Postcrossing

Send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world. That is the tagline for the Postcrossing project. Their website was launched in July 2005 to allow members to send and receive physical postcards from different parts of the world. Countries with the highest amount of Postcrossers include the United States, Finland, China, and Germany. Today, there over 2.4 million postcards have been exchanged in 196 different countries. 

I have received the first postcard from Finland by a person residing in Sweden on a vacation yesterday, and this is just four days after my first postcard arrived at its destination. That was only thirteen days after registering for an account. The postcard shows a beautiful countryhouse in Finland by the calm lake. Designed by Päivi Vainionpää, the stamp shows the sun going down. A fresh birch whisk sits in the bucket on the jetty, where soft towels await the bathers. When the stamps are rubbed, the microscopic scent capsules release an aroma of birch leaves. 

 Postcard from Finland

Back

Anybody with an address can easily sign up for a free account via the website, but the user has to bear the cost of the postcards and postage stamps. First, members can request to send a postcard via the website. The website will randomly pick and display the address of another Postcrosser and a Postcard ID. When the recipient receives the postcard, he or she registers it using the Postcard ID, and is then eligible to receive another postcard from another Postcrosser. Each member can have up to 5 postcards travelling at any single time, but this quota increases as more postcards are sent. 

In Singapore, there are close to 1000 registered users. However, there seems to be a lack of variety in terms of postcard designs here. Browsing through the gallery, many of the postcards uploaded are similar, or even identical. It took me quite some time before I found a shop in Chinatown selling postcards, as the number of shops selling picture postcards decline rapidly in the information technology age. 

View my profile on Postcrossing (twj)

World Games 2009

World Games 2009

One of my collector friends has kindly asked another of his friend to send first day covers from the World Games 2009 held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. This set of stamp issued on 16 July 2009 is printed on phosphorescent stamp paper. 

The 8th World Games is now being held in Kaohsiung from 16 July 2009 to 26 July 2009. In order to commemorate this grand sporting event, the Chunghwa Post has issued this set of two stamps (mintage 1.2 million each) and a souvenir sheet (mintage 0.9 million) featuring the Kaohsiung Arena (NT$5) and the Main Stadium for the World Games (NT$12). 

The Kaohsiung Arena is a modernistic gym equipped with standard Olympic facilities, making it a great venue for basketball and volleyball games as well as 200-meter races in indoor track and field. On the lower right of the stamp are the mascots of the World Games 2009 Kaohsiung: Kao Mei and Syong Ge. Dressed in red and blue respectively, these water spirit babies have a water drop for a head. Their bodies will light up after absorbing solar energy with the little spheres on their heads. The design reflects a concern for international issues such as green energy and environmental protection.

The Main Stadium for the World Games was built to the standards of the International Association of Athletics Federations Class I certified international sports stadium. The open-air design does away with the need for air conditioning. This avant-garde architecture will be the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Games 2009 Kaohsiung. On the lower right of the stamp is the games’ logo: a stylized Chinese character Kao (as in Kaohsiung), written in a colorful and rhythmic flowing ribbon, resembling the beautiful shapes of athletes in competition. The design aims to convey the concepts of harmony, friendship, rhythm, flight, progress and joy.

Also, it is really interesting to learn that there are two different sized covers issued for one issue!

Singapore Food Festival 2009

Today marks the start of the Singapore Food Festival 2009. This year, the Food Festival will be held from 17 July to 26 July at Clarke Quay. The first Singapore Food Festival was held in 1994 and is known to be a key local event on the calendar of each year. In Singapore, one can taste a wide variety of food, be it local and international. According to the organizers, participants can ‘look forward to an even more exotic and sumptuous fare, leaving an unforgettable gastronomic experience islandwide’.

Clarke Quay

Read Bridge

Locals and tourists alike armed with coupons are queueing up for food, on the almost-always-crowded Read Bridge, as stallholders recited, “Next, order please? Two dollars. Thank you!” One may mistake the place for a wet market, maybe a more popular one.

Food Street

Highlights include a Peranakan Parade showcasing their traditional outfits. The Peranakan Parade begins from the Singapore River Promenade outside The Central at Clarke Quay at 1800 hours. Also, popular local cuisine is served at the Clarke Quay Food Street. On 26 July, Swissotel Merchant Court will be lining the tables with over 100 delicious Peranakan dishes in the longest buffet line spanning the entire Read Bridge. This feast comes at a price of $35 for adults and $22 for children below the age of 12. Tickets are on sale until 23 July at Ellenborough Market Cafe. Hawker centers are also hyped up for the Singapore Food Festival 2009, with exciting events to be held at Chinatown Complex and East Coast Lagoon Food Village during the weekends. Other shopping centres such as The Central, Marina Square and Raffles City are also bringing in food from different countries.

