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How I Am Setting Up My Albums

I thought people might be interested in how I am setting up my albums now.

For binders, I am using the Avery Frame View Heavy Duty Binder:

I buy binders with 1″ binder rings because I find them easier to deal with.

I print all my pages double sided and put them in Staples Heavyweight Sheet Protectors.

https://www.staples.com/Staples-Heavyweight-Presentation-Sheet-Protectors-200-Pack/product_612997

Staples Heavyweight Sheet Protectors, Clear, 200/Box (34846) | Staples

Though I have used different paper in the past, I am currently using HP 40 lb Project Paper.

https://www.hp.com/us-en/shop/pdp/hp-40-lb-heavyweight-project-paper-250-sht-letter-85-x-11-in

Amazon.com : HP Heavyweight Project Paper | Matte Inkjet & Laser | 8.5x11 |  250 Sheets : Office Products

I’m printing my pages out on my Epson EcoTank ET-2750 printer. I also have a Brother HL-3170CDW color laser printer, which I love. But when you print on thicker paper in the laser printer, you need to tell the driver that you’re using thicker paper, which cranks up the heat on the drum. This really causes the paper to curl.

I always thought the laser printer produced crisper and clearer output than the inkjet, but the Inkjet pages were nice and flat. Then I discovered Colorlock paper. The HP 40 lb paper gives me output just as crisp and clean and the laser printer.

I’ll try to post some pictures of the actual album I have put together after Christmas is over.

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WordPress Stay of Execution

Due to a great Black Friday deal on web hosting at my existing provider, I upgraded my plan to allow greater resource utilization. WordPress, you get a break until I can find the time to redesign the site.

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WordPress on the Chopping Block Again

Despite my various attempts to optimize my site, I am unable to get resource utilization down to an acceptable level for my web hosting provider.

So, I have 48 hours to do something about it, or my site will be taken down. I’ve eliminated everything except the high I/O usage, which happens once or twice a day for only a minute or so. Problem is, I can’t get good detailed logs to figure out exactly what’s going on.

So, stand by to see what happens.

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Breathing a Sigh of Relief

I got resource utilization down to reasonable levels for my hosting provider. So, the pressure is off to get the site moved off WordPress ASAP.

I still want to do it, but now I can take the time to do it properly and not rush to do it and do a half-baked job.

For the curious, if appears the Jetpack plugin for WordPress was one of the culprits.

I did the following things:

  1. I blocked a bunch of questionable bots using the Wordfence firewall.
  2. I switched from webcron to cron for WordPress.

Both of those things helped a little, but didn’t help enough to get to me to where I needed to be.

When I checked my logs I saw a LOT of calls back to wordpress.com. So, on a whim, I disabled Jetpack. And within 15 minutes, I was no longer maxing out my CPU allotment. But I was still over my php script limit for the day. Another day, and everything seemed to be back to normal.

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Accelerating the Removal of WordPress

My site is using an unusually high amount of resources, and my hosting provider wants to charge a lot more for my hosting now.

I don’t think this is because Ukrainian stamp collecting has suddenly become insanely popular. It’s because bots are trying to attack the site since it’s WordPress.

I have several options available, but they all cost more than I am willing to pay. So, the best course of action is to abandon WordPress. In the future, you will see a completely new website. I just need to work out the details on how people can sign up to get updates to the site.

WordPress has been a great platform, but it has a pretty big attack surface. There are some great tools now that let you maintain static websites easily. I think that’s the way to go.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Dealing With Mounts

When you’re bored on Easter morning, then you go nuts on your blog.

Some tips on dealing with stamp mounts this morning…

Cutting stamp mounts with scissors is not a good idea. It’s almost impossible to get a good straight cut. Showgard sells a mount guillotine, which is expensive. You can use a hobby knife and a ruler to get a straight edge. But the most convenient thing I have found is to use a Fiskars SureCut Portable Trimmer with Recycled Cutline.

This is only $13.95 on Amazon, and has served me well for 5 years now.

Glueing mounts to pages is something else I have “hacked.” The back of the mount has a moisture activated glue that will stick to the page. This has 2 slight issues: the moisture used to activate the glue might get into the mount and get on the stamp, and the paper you’re mounting the stamp to might curl.

My local stamp store recommends people use an Uhu/Elmers glue stick to mount my stamps. They are 100% moisture free and have a very high pH, so they’re acid-free. And they won’t curl your page.

I used this method for years with outstanding success. But I wanted something easier to use. So, I discovered these: Tombow Mono Adhesive Dispenser.

You just flip up the tab on the bottom, run it along the length of the page, and then push your mount on the page.

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Your Friend, The Hawid Glue Pen

If you’re a collector of non-mainstream countries, such as Ukraine, you may notice that stamp mounts are not available in every size you need. So, more often than not, you end up with a miniature sheet that’s rattling around in a mount that’s too big.

Well, this is where the Hawid Glue Pen comes to the rescue. It lets you take an oversized mount and make it smaller. You open the mount and run the Glue Pen along the length of the mount, close it, apply pressure and then trim the excess mount you don’t need. With some practice, you’ll be able to get a perfect mount every time.

One word of caution. You’re going to really manhandle your mounts. And mounts pick up oils off your fingers like crazy. So, I strongly suggest you wash your hands before you use the Hawid Glue Pen. I shortened two mounts this morning, and got fingerprints all over them, inside and out and spent another 10-15 minutes cleaning them with Windex and paper towels. You don’t want to go there, if you can avoid it.

You also want to get a mount that’s close to what you need in size. You’re shortening one side of the mount., so the split in the back will no longer be in the middle of the mount. If you use a mount that’s too big, then one flap could become tiny and not hold the stamp in securely.

