Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Countdown to New Year

The countdown to 2014 has begun! In Las Vegas, the biggest party of the year is tonight that include concerts, celebrity-hosted parties. Fireworks will be shot from casino rooftops of Stratosphere Tower, Treasure Island, The Venetian, Caesars Palace, Aria, Planet Hollywood, and MGM Grant. New to this year: a special "count up" to midnight, on the side of the Stratosphere Tower, will start 10 seconds before midnight.

Postcard US-2025670 to Belarus shows the fireworks from Stratosphere on January 1, 2013.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Fröhliche Weihnachten und viel Glück im neuen Jahr

"Merry Christmas and Good Luck in the New Year" via postcard DE-2752397 from Germany. It also came with a wise quote "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams". Perfect for the New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus

Postcard BY-1073799 from Belarus was one of the earliest Christmas themed cards that I received. It arrived in the mid November with Santa Claus playing ice hockey. It turns out that Minsk, the capital of Belarus, will host the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship from May 9 to May 25, 2014. Good luck and Congratulations!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmasland in New Taipei City

Christmas may be over, but Christmas cards are still pouring in. The latest addition was postcard TW-1107953 from the Christmasland (新北市歡樂聖誕城) in New Taipei City, Taiwan. In addition to usual Christmas trees, decorations and concerts, there was a Christmas Post Office with a special pictorial stamp! The profit from the postcard sale benefited public charities.

Friday, December 27, 2013

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

US-2518598 to Germany
According to USA Today, UPS was overwhelmed by a large number of Christmas packages, many of which were delayed nation-wide and would not arrive until today.

On a different note, quite a few postcards I sent to Christmas, Florida to get their postmarks reached their destinations without any postmarks. Postcard US-2518598 to Germany was one of them. Tracking information shows the package that contained those cards was delivered to the Christmas, Florida on November 25, 2013. I had attached post-it notes on the cards to request cancellations. If the "Christmas, FL" postmarks were applied, they would have made great Maxi cards.

US-2521528 (left) and US-2518598 (right) with postmark request notes
Similarly, postcard US-2521528 to Belarus didn't get any postmarks for the stamps either on the front or on the back. However, it did score a Belarus postmark on arrival. Maybe the bar code on the bottom would tell where it had been and what happened.

US-2521528 to Belarus
A couple of cards from the same package did get a  machine cancellation.

So, for those who received my postcards without "Christmas" postmarks, I initially felt horrible because I promised something that was eventually not delivered in spite of extra money, time, and effort that I spent -- The Grinch literally stole the "Christmas" from the cards. The Grinch is a bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling fictional character, created by Dr. Seuss, who stole Christmas presents and expected to cause bitterness and sorrows. But to his dismay, he still hear the singing joyous Christmas songs from people who lost presents. I was overwhelmed by recipients' comments that how much they like the cards, with or without the promised postmarks.

In the end, Christmas is more than presents; and a sincere greeting is more than a postmark. For those whose Christmas gifts are delayed, hope you are grateful when you eventually receive the package. Someone special is thinking of you, and the holidays are not over yet.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays from the Netherlands

The holiday spirits continue with today's new arrival NL-2237831. On the back of the card are many snow flakes from a rubber stamp.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Silent Night

It has been 195 years since "Silent Night", a popular Christmas carol, was first performed at St. Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, Austria on December 24, 1818. The song was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber to the lyrics by Joseph Mohr. It was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in March 2011. 

Postcard US-2529926 to Thailand arrived just before the Christmas, showing three owls with Christmas hats. Maybe they will join the carol? 

Monday, December 23, 2013

House of Christopher Columbus in Genova, Italy

Postcard IT-251822 from Italy shows the house of Christopher Columbus in Genoa, reconstructed in the eighteenth century, where he lived in his youth.

Christopher Columbus, born between October 31, 1450 and October 30, 1451 in the Republic of Genoa and passed away on May 20, 1506, was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he carried out four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to discovery of the New World.