Opening

Singapore River

Best of all, SingPost has issued a set of five stamps today, featuring Singapore’s most popular desserts. Try not to lick the delicious-looking stamps which depict five local desserts that are commonly seen around Singapore. The Ice Kacang (1st Local) is a sweet-tasting and colourful bowl of shaved ice with red beans, grass jelly, sweetcorn and bits of coloured jelly beneath it. The Ondeh-ondeh (2nd Local) is a ball of sweet potato dough wrapped around by a thin layer of grated coconut, often served with a coconut filling. The Ang Ku Kueh (S$0.65) is a glutinous rice flour cake filled with peanut paste or bean paste, also known as the red tortoise cake in Hokkien. The Lapis Sagu (S$0.80) is a Peranakan favourite that consists of nine colourful layers. The Mithai ($1.10) is a collection of traditional Indian sweets that comes in assorted shapes and sizes.

Stamps - Desserts (2009)

POSB Run for Kids 2009

POSB Kids Run

This morning, I went for the POSB Run for Kids 2009 held in Sengkang. It is a good thing that my house is not too far away. This is the third time I am running in Sengkang this year, At 0630 hours, Alvin and I made our way to Sengkang. On our way there, it started drizzling. The rain became heavier, and there was lightning. However, the race continued as there was only slight rain (and a few bolts of lightning). The floor was wet, with puddles of water everywhere.  My timing is close to 45 minutes, approximately 10.7 km per hour.

Bib Number 80107

Can I Paste the Stamp Anywhere I Like?

Have you ever wondered if it really matters where the stamp is pasted on the envelope? Will they take a longer time to deliver if you pasted it upside down or right in the centre of the envelope?

Stamps are conventionally affixed on the top right-hand corner of the envelope, and this has sort of become an international standard. When we send a letter, it is somewhat natural for us to stick it on the top right-hand corner, and not on any other corner or arbitrary position on the envelope.

In Singapore, mail items dropped into the post box before 1900 hours within the Central Business District and before 1700 hours elsewhere are delivered on the next working day. After the mail arrives at the Singapore Post Centre, it will be passed through a Culler-Facer-Canceller which tries to locate the stamp or stamps affixed on the envelope. It will then print a postmark on the envelope with the date of processing, which is likely to be on the day of dropping it into the mailbox. Each envelope is marked with a unique orange barcode at the back. An Optical Character Reader will identify the postal district as written on the envelope.

Machine printed postmark
Machine printed postmark
Machine printed 'Postage Paid' postmark
Machine printed 'Postage Paid' postmark

The Barcode Sorting machine will match the address and print another orange barcode on the front of the envelope, which represents the postal code of the address. If you check your mail items, you will notice that the front barcode is always the same while the back barcode is always unique. Finally, the Delivery Barcode Sorting machine sorts the mail according to the delivery route of every single postman in Singapore based on its postal code.

Inverted Stamp

Now, it appears that the orientation of the stamp on an envelope does not matter. Over the years, I have accumulated numerous envelopes with fishes swimming upside down, just like the one shown below. The machine can well locate the stamp and cancel it nevertheless.

Envelopes

Since the orientation of the stamp does not affect its detection by the machine, I decided to experiment if the position of the stamp would affect its detection. To make it a fair experiment, only the position of the stamp is varied, while the size, the colour, and even the weight of the article remains the same. The latest 30-cent definitive was used instead of the 1st local definitive due to its larger dimensions.

On 6 July at 1500 hours, I posted three envelopes with stamps pasted on different corners. All three envelopes were delivered to my house the next day.

Probably, when the stamp is not detected by the Culler-Facer-Canceller, it has to be cancelled by hand. The absence of barcodes on either side of the envelope suggests that such items are sorted by hand. On the two envelopes with stamps pasted in non-standard locations, there are no barcodes. However, it is still delivered to my house on the same day as the envelope with a stamp in the standard location.

Therefore, it does not really matter where you paste the postage stamp on the envelope, it will still get delivered along with the rest of the mail posted on the same day. So, feel free to stick your stamp on a random spot on the envelope, but it will certainly not look professional!

The Botanic Gardens (Part 5)

Stamps a la Carte

Continued from Part 4…

Some may know that I am one who keeps at least a pen with me in my pocket, often complemented by a mechanical pencil. However, since it was the school holidays, my pen decided to take a break at home before it had to resume work again on the first day of school and to minimise contact with others to reduce the risk of contracting the Influenza A (H1N1-2009) virus. Furthermore, on this day, the number of cases in Singapore surged by a record high of 26 cases and shot past the 100 mark.

I tried asking around for a pen, and was very lucky that someone offered his fine marker, just the perfect instrument for autographs. After Mr Wong autographed the presentation pack and left, I proceeded with my initial mission of chopping. Similar to previous road shows, I will chop the first day cover with the S1 chop. It has already become a must for new stamp issues.