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My 2020 Ukrainian Stamps Arrive Tomorrow

Rather than order from Ukrposhta, like I normally do, I bought the stamps from an eBay seller in Ukraine. They got here IN A WEEK. In the middle of a pandemic. That’s impressive. Looks like I am going to have a busy week ahead of me.

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Updates On Upcoming Releases

As the pandemic continues, it’s wearing on me emotionally. My younger son turned 18 and is lamenting that his senior prom will not happen, and he basically lost half his junior year and most of his senior year to a virus.

And my parents, 92 and 78, FINALLY, got their first shot of the Moderna vaccine last week. Trying to get them set up for vaccination appointments took up way more time than expected, because they live in a rural area that doesn’t have a ready supply of vaccines.

My wife is still not 100% over her COVID-19 recovery, from when the whole family got COVID-19 back in December, and had it ruin Christmas for us. She’s still tired a lot and is experiencing some brain fog.

So, I have been a little pandemic pre-occupied, which is eating into my free time.

Having said that, here are some updates:

Mystic Hacking

I don’t see myself doing any more of these. I have hacked everything through the year 2003, I believe. Anything after that is just too much work. I may do a page or two on request. But getting 2003-2020 done would be a major undertaking. If I catch up on other stuff I may revisit it.

Community US Stamp Album

I got halfway through the 2005 supplement. I’m pulling descriptions from the US Postal Bulletin. And for 2005, I am really NOT happy with the descriptions. So, I replaced the Postal Bulletin ones by using Wikipedia, and I am not thrilled with those either. So, this is going to take some manual editing on my part. I would LOVE to crowdsource the description writing, so we could all collaborate on the descriptions. But I am picky and don’t want to offend anyone by correcting their submission. I bought a lifetime subscription to ProWritingAid.com and use that for all my grammar checking.

It’s also a challenge to figure out all the definite varieties issued each year. That eats up the biggest chunk of time.

Tryzub Ukrainian Stamp Album

Back in the first week of January, I put together an order on ukrposhta.ua of all the 2020 stamps. I left it in my cart and did not order it because I was waiting for payday. Of course the first week in January I was still on the mend from COVID-19, and was only functional for a few hours before I needed to take a break. So, like many things that week, it slipped my mind, and they never got ordered. I’m going to place an order this week. The pandemic is adding 1-2 weeks of shipping time to stamps from Ukraine. So, instead of the usual 2 weeks, it now takes a month to get stamps in from Ukraine. Luckily, I can start on descriptions and layout waiting for stamps to arrive. I just can’t test-fit stuff till stamps get here.

Something That Makes My Stamp Collecting Life Easier

Just 5 minutes from my house, there is a great “collectibles” store. The gentleman sells, stamps, coins, paper money, sports cards, and collectible card games such as Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, etc.

He has a very good selection of stamp mounts. So, if I get a stamp that needs a mount size I don’t have, I can usually get what I need after a 5 minute drive. But, even better, my son works there! So, I can text him my order, and he comes home with the mounts I need. This has significantly sped up the publications for me.

Stuff I Want To Do In The Future

I want to get the website off of WordPress. WordPress is a great publishing platform, but I don’t want to have to deal with the WordPress update cycle for a site as simple as my own. I want to switch to using Hugo for creating my web pages. That would require a teardown of the site and recreation. Which really wouldn’t be that bad. There’s a lot of OLD cruft here that really isn’t needed anymore.

I also want to get back into Ireland. I made one page of Irish stamps (my wife is Irish, and I thought she would like it), and then I went on to the most dreaded of topics, the Bird Definitives. I was so frustrated with figuring out all the varieties that I joined the Eire Philatelic Association to recruit help. They told me that the Bird Definitives are a huge PITA, and the different catalogs don’t even agree on them. So, I shelved the idea.

I really want to get to where I am cranking out just 3 supplements a year: Ukraine, US and Ireland. That’s going to take a while to get there.

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How things look going forward

I looked at 2005 and 2006. In order to hack 2005, I would need to modify 7 pages. And 2006 will require 8 pages. I stopped looking after that. So I think hacking the 21 century is just unsustainable. Hacking a page here or there is not that big a deal. But hacking more than half a supplement is treading dangerously close to some kind of copyright violation.

So, what are my options for Mystic?

I could make my own pages with my own descriptions, in the style of Mystic. I don’t like that option, because I find myself being put in a position where one day I will get a cease and desist letter.

I could leave everyone hanging and just only do Ukraine.

Or I could resurrect an old project.

This is what I will do short term and long term. Short term, I will mount all my 21st century stamps in a Scott Minuteman album. The Minuteman is 90% of what I want, layout-wise. The only issue I have with it is how thin the paper is.

I plan to resume work on the Community US stamp album. I really like what I did there. That is going to be my ultimate solution for 21st century stamps. I don’t know how fast I can turn stuff around. The most annoying thing with designing these pages is the descriptions, and getting all the major Scott catalog numbers of all these definitives with assorted microprint varieties listed. Sadly, the Scott catalog is of little help here.

I had 2003 partially done a while ago. Hopefully, I can get it done in a few weeks.

The other challenge I face is a lack of stamps. 21st century stamps are expensive. You can usually get MOST stamps ok, because they’re a standard size. But there’s always some sheet or se-tenant that’s a goofball size that I need to buy. That slows down work. But, we’ll see how it goes. Conveniently my son works at a stamp collecting store, so I can send an email to the owner and my son comes home with and stamps or mounts that I need.

Well, that’s it for now. Happy 2021 everyone. Hope this year is better than 2020. Stay safe!