Now a museum of the City, the house is located not far from the Gates, just outside the ancient medieval walls . Historical records indicated that Christoper Columbus lived there between 1455 and 1470 .

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Flying Jenny

Recently I got back this "Flying Jenny" postcard from the USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services in Kansas City, MO after getting a First-Day-of-Issue postmark on the re-issued "Inverted Jenny" rare stamp. The image used on the postcard was a cropped version of a family photo in public domain by George Johnson, Aviation Section, US Army Signal Corps. taken in 1918. It shows a Curtiss JN-4 (Jenny) on a training flight during World War I.

Other cards, sent in for the First-Day-of-Issue cancellation with similar designs, were addressed to Romania (US-2474578) and Taiwan (US-2452330). They are now expired, with postcard US-2452330 being replaced by a re-sent Christmas card. However, since it took a little more than a month to get the First-Day-of-Issue cancellations, the actually traveling time for those cards should be less than stated. The original cards may still arrive soon.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Postcard RU-2215000 has a neat PostCrossing ID number 2215000, which means it was the 2,215,000th official PostCrossing card sent from Russia. It is a photo about half the size of a regular 4x6" postcard, arrived in an envelop. The photo shows green meshes covering a construction site. I had to admit that I had seen those tarps and meshes numerous times and never given them a second thought until now.

Friday, December 20, 2013

McCarran Field

Postcard US-2452337 to Australia shows a historical photo of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

American aviator George Crockett first established Alamo Airport in 1942 on the site where McCarran International Airport is today. In 1948 Clark County purchased the airfield from Crockett to establish the Clark County Public Airport, and all commercial operations moved from the old Las Vegas Airport (now Nellis Airforce Base). It was renamed to McCarran Field for then U.S. Senator Pat McCarran  on December 20, 1948. Pat McCarran was a longtime Nevada politician who authored the Civil Aeronautics Act and played a major role in developing aviation nationwide. However, there was a recent discussion on renaming the airport when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid considered McCarran unworthy of the recognition because “Pat McCarran was one of the most anti-Semitic — some of you might know my wife’s Jewish — one of the most anti-black, one of the most prejudiced people who has ever served in the Senate,”.

The original McCarran Field sign is in front of the Signature Aviation terminal that serves as an executive terminal.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lightning over Arizona

Postcard US-2539378 from Tucson, Arizona shows this unusual spectacle over a Southern Arizona resort town. The once-in-a-lifetime scene was captured by Ray Manley (September 4, 1921 – July 15, 2006), a native Arizona photographer. Manley had traveled around the world and published in such publications as Life, Look, The Saturday Evening Post, Popular Science, National Geographic and his own books. His photographs of Arizona helped attract tourism and migration to Arizona.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota

Postcard US-2550963 from Missouri shows a beautiful night view of the back of Old Main, The Link, and the Dewitt Wallace Library at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota. It reminds me that this is the time of the year when college students pulling all nighter before the final exams. However, unfortunately, it is also the time when some unprepared students would try anything to desperately avoid, or even just postpone for a hours, the final exams.

Harvard University had a bomb threat on Monday, December 16, 2013 that turned out to be a hoax, made by a student in an attempt to avoid a final exam. I remember that when I was in graduate school at the University of Florida, there were several occasions as well when students called-in bombs anonymously to dodge finals. In my impression, it never worked and the exams were not canceled. But that was a pre-911 era. Now the time has changed and the authority took it seriously. A 20-year old student was soon identified and charged with making bomb threats. So, the message is: study and read your books, don't even think about those tricks that will never work. A proverb in Chinese "躲得过初一,躲不过十五" means that it will happen sooner or later. Why not just face the music, and don't try to get yourself in trouble that could land you in prison for up to five years.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Little Free Library

Postcard US-2545772 from Virginia, USA shows a Little Free Library that the sender set up in front of her house. A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share.

It started in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. It now grows into a network of more than 10,000 registered Little Free Libraries in the world.

The concept of Little Free Library is unique as real people are sharing their favorite books in their community with a carefully curated collection, and the Library itself is a piece of neighborhood art.

You can find a Little Free Library near you on a map, and learn how Little Free Libraries work in 2 minuets.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Frank Eugene

postcard LT-322742 from Lithuania shows a portrait of Frank Eugene (September 19, 1865 – December 16, 1936), an American-born photographer. He had an entire issue of Camera Notes devoted to his art in the summer of 1900 , an honor accorded only a few other photographers. He was appointed Royal Professor of Pictorial Photography by the Royal Academy of the Graphic Arts of Leipzig in 1913. This professorship, created especially for Eugene, is the first chair for pictorial photography in the world.

The portrait was taken in 1909 by Alfred Stieglitz (January 1, 1864 – July 13, 1946), another American photographer.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Giant Rubber Duck in Taoyuan, Taiwan

The yellow duck came from Taiwan as a private swap. It was one of those world's largest rubber ducks, created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, usually at 16.5 × 20 × 32 meters in dimension and over 600 kg in weight. Since 2007, several ducks in various sizes licensed by Hofman have toured several countries and territories such as Amsterdam in Netherlands, Lommel in Belgium, and most recently Taoyuan in Taiwan.

Hofman created the giant rubber duck for a tour named "Spreading Joy Around the World" in 2007 by bringing back people's childhood memories. After the display at the Glory Pier in Kaohsiung went off without a hitch from September 19 to October 20, 2013, the Land Art Festival (桃園地景藝術節) in Xiwu Township, Taoyuan had its own debut of the 18-meter-tall, 18-meter-wide and 25-meter-long yellow duck on October 26, 2013. However, it became a high-profile victim of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake when an air pump went out of service on November 1 during a power outage triggered by earthquake. As a result, it deflated before exploding during an attempt to re-inflate it in high wind.

Organizers at the Taoyuan County Cultural Affairs Bureau borrowed the duck commissioned by Kaohsiung city government that drew 4 million visitors. Yet the strong winds kept the alternative duck on dry ground for another few days, which made it the first Hofman's duck displayed on land. You can watch a video clip "Giant rubber duck pops in Taoyuan following earthquake" on Youtube.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi, Vietnam

Postcard AU-324800 from Australia shows Nội Bài International Airport (IATA airport code: HAN) in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is the second largest airport in the country, 45 km or 28 miles from the city center. The airport was opened on January 2, 1978. It has two concrete runways:  11R/29L (3,800 meters) and 11L/29R (3200 meters).

In 2010, approximately 9.5 million passengers passed through the airport, which surpassed the designed capacity of the T1 terminal of 6 million passengers per year. The second terminal under construction will bring the capacity to 16 million passengers per year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Three Rivers Stadium

Postcard US-2552376 traveling to Germany shows Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1970 to 2000. It was a multi-purpose stadium for the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL). The stadium opened on July 16, 1970 when the Pirates played their first game. The last game in the stadium was won by the Steelers on December 16, 2000. Three Rivers Stadium was closed in 2000 and imploded in 2001, after new stadiums: Pirates' PNC Park and the Steelers' Heinz Field was build.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Harry Potter and Stamp Collecting

Postcard US-2545660 is going to India to a Harry Potter fan. It comes with a newly issued Harry Potter stamp by the USPS. However, the decision to issue those stamps is controversy as the USPS has bypassed the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee that has been charged with researching and recommending subjects for new stamps, The panel was dismal on the Postal Service's marketing department that has placed mass appeals and commercial values over stamps' culture values.

Inspector General David Williams at the USPS is asking for public input over the controversy:
  • Should the Postal Service market stamp images that focus on a younger audience in hopes of reaching beyond traditional collectors and generating sales?
  • Should the Postal Service be allowed to develop themes and images that do not focus on American heritage for the sake of sales?
  • Or, should stamps be works of art and pieces of history and not based on fads or celebrities?
  • What stamp images would you like to see?
If you have strong opinion on this topic, you can let your voice to be heard by adding comments to this blog.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

International Mountain Day

International Mountain Day was designated as December 11 by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that leads the observance, it is an opportunity to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build partnerships that will bring positive change to the world’s mountains and highlands. The theme for 2013 is "Mountains - Key to a Sustainable Future".

Postcard US-2260961 to Belarus showcases one of the most beautiful mountains and major tourist destinations.in China -- Huangshan. Huangshan (黄山), literally Yellow Mountain, is a located in Anhui Province. The mountain ranges were a result of the uplift movement from an ancient sea during the Mesozoic era, about 100 million years ago; then they were carved by glaciers during the Quaternary. The area is now well known for its scenery, sunsets, peculiarly shaped granite peaks, Huangshan Pine trees, and views of the clouds from above. Huangshan is a frequent subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, as well as modern photography (source: Wikipedia). It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Groeten van Terschelling

Postcard NL-2209353 arrived yesterday with greetings from Terschelling Island in the Northern Netherlands. Terschelling is one of the West Frisian Islands, home to about 8300 permanent inhabitants. However, the number of people can triple in tourist season.

On the left it shows square-shaped Brandaris, known as "the Tower" by local, the oldest functional lighthouse in the Netherlands. The lighthouse was built in late 16th century. Unfortunately, the interior is not open to the public.

The middle panel shows a 1982 Statue of "Het Stryper Wyfke", an old lady who deceived English troops and saved the island from burning down during Holmes's Bonfire in 1666. She made English troops believe that the silhouettes they saw in the distant where soldiers, while in fact those were of graveyards. 

A section of beaches can be seen on the right, with "Noordzee" (North Sea, the open ocean outside the island) written in the foreground. Terschelling is separated from the mainland by the Wadden Sea and can be reached by ferry from the mainland Frisian town Harlingen in 2 hours and from Vlieland by high-speed catamaran in 45 minutes.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fifth and Fremont, Las Vegas

Outgoing postcard US-2545674 to Poland shows the intersection of Fifth and Fremont Streets, downtown Las Vegas in a historical photo. Today Fifth Street is known as Las Vegas Boulevard. On the corner of Fifth and Fremont was Woolworth's anchoring the corner. It had a soda fountain and grill inside where many youngsters could be found twirling on the bar seats enjoying a frosty root beer float. It opened in 1948 and remained on Fremont Street for almost fifty years until 1997 when the chain closed the remaining Woolworth's around the country.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


It is Bank of America's Museums on US weekend again on December 7 and December 8 in 2013 when you can visit more than 150 arts, culture and educational institutions in the United States free with a Bank of America and Merrill Lynch debit or credit card.

Postcard US-2510594 to Bulgaria reached its destination in 22 days, and it was purchased at the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas during a previous Museums on US visit. The postcard shows Ichthyosaurs, giant marine reptiles that thrived during much of the Mesozoic era more than 200 million years ago. They evolved from a group of unidentified land reptiles that moved back to the sea, in parallel to the ancestors of modern-day dolphins and whales. The official state fossil of Nevada is the Ichthyosaur.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Las Vegas Great Santa Run

More than 11,000 Santas descended to downtown Las Vegas this morning for the Great Santa Run, the 9th annual fund raise event for the Opportunity Village that provides vocational training and employment services for people with intellectual disabilities. The Great Run features a 5K run and a one-mile walk and there are similar Santa run events in Japan, England and Australia to compete the best turnout count.

With the estimated cut-off dates for holiday mail approaching, today I sent off several postcards, including postcard US-2540431 to Belgium, to Santa Claus, Indiana for the special Santa Claus postmark. This small town is the only one in the world with the Santa Claus name and its post office receives more than 400,000 pieces of mail in December every year. You can follow the instructions mentioned here, and send your stamped cards and envelops to: Postmaster, Santa Claus Station, Santa Claus, IN 47579-9998.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Run Disney

Outgoing postcard US-2540424 to Taiwan shows a running Micky Mouse that promotes Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, January 12, 2014. The 26.2 mile or 42.195 km course runs you through four Walt Disney World theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot, as well as ESPN Wide World of Sports and the Walt Disney World SPEEDWAY. The race starts at 5:30 a.m with the Start/Finish lines at Epcot. It is billed as the most magical race on earth. In addition, there are other running events planned at both Walter Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California throughout 2014.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

International Volunteer Day

International Volunteer Day is observed each year on December 5th since 1985. It offers an opportunity for both volunteer organizations and individuals to make their contributions visible; thus raise awareness for volunteering and encourage others to get involved. #IVD2013 

Postcard US-1834687 to Canada shows a volunteer's T-Shirt flying high over Banda Aceh in early 2005 during my volunteering trip to Indonesia to assist in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami relief efforts. The accompany poem from a friend reads:
The world is sadden by the tragic news;
Everything is destroyed by the giant waves on their paths;
Ruins are the all you can see and cries are the all you can hear;
Bodies are scatted on the beach covered with seaweeds from the deep sea;

The only thing left are our loving hearts that will last like the Sun and the Moon;
As well as our determinations like the thunders;
Crossing the suffering islands to lend a helping hand until exhausting our last energy;
While it adds nothing to our ages, the story will be with us for the rest of our life.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Space Shuttle Endeavour Soars over Jupiter Lighthouse

Postcard US-2509951 to Germany shows the view of Space Shuttle Endeavour's launch at Jupiter Lighthouse, 233 kilometers or 145 miles away from the Kennedy Space Center, on November 30, 2000. STS-97, a Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS), was noted for the installation of the first set of solar arrays to the ISS.

You can purchase a copy of the postcard from Zazzle.com or a copy of 14"x18" poster from Gallery Palm Beach by the Palm Beach Post.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Greetings from Toronto

Postcard CA-393552 brought greetings from Toronto, Canada. Toronto usually has a Christmas Tree Lighting Fireworks at its City Hall on November 26. This year was no exception. You can watch the 2011 fireworks on YouTube.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Merry Christmas from North Pole, Alaska

I sent a postcard on November 15, 2013 to get a North Pole Holiday Cancellation. It came back today with a spray-on postmark generated by computer. I can understand that it is more efficient to process daily mails by printing postmarks using a high-speed ink-jet printer. But I am disappointed to see they are not using a more traditional stamp like other places do for the holiday mails. Especially you can hardly tell what that picture is. It is interesting to read what Josh Gerstein, staff reporter of the Sun (New York), wrote 'You've Got To Face It': The Postmark Is Going the Way of the Telegram on May 10, 2006.
For those who wish to get a North Pole Holiday Cancellation, please follow the steps from my previous blog.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

World AIDS Day

I am dedicating postcard US-1987877 to World AIDS Day, observed every year on December 1, to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. President Obama issued an official proclamation on World AIDS Day today.

Although the initial discovery of AIDS in 1981 involves gay men, it was soon determined that AIDS was not isolated to the gay community. HIV is transmitted primarily through unprotected sex; contaminated blood transfusions and hypodermic needles; and from mother to child during pregnancy and delivery. Learn the UNAIDS Strategy and how to get involved.

USPS AIDS Awareness Stamp in 1993
In Las Vegas, The Venetian and The Palazzo lighted their hotel exteriors with red lights in the evening on December 1, 2013 in support of World AIDS Day. The Southern Nevada Health District will offer free HIV testing at the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada (401 S. Maryland Parkway) and at Nevada Partners (710 W. Lake Mead Blvd., North Las Vegas) on December 2, 2013.