After the launch, I walked around the Botanic Gardens to breathe in some fresh air, and to take more photographs. Back at the Swiss Granite Fountain, the lady who was not a sculpture was still sitting still on a stool in the shade, sketching a scene of several kids splashing with water, although the kids are no longer there.

Signs

Waterfall

I proceeded to the famous Swan Lake, filled with beautiful white swans. This place does bring back memories. However, there are no black swans in the lake, as featured on the stamp below, even though I cannot remember if there were black swans back then.

Black Swans
Black Swans

Since it was getting late, I left the Botanic Gardens to catch a bus home. It was a satisfying day with lots of interesting encounters. I got the autographs, took the photographs, and had so much to put into paragraphs.

This reporter got the autograph too!

Straits Times Article

The End

The Botanic Gardens (Part 4)

Stamps a la Carte

Continued from Part 3… 

Half past eleven. The launch had probably ended. My eyes scanned the place for signs of life and spotted the Singapore Post booth located at a corner in the vicinity. I took out my two envelopes with stamps already affixed on it, ready to cancel it with the ‘S1’ postmark which is only available at launches and other stamp exhibitions. This stamp issue was launched to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Exhibits on Display
Exhibits on Display
Information panels on the stamp issue
Information panels on the stamp issue

‘Would you like to buy a presentation pack? It is cheaper here, only $5.35! If you buy outside it is a bit more expensive.’

‘Can I chop the envelope with the S1 chop?’

‘Sure, here is the chop. Do you want the presentation pack?’

‘Thank you! Well, but I seldom collect presentation packs.’

‘Designer is somewhere over there, faster go ask him for his autograph.’

‘Ok, I would like to buy a presentation pack. Later then continue to chop.’

‘How many presentation packs?’

‘One will do.’

I looked around to see where the designer was. Mr Eng Siak Loy sitting at the other corner at a table in front of a queue of people holding stacks of first day covers and presentation packs, waiting to get theirs autographed. The person in front of me brought a whole stack of previous stamp issues which were designed by Mr Eng. I should have brought my collection too! As I was queuing, I noticed Mr Clement Ng from the philatelic department of SingPost near the queue. He introduced me to Mr Wong Wui Kong, the designer for the flora and fauna definitive stamps.

I continued to wait in the queue.

After Mr Eng has patiently autographed on the presentation pack and first day covers, I went back to the SingPost booth, not to continue with chopping, but to ask, ‘Are there still any more presentation packs from the flora and fauna definitive issue?’

As quickly as possible, I turned around and walked towards Mr Wong to ask for his autograph as well, realising that I do not have a pen, a marker or any other autographing instrument with me. Neither does Mr Wong nor Mr Ng.

The quest of searching for a pen began.

To be continued…

The Botanic Gardens (Part 3)

Stamps a la Carte

Continued from Part 2…

Upon hearing that I was going for the stamp launch, the staff handed me a map of the Botanic Gardens which unfolded to an A2 sheet. ‘The stamp launch is at Green Pavilion. Just walk straight, turn left, turn right, turn left, blah, blah, blah, and you will arrive at the Green Pavilion.’

Wait, wasn’t that where I came from? Due to the massive size of the Botanic Gardens, it took me quite some time to reach my destination. While I was walking towards the Green Pavilion, I passed by various notable landmarks.

At Palm Valley, children were enjoying themselves in activities such as catching and bubble-blowing. Their parents were engaging in their own activities: viewing the scenery while sitting on benches and taking photographs of their children.

Palm Valley

Then, I arrived at a junction named Orchid Plaza. At this junction, there were a few food and beverage outlets selling burgers, chips and other finger food at touristy prices. Even though I was very thirsty, I did not get any drinks since the queue was quite long and I had to get to the Green Pavilion as quickly as possible. Forgetting that I had a map, I got distracted by the food and took the wrong path leading to a gate leading out of the Botanic Gardens.

Tembusu

I headed back to the junction. Luckily, the second path which I chose was the correct one. On the way there, I walked past a few sculptures with seemingly analogous names such as ‘Girl on Bicycle’, ‘Girl on a Swing’, and ‘Lady on Hammock’. There is also a ‘Swing Me Mama’ sculpture at another corner. Other attractions included the Vanda Miss Joaquim and the Bandstand.

Lady on Hammock

Girl on Bicycle

Two Men on Bicycles zoomed past me. They were not sculptures, but were ‘NParks Contractor on Duty’. Walking under the hot sun, I wished that I had a bicycle too! At the Swiss Granite Fountain, a lady (she’s not a sculpture either) was sitting still on a stool in the shade, sketching a scene of several kids splashing with water around.
After close to half an hour of walking (and taking photographs), I finally arrived at the launch, but wait.

Garden Map

Am I at the right place? Why is it so empty?

Stamp Launch

To be continued…