60 Million and Counting

This Postcrossing card, BY-2711325, was the 60 millionth card sent. It traveled 572 miles from Belarus to Czechia in 14 days. The I.D. number begins with a two-letter code that defines the country of origin. BY is the code for Belarus.

Yesterday morning at 5:17 EST, a Czech man named Tommy registered the 60 millionth Postcrossing postcard. The card came from Veronika in Belarus, and showed two cartoon characters. That’s it on the right.

This milestone means that since the project began in 2005, Postcrossing members like me have received 60 million postcards from each other, all around the world, each of them a little slice of art, culture, architecture, or nature from a distant place. Some are typical tourist cards; others are artwork, movie stills, animal pictures, humorous cards, handmade cards, vintage cards, and other types.

Postcrossing is easy. You join the free website and are encouraged to write a profile that can include whatever you want: who you are and where you live, what you do, what you like, what kinds of postcards you’d love to receive, what you’d love to know about other people and places, or anything else you want to share. It’s not required, but it helps other members select cards they think you’ll enjoy and write messages that might be of interest to you. The official language of Postcrossing is English, so profiles and cards should be written in English unless the recipient indicates that he or she is open to receiving cards in other languages. Some Postcrossers also write their profiles in both English and their own native languages.

I mailed this card, US-2371346, to Spain in 2013. When sending or receiving a card, you have the option of scanning the image side into the site so others can see it. Anyone who likes a card can mark it as a Favorite. This card, of Arwen from the Lord of the Rings films, has been favorited 129 times, more than any other card I’ve sent.

When you tell the site you’re ready to send a card, it gives you a Postcrosser’s profile, with an address to send to. (Profiles can be seen by any Postcrosser, but the address if visible only to a member who is sending the card.) You choose a card, write a message on it, and drop it in the mail. After the card is received and registered, your name will come up when a different Postcrosser asks for someone to send to. You can have several postcards traveling at the same time; the more you’ve sent, the more you’re allowed to send. Details are on the site. If you’re worried about the expense (joining is free, but postage can really add up), you can limit the number of postcards you send, to keep your costs down.

Postcrossing offers some fun extras, all of them optional. If you and the person you’re sending to would like to exchange addresses and continue corresponding, that’s completely up to the two of you; it isn’t part of the Postcrossing process. Some Postcrossers like to send or receive little gifts (with postcards sent in an envelope). They might mention in their profiles that they love receiving teabags, extra stamps from your country, cardboard beer coasters, seed packets, and other small items. You don’t have to comply with such requests, but it can be a fun way to connect. There is also a Postcrossing blog that spotlights individual Postcrossers and includes fun postal-related news, and a forum that lets members talk on a variety of related subjects. Some local Postcrossing groups have in-person meetings too (or did, before the pandemic). But I’d guess that most Postcrossers stick with the basics and just mail and receive cards, and that’s OK too.

I joined in 2009 and in that time have sent 5,194 postcards (actually more than that, but they don’t get counted until they are received and registered) and have received about the same number. That means that of the 72,624 Postcrossing members in the United States, I rank 59th in most postcards sent. (At one point I was up to 12th, but I don’t send nearly as many cards as I used to.) So far, I’ve connected with Postcrossers in exactly 100 countries. Postcrossing has more then 800,000 members in 206 countries, so I have a lot more possible postcard connections to look forward to. I love receiving cards from around the world (and from the U.S.), but I think that my favorite part of Postcrossing is choosing the perfect postcard for each person. Of course, I’ve been a member for 12 years, so I’ve had a lot of time to amass a varied collection.

When Portuguese student Paulo Magalhães created the website in 2005, his goal was to create an international community of people of all ages, races, genders, and beliefs, who would connect with each other through postcards. It took off in a way that galloped past his wildest expectations. It took nearly three years to reach 1 million cards sent. But it took only two years to go from 50 million in December 2018 to 60 million this week. Postcrossers are on a roll!

Here is a page about the history of the project, for those who would like to know more.

This postcard of spectacular sunset at George Washington’s Mount Vernon is one of my favorites of all the tourist-type cards I’ve sent over the years. I buy a few at the gift shop every time I visit Mount Vernon, so I have sent it to Postcrossers in various places, including the postcard US-1570552, which went to the Netherlands in 2012. What a sky!

January 25 Writer Birthdays

1225 – Thomas Aquinas, influential Italian writer, professor, theologian, friar, and Dominican scholastic philosopher of the Catholic Church who tried to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity; he was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology; much of modern philosophy has either developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory.

1746 – Stéphanie-Félicité (comtesse de Genlis), French author, children’s writer, entomologist, and harpist, known for her novels, her journals, and theories of children’s education.

1759 – Robert Burns, Scottish poet of the Romantic era; known as the national poet of Scotland.

1874 – W. Somerset Maugham, British writer, one of the most popular novelists of his generation.

1882 – Virginia Woolf, English writer of the Modernist movement who was a member of the Bloomsbury group; her novels, through their nonlinear approaches to narrative, exerted a major influence on the genre.

1885 – Hakushu Kitahara, pen-name of Kitahara Ryukichi, one of the most popular and important poets in modern Japanese literature.

1889 – R. Narayana Panickar, prolific, award-winning Indian Malayalam writer, translator, academic, novelist, essayist, historian, playwright, and lexicographer; some of his best known books are the six-volume work, Kerala Bhasha Sahithya Charthram, a comprehensive history of Malayalam literature.

1890 – Sasha Siemel (Aleksandrs Ziemelis), Latvian-born American/Argentinian adventurer, writer, photographer, hunter, guide, actor, and lecturer who spoke seven languages and boasted of having experienced more adventure in a single year than most men witnessed in a lifetime.

1905 – Margery Sharp, English author best known for her children’s story The Rescuers, which was later adapted into two Disney movies.

1914 – Chang Man-yong, South Korean poet, nonfiction author, journalist, editor, and translator whose poems often explored nostalgic themes of rural life.

1921 – Anh Thơ, (real name Vương Kiều Ân), award-winning Vietnamese poet and writer who published the first collection of Vietnamese poetry by women poets; her most notable literary achievement was a collection of her poetry entitled Buc tranh que (A rural portrait).

1926 – Youssef Chahine, award-winning Egyptian screenwriter and film director who has been credited with launching the career of actor Omar Sharif; despite winning international accolades, he was considered controversial for his liberal views, portrayal of sexuality, and political critiques.

1935 – J.G. Farrell, Irish author, two of whose Empire trilogy titles won the Booker Prize.

1946 – Catherine MacPhail, Scottish author, romance novelist, children’s and young-adult writer, and radio writer.

1950 – Gloria Naylor, National Book Award-winning African-American novelist, short-story writer, and professor; she is best known for her debut novel, The Women of Brewster Place.

1954 – David Grossman, award-winning Israeli novelist, nonfiction author, children’s book author, poet, broadcaster, and left-wing peace activist.

1969 – Ashwin Sanghi, Indian author of bestselling thriller novels with mythological themes.

1970 – Stephen Chbosky, American novelist, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

1985 – Christina Ochoa (born Cristina Ochoa Lopez), Spanish science writer, film company executive, magazine writer, and book reviewer; while living in the Washington, D.C., area, she began acting, starting in theatrical plays at the Little Theatre of Alexandria; she has also studied marine biology, oceanographic engineering, and particle physics.

The Fall of Atlantis

These six spanakopitas mark the end of an era. Today is the last day in business for Atlantis, after 35 years of feeding Alexandria and serving our community. It’s been my favorite local restaurant for nearly that long, and I have yet to find better spanakopita anywhere. Despite a large and loyal customer base, the restaurant just could not weather the pandemic.

Even harder today than facing the end of my access to the best spanakopita was saying goodbye to the staff, some of whom have been there the entire time I’ve been a regular customer. They satisfied my pregnancy cravings, fed my infant son his first dessert ever (rice pudding, and I still remember the look on his face when he learned that food can be SWEET), helped him discover the joys of pizza, made his favorite chocolate layer cake, and provided a late-night venue for after-concert pizza dinners, with him in his tux. They always got my special orders right, didn’t mind if I settled in for a while to read or write while I was eating, and served breakfast food until 2:30 pm. No more. Today I ordered six spanakopitas to freeze, and I nearly cried when the staff said goodbye to me for the last time.

It’s hard to imagine Bradlee Shopping Center without Atlantis’s welcoming faces, murals of the Greek isles, and that delectable spanakopita.

Goodbye, Atlantis.

January 24 Writer Birthdays

1776 – E.T.A. Hoffmann, German Romantic author whose novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was adapted into the ballet The Nutcracker.

1804 – Delphine de Girardin, German-born French writer, poet, journalist, and salonnière; she wrote under the pen name Vicomte Delaunay.

1862 – Edith Wharton, American novelist, short-story writer, playwright, and designer who drew upon her insider’s knowledge of the upper class New York “aristocracy” to realistically portray the lives and morals of the Gilded Age; she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

1864 – Marguerite Durand, French writer, journalist, editor, and actress who founded the first feminist newspaper, La Fronde (The Slingshot), organized the Congress For the Rights of Women, and owned a pet lion she named “Tiger”; the Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand is named for her.

1870 – Muddana, Indian poet who wrote in the Kannada language; the name Muddana was a nickname that means “cute” in Kannada; he was also known as Mahakavi (“Great Poet”) or Mahakavi Muddana, but his real name was Lakshmi Naranappa. Despite all of those names, he chose to publish some of his works anonymously.

1872 – Ethel Turner, award-winning English-born Australian writer, poet, novelist, editor, columnist, and children’s author; she is best known for her novel, Seven Little Australians, which is a classic of Australian children’s literature.

1888 – Hedwig “Vicki” Baum, Austrian writer who is best known for her novel Menschen im Hotel (People at a Hotel, published in English as Grand Hotel), an international success that was made into a 1932 film and a 1989 broadway musical.

1889 – Charles Hawes, American author of sea stories and the first American-born winner of the Newbery Medal.

1898 – Milada Součková, Czech writer, poet, author, journalist, literary historian, and literary theorist, and diplomat; she is known mainly for introducing to Czech literature Modernist techniques employed by English-language writers such as Laurence Sterne, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf.

1899 – Maxime Moses Alexander, French Surrealist poet and journalist.

1899 – Mitsuhashi Takajo, Japanese haiku poet who was involved in a progressive magazine of avant-garde poets who wrote experimental haiku; she is one of the “4 Ts” of Japanese female haiku poets (along with Tatsuko Hoshino, Nakamura Teijo, and Hashimoto Takako).

1924 – Paruyr Sevak, Armenian writer, poet, translator, literary critic, and politician; he is considered one of the greatest Armenian poets of the 20th century.

1927 – Priyakant Premachand Maniyar, award-winning Indian Gujarati poet and writer known for his symbolic and imagist poetry.

1931 – Leonard Baker, Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, journalist, and biographer.

1944 – David Gerrold, American science-fiction author and screenwriter best known for his Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles.”

1953 – Katarzyna Krenz, Polish writer, poet, translator, and painter.

1967 – Rooma Mehra, Indian poet, author, painter, sculptor, journalist, travel writer, and columnist.

January 23 Writer Birthdays

1729 – Clara Reeve, English writer, translator, and novelist best known for the Gothic novel The Old English Baron and an innovative history of prose fiction The Progress of Romance; her first work was a translation from Latin, then an unusual language for a woman to learn.

1783 – Stendahl (pen name for Marie-Henri Beyle), 19th-century French writer who is highly regarded for analysis of his characters’ psychology and considered one of the early and foremost practitioners of realism.

1813 – Camilla Collett (born Jacobine Camilla Collett), Norwegian writer and critic who is often referred to as the first Norwegian feminist; she was one of the first contributors to realism in Norwegian literature.

1859 – Katharine Tynan, Irish writer, known mainly for her novels and poetry; she usually wrote under the name Katharine Tynan Hinkson.

1897 – Ieva Simonaityte (also known as Ewa Simoneit), award-winning Lithuanian writer whose work described the culture of Lithuania Minor and the Klaipeda Region, territories of German East Prussia with large, but dwindling, Lithuanian populations.

1904 – Anya Seton (born Ann Seton), American author of historical romances,

1909 – Tatyana Avenirovna Proskuriakova, Russian-American Mayanist scholar and archaeologist who contributed significantly to the deciphering of Maya hieroglyphs, the writing system of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica.

1923 – Walter M., Jr. Miller, American science-fiction author known primarily for his only novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz.

1924 – Suriani Abdullah née Eng Ming Ching, Malaysian author, memoirist, historian, and Central Committee member of the Communist Party of Malaya; she wrote the official historical account of the 10th Regiment of the Malayan People’s National Liberation Army, and worked to mobilize and organize women workers.

1930 – Tatyana Nikolayevna Savicheva, Russian student and diarist who endured the Siege of Leningrad during World War II, during which she recorded in her diary the deaths of each member of her family; she died at the age of 14, but her diary became a symbol of the human cost of the Siege of Leningrad, and was used during the Nuremberg Trials as the evidence of the Nazis’ crimes.

1935 – Tom Reamy, Campbell Award- and Nebula Award-winning American science-fiction and fantasy author, known especially for his dark fantasy; he died before publication of his first novel.

1935 – Derek Walcott, Nobel Prize-winning Saint Lucian poet and playwright; the Nobel committee praised his “poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment.”

1939 – Fred Wah, award-winning Canadian poet, novelist, scholar, and former Canadian Poet Laureate.

1953 – Cathy Hopkins, English novelist, best known for her books for teenagers.

1962 – Elvira Lindo, Spanish journalist, screenwriter, and author of novels for children and adults.

1963 – Su Tong, pen name of award-winning Chinese novelist and short-story writer Tong Zhonggui, best known in the West for his book Wives and Concubines, which was adapted into the film, Raise the Red Lantern.

Photo Friday: Women’s March

On Wednesday, many of us watched breathlessly from our socially distanced living rooms as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as the new President and Vice President of the United States.

It was natural to remember a time four years ago when we had longed for such a day. On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as 45th President of the United States. On January 21, we pulled on our pink hats and took to the streets. Millions of people, mostly women, marched in capital cities all around the country. But the biggest, most important Women’s March was right here in Washington, D.C. I was thrilled to take part in it, and pleased that my husband and teenage son wanted to come too. The mood was peaceful and joyful, with an undercurrent of fear about what kind of country Trump would build for us, determination that the nation would survive it, and sorrow that so many Americans would vote for a man who had already proven himself by then to be a despicable human being.

We have a long way yet to march, and it was made longer by the Trump Administration’s failings. But four years after the Woman’s March, the promise of that march is finally back on track to being fulfilled.

January 22 Writer Birthdays

1561 – Francis Bacon (1st Viscount St Alban), English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, and author who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England; he is credited with developing the scientific method, arguing for scientific knowledge based on inductive reasoning, careful observation, and a methodical approach; he has been called the father of empiricism.

1572 – John Donne, influential English poet of the Metaphysical school who was also a cleric in the Church of England; his works include sonnets, sermons, love poems, religious poems, epigrams, songs, elegies, and satires. His poetry is noted for its vibrancy of language and inventiveness of metaphor, especially compared to that of his contemporaries, and he is considered by many to be the greatest love poet in the English language.

1751 – Amabel Hume-Campbell (1st Countess de Grey and 5th Baroness Lucas), diarist political writer, and author who was a Countess in her own right; she wrote particularly about the French Revolution.

1788 – Lord Byron (George Gordon Byron), influential English poet, politician, and peer, and an important figure in the Romantic movement; he traveled throughout Europe, and while living in Italy spent time with his friend, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; later he joined the Greek War of Independence fighting the Ottoman Empire, for which the Greeks revere him as a national hero. His only legitimate child, Ada Lovelace, is considered the founder of the field of computer programming.

1849 – August Strindberg, Swedish writer whose book The Red Room has been called the first modern Swedish novel.

1872 – Katai Tayama, Japanese author who established the Japanese literary genre of naturalistic novels that revolve around detailed self-examination; he also wrote about his experiences in the Russo-Japanese War.

1886 – Isabel Paterson, Canadian-American journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and leading literary and cultural critic; she is considered one of the three founding mothers of American libertarianism (along with Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand).

1891 – Antonio Gramsci, Italian writer, politician, theorist, economist, sociologist, literary critic, journalist, and linguist.

1904 – Arkady Gaidar, Russian Bolshevik soldier who retired from the military after being wounded, and turned instead to writing children’s stories, most of which described front-line camaraderie and the romanticism of the revolutionary struggle; later he became a war correspondent and was killed in battle.

1906 – Robert E. Howard, American author of pulp fiction novels, known primarily for creating the character Conan the Barbarian.

1909 – Abdilda Tazhibayevich Tazhibayev, Kazakh writer, poet, and playwright who was named a People’s Writer of Kazakhstan.

1911 – Mary Hayley Bell, Chinese-born English actress, screenwriter, playwright, and novelist; her husband was Sir John Mills and her daughter was actress Hayley Mills.

1920 – Ann Philippa Pearce, Carnegie Medal-winning English author of children’s books.

1922 – Howard Moss, National Book Award-winning American poet, editor, dramatist, and critic.

1924 – Mira Trailović, Serbian playwright, theatre director, and actress who was a pioneer of avant-garde theatre in Eastern Europe.

1925 – Katherine Anne MacLean, American science-fiction author best known for her short fiction of the 1950s, which explored the effects of technological advances on individuals and society.

1926 – Aurora de Albornoz, Spanish scholar, poet, professor, and literary critic whose work was inspired, in part, by her experiences in the Spanish Civil War.

1934 – Graham Kerr, Scottish chef, cookbook author, and television cooking show host who was known as the Galloping Gourmet; after a religious conversion and his wife’s health problems, Kerr turned to healthier cuisine and later renounced his earlier shows, saying “What I did wasn’t art, it was a crime,” given high rates of obesity.

1937 – Sallie Bingham, American author, playwright, poet, novelist, short-story writer, teacher, memoirist, feminist activist, and philanthropist; she is part of the Bingham family, which dominated the news media of Louisiville and the state of Kentucky for most of the 20th century.

1937 – Joseph Wambaugh, bestselling American author whose police fiction draws on his 14 years of experience with the Los Angeles Police Department.

1943 – James Carroll, American author, historian, journalist, and Roman Catholic reformer whose fiction and nonfiction center on religion and history.

1949 – Cilla McQueen (full name Priscilla Muriel McQueen), New Zealand poet and painter who is a three-time winner of the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry; her poems explore themes of homeland and loss, indigeneity, colonization, and displacement, and also reflects her engagement with the history and present reality of the Maori people.

1963 – Denise Dresser (Denise Eugenia Dresser Guerra), Mexican writer, journalist, editor, columnist, and university professor who has been named by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful women in Mexico and one of the 50 most influential women in Twitter.

1978 – Delphine Lecompte, award-winning Belgian poet.

1980 – Subhash Ram Prajapati, Nepalese author, ethnomusicologist, and documentary filmmaker.

Postcards From the World: Idyllic

Today’s featured Postcrossing postcard is a bit of a mystery. It comes to me from a family of Postcrossers in Idaho. But the gorgeous photo on the card was certainly not taken in Idaho! It looks like a European castle or manor house, probably English or French. Does anyone recognize the location? Wherever it is, the scenery is stunning!

The card comes from a family that likes animals, picturesque scenery, modern art, Marvel and DC comics, classical music, and Harry Potter, and Star Trek. And the sender says she is impressed that I’m a book author because she would like to write children’s books someday.

This postcard was sent from Idaho, but the photo of this idyllic scene is definitely from somewhere else!

January 21 Writer Birthdays

1895 – Davíð Stefánsson, Icelandic poet, novelist, playwright, and librarian.

1904 – Richard P. Blackmur, American poet and literary critic.

1905 – Wanda Wasilewska, Polish writer, screenwriter, politician, and journalist.

1908 – Vaikom Muhammad Basheer (commonly known as Beypore Sultan), award-winning Indian independence activist, freedom fighter, and writer of Malayalam novels and short stories; he was known for a down-to-earth style of writing that made him popular among literary critics as well as average readers.

1923 – Judith Merril (pen name for Judith Josephine Grossman) American/Canadian science-fiction writer, editor, and political activist.

1925 – Eva Ibbotson, award-winning Austrian-born British author who wrote for adults, young adults, and children. Some critics have charged that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling took “Platform 9 3/4” from “Platform 13” in Ibbotson’s book, The Secret of Platform 13 (both were located at King’s Cross station in London) but Ibbotson said she was flattered by the similarity, and that it was normal for writers to borrow from each other.

1927 – Robert Neil Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning American physician and nonfiction author.

1942 – Patricia Jean Rosier, New Zealand writer, editor, and feminist activist who came out as a lesbian and went on to play a leading role in the second wave of New Zealand’s Women’s Movement.

1942 – Cheon Yang-hee, award-winning South Korean poet, writer, and essayist; many of her early poems candidly reflect on the isolated self, while later poems focus on how the sorrows and frustrations of life influence the psyche

1943 – Pratibha Ray, Indian academic, novelist, travel writer, and short-story writer.

1946 – Gretel Ehrlich, American travel writer, poet, novelist, and essayist.

1949 – Slamet Rahardjo Djarot, Academy Award-nominated Indonesian screenwriter, director, and actor.

1952 – Louis Menand, American writer, essayist, and academic, best known for his book The Metaphysical Club, an intellectual and cultural history of late 19th and early 20th century America.

1958 – Araceli Ardon, Mexican writer, editor, biographer, and columnist whose work focuses on cultural topics about the state of Querétaro.

1969 – M.K. Hobson, Nebula Award-nominated American author known for her historical fantasy, which she describes as “bustlepunk.”