marsteller property and used it for the primary grades up to, at least, 1928.

Philip Marsteller long enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. Washington’s last birthday was celebrated at a gathering at Wise’s tavern (northeast corner of Fairfax and Cameron Streets) on February 22, 1799. Both George and Martha attended the observance. Col. Marsteller participated in the arrangements, while ladies listed as attending this “Birth Night Ball” included Mrs. Marsteller and a “Miss” Marsteller, one of Philip’s daughters.

Philip served as a pallbearer at George Washington’s funeral at Mount Vernon on the afternoon of December 19, 1799. Two Masonic lodges of Alexandria and Washington D.C. officiated at the funeral. Mrs. Washington specifically requested Col. Marsteller, who was not a Mason. The honorary pallbearer’s included six Colonels, who had served under General Washington during the Revolutionary War. The other pallbearers in the funeral cortege were Col. Charles Little, Col. Charles Simms, Col. William Payne, Col. George Gilpin, and Col. Dennis Ramsey. Marsteller was joined at Washington’s funeral by his son, Philip Marsteller, Jr., and his grandson, Samuel A. Marsteller.

Philip also served as a Lieutenant in a Military Company of Elders in Alexandria called the “Silver Grey’s” and composed of older veterans of the Revolution. This organization appeared in full uniform with arms for the first Washington’s Birthday Parade through the streets of Old Alexandria on February 22, 1800.

Sameul Arell Marsteller - grandson of Philip, painted by Jacob Frymire (August 1800)

Sameul Arell Marsteller – grandson of Philip, painted by Jacob Frymire (August 1800)

In July and August 1800, noted early American folk artist Jacob Frymire painted portraits of Philip, his wife Magdalena, and grandson Samuel Arell. There were included in a painting exhibition in Washington D.C., in 1975-1976, as was a painting of Philip’s granddaughter, Charlotte. These are the oldest known images of members of the Marsteller family from Pfungstadt. The painting of Charlotte is now in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. A descendant of Philip Marsteller privately owns the other three paintings. These images were all copied from a book called Jacob Frymire, American Limner by Linda Crocker Simmons.

Charlotte Marsteller - granddaughter of Philip, painted in early 1800's

Charlotte Marsteller – granddaughter of Philip, painted by Jacon Frymire in early 1800’s

Col. Marsteller attended Christ Church, where he occupied pew number 38 (old numbering). He died at his home in Alexandria in December 1803, and was buried in Christ Church yard under a large sycamore tree near the west line of the fence. Col. Marsteller, one of two of Washington’s pallbearers buried there, had a handsome table stone monument. The monument was carried off during the Civil War and disappeared.

Shortly before his own death, Marsteller acquired a pair of matched flintlock pistols had once belonged to George Washington. The pistols were bought from the estate of Bartholomew Dandridge, former Private Secretary to George Washington. They were 14 inches long, with brass barrel, full-length walnut stock and seven solid silver inlays, including a grotesque mask on the butt; a rolled edge and engraved trigger guard; a panoply of arms on the cut-out side plates which show cannon, flags, drums, pole arms, a lion, and a unicorn.

Richard Wilson and John Hawkins, gun makers in London, had made the pistols in 1748. Thomas Turner, whose grandfather had known Washington as a youth, gave the pistols to Washington in 1778. The pistols remained in Washington’s possession during much of the Revolutionary War. Before he died, Washington gave the pistols to Bartholomew Dandridge, his wife’s nephew and his secretary for six years. Dandridge survived only a few years after Washington’s death, and, after his death, Philip purchased the pistols.

In 1902, the pistols were sold to an antique arms dealer — Francis Bannerman — at an estate auction near Warrenton, VA. In 1914, the pistols were sold to collector Edward Litchfield. In 1951, the Litchfield collection was sold to Clendennin Ryan. In 1953, he presented them to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where they currently reside in the West Point Museum. In 1978, the U.S. Historical Society with headquarters in Richmond Virginia, commissioned a limited edition of 975 pairs of commemorative replicas of the pistols, which were offered to the public for $2,600.

Currently, there are five letters between Philip Marsteller and George Washington in the National Archives available for reading online: