Thursday, May 11, 2006

Thursday Night Blogging...

...and frankly, I'm in mind of a piss-poor mood, if you'll pardon the expression.

Why am I in such a bad mood? Probably a bit of a carry-over from yesterday. Today at work, I felt even more unappreciated than I had the day before. Why? I don't know... I can't point to any thing in particular... maybe it's just that the day was full of our customers asking for the stupidest changes on their ads... sending a proof back saying, "Make text left justified, not right justified!" -- naturally, the previous proof explicity instructed us to make the text right justified. If only people would stop using terms like "left justified" or "right justified" when they just plain mean JUSTIFIED!

...or the half-dozen or so customers who sent proofs back today telling us they wanted to make changes on their ad... which would've been one thing if we had built their ad, and could make edits easily... but these customers had all sent in PDF files (which are a pain in the butt to edit, especially when it's a text edit, and it (a) causes a reflow of text that we have to manually correct and/or (b) the customer subset the fonts in their PDF file, so I have to manually embed a complete version of the font in order to make the text edits. Of course, I'd imagine nobody reading this has any idea at all what I'm talking about here.

So... since I'm in a crappy mood anyway, I may as well throw this out here, where nobody will care but me:

Jon's Really, Really Important Advice for Businesses Who Want to Place An Advertisement in a Newspaper or Other Publication:

Part One: Someone in our company, such as yourself, is creating the ad and emailing, FTPing or burning it onto a disc

1. If you're creating your ad in Microsoft Publisher or Word or pretty much anything but InDesign, PageMaker, Quark, Illustrator, or Photoshop, don't bother sending your file to the sales rep (or whoever your contact at the publication is) in that native format. At best, the people at the publication will have to try to pull pieces out of the file and rebuild the advertisement from scratch anyway. At worst, the people who are handed your file to work on will either A. Laugh at your peurile efforts to create an electronic file, or B. Send it back saying, "We can't accept this file format."

2. If you still insist on creating your own ad in one of these other programs other than InDesign, PageMaker, Quark, Illustrator, or Photoshop, I'm guessing you're using a Windows computer, and therefore need to find some way of creating a PDF file from your document. I think there's a free download from Adobe that you can use as a virtual printer, that will "print" to a PDF file.

3. Make sure that all photos and graphics that are not vector graphics are at least 300 dots per inch... and don't enlarge them on your layout! If the publication is a magazine, you may need up to 600 dpi. Don't worry about the size of the file you'll create -- the people who have to handle your file can shrink it if they need to.

4. Don't use RGB colors. ONLY use CMYK colors or Pantone colors.

5. Don't surf the web for photos or other graphics to include in your ad, unless you're going to a web page that is providing this stuff either free or for a fee. That photo of a chimpanzee reading a book while drinking a beer may be just what you want for your ad, but if that photo belongs to someone, and you use it without their permission, that's stealing.

6. Keep the fonts you use to a minimum... and don't make any text smaller than 6 point unless you don't want anyone to read it.

7. Make ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY CERTAIN BEFORE YOU SEND YOUR AD that it is 100% the way you want it to look, so nothing has to be changed (this usually would mean an extra charge if you ask for it).

8. (this is the most important thing) Before you create an ad on your own, talk to your contact at the publication and ask them about ad sizes and formats. If you pay for a space that's 3.764 by 4 inches, you may as well create your ad at that size... otherwise it may well get morphed to fit the space... and if you create an ad that's 3 inches by 6 inches for that aforementioned space, your ad will just look freaking weird.

Part the Second: Hiring someone else to create your ad:

1. Make sure that the person you're hiring actually is a professional designer. Does that sound way too obvious? Well, there are a lot of people out there who think they're graphic designers that, in my not-so-humble opinion, have no business calling themself that. They should mention using some of that preferred software I mentioned above.

2. Don't wait until the day before you need your ad sent to the printer before you have the designer start on it. No matter how long you think it will need, it will probably take longer. My advice? The sooner you can get it started, the better... and then you'll have all the time in the world to make all the changes that won't occur to you until you've seen the next proof (and the one after that, and the one after that).

(is anyone still reading this at this point?)

3. Again, make sure that all the specs have been confirmed with the printer, and that you pass that along to the designer.

4. Never send your only copy of a file to the printer. If you're sending in a disc, make sure your designer gives you two copies.

5. Whenever possible, have the designer provide a PDF file to send to the printer.

6. I should've mentioned this in part one, too -- before you send a PDF file to the printer, LOOK AT IT!!!!! Zoom in on the pictures, print it out, do whatever you have to do to make sure that it's correct. We have one customer that, every quarter, sends in their parks and rec brochure (a different one than the one I build -- different parks and rec group) as a PDF, and every time, we have to contact them after we look at it and have them re-do the PDF file because their graphics are all 72 DPI.

OK, that's enough ranting for now... next time I'm on this kick, I'll talk about dealing with ads that are being built at the publisher of the magazine or newspaper... assuming I feel like talking about it again!


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wednesday Night Blogging...

So, what do I have to talk about tonight?

First of all, we're going to be having a houseguest starting next week for a brief time. A couple we're friends with are getting a divorce, and the wife will be staying with us until she gets her own place, or something like that. It'll probably mean a bit of adjustment for a bit, but it helps out a friend, and that's important, right?

Another friend of Jessi's was over tonight to watch House and American Idol... well, that's not entirely correct. She had gotten together with Jessi to do some shopping, and they came back to our place to watch some TV afterwards. Since I didn't get off work until 8:30, they'd already watched half of last night's House by the time I got home... so I busied myself with making dinner and getting the garbage out so as to not spoil the episode for me, which we'll both probably watch Thursday night.

Speaking of Thursday, I believe that's when the season finale of Smallville airs... meaning no new Smallville until the Fall... and lots of speculation!

Saturday will bring the last new Justice League Unlimited... at least, unless there's direct to DVD movies or something. Kind of depressing, that, as it was one of my favorite shows.

At work today, Jenny from the Circulation Department (I create sponsored newspaper flyers for her clients) asked to see the automotive tabloid mock-up I created several months back, as she'd heard about it, and some of the other stuff I've done in that vein... and was surprised to find that I'd never been employee of the month.

That's something that has bugged me a bit before... especially when they have a ceremony for someone who did get employee of the month, explaining why they got nominated... here's a few examples:

1. One woman got nominated for delivering a newspaper to a customer on her day off, because their carrier missed their house.

Yeah. Okay, I know it's good customer service, but employee of the month? We had one ad about a year ago for a real estate company who provided a photo of a house that I had looked at when Jessi and I were thinking of buying, and that photo was simply awful... so I left for work early, drove by there, took a new photo with my digital camera, and brought it in to be used.

2. Our Ad Services person got it last month because when her assistant quit, she ran the entire Ad Services desk all by herself.

Well, not really. I mean, that's why she got it, but she didn't cover it all by herself! I spent quite a bit of time helping Ad Services out, doing tears, preparing mailings, and so forth... and I even covered the Ad Services desk myself one day when she had that day off.

Aside from those two things... and the publication mock-ups I've created, I've also prepared frames to be used for real estate ads (about 60 different varieties, each created for two different sizes), I've done complete redesigns of several ads when the customer said they wanted something different (which were loved by the customers, by the way). A few redesigns were done because the sales rep mentioned off-handedly that the customer was thinking they'd like something different for their ads, and I took it upon myself to rework them -- and they were accepted.

I also have done "Jon's InDesign Tip of the Week," a PDF file I've sent off each Friday for eight weeks with different tips for using Adobe InDesign to the members of my department, sharing my knowledge with the rest of them.

Plus the flyers for Circulation and all kinds of other things that weren't originally part of my job, but which I've made part of my job because I could handle them and nobody else could.

Does it get me employee of the month? Hell, I don't know if I've even been nominated!

So, what does Employee of the Month get? $100, "tax free" (they pay enough so that after taxes, it's $100 left). They also go in the running for Employee of the Year, which is worth much, much more money.

It would be nice to be recognized, you know? Especially given how many times people received that status for basically doing their freaking job.

Anyway, I'll quit ranting and whining about that... and call it a night!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tuesday Evening Blogarama!

Wow, that title makes it sound like this'll be a major posting, doesn't it? Let's see what I have for you today...

The Search for a Musician for the Wedding:

OK, so I placed an ad in the newspaper starting Saturday for a musician to perform at the wedding... and I think we've had three responses so far. Jessi talked to the first person, and I don't think that went anywhere at all.

The second person, I talkd to... and earlier tonight, I picked up a CD from him so we could listen to it... Oh, my god... was this guy one of the rejects from American Idol tryouts or what? He just cannot carry a tune... yet he calls himself a singer. Jessi said he was awful... and she knows she is not a good singer herself!

I talked to another person tonight... and they're going to get back to me to let me know when we can listen to him and the guitarist he performs with rehearse (which they apparently only do every two or three weeks... which makes me think already it's kind of iffy, but we'll see).

I'm thinking I need to make a stop at the local music store, Music 6000, and see if they can provide any leads or something!

eBay Stuff:

One book has sold so far... and that shipped out this morning. It was the trade paperback of the Avengers/Defenders War, in case you're curious. There's still 21 other books up for grabs, and you can get the full list here, in case you're interested in seeing if I've got something that you want for your own collection.

Today was 10 cent insertion day on eBay, as I mentioned before... and no, I didn't add any listings today. You see, I'm of two minds when it comes to 10 cent insertion day (or even free insertion day)... it seems to me that all it does is just flood eBay with a bunch of new listings, which makes it even harder for any listing in particular to get noticed. And frankly, I think way too few people know how to really exploit eBay's search function when looking to buy stuff, or don't look at all the details before deciding what they'll bid on or buy.

All my current listings are fixed-price auctions... which means that if you "bid," you win, instantly. No possibility of being outbid. If the price I've got a particular book listed at is the price you're willing to pay, it's a no-brainer, right?

I love finding fixed-price auctions, especially when I've said there's a certain dollar amount I'm willing to pay for something, and no more. Let's say there's, oh, some Friends (TV show) item I want to get for Jessi, and I decide I won't pay more than, say, $12 for. If I find a listing for a standard auction starting at $5, I'll put in my top bid of $12, and if I get outbid, I'll get outbid. But when I place my bid, I also set up a saved search so I'll be emailed when that item is listed, so I can keep a lookout for it... and if a fixed-price listing for that item comes up, and it's at my set price or less, I'll buy it (assuming that the shipping cost is reasonable, of course).

On the other hand, I do kind of wish I'd waited a day to list those books, so I would've only paid 10 cents per insertion, instead of the 35 to 60 cents it'll cost me. (Hey, I did say I was of two minds about it!)

Free Comic Book Day:

OK, so I've read just about all the FCBD books I picked up... well, I'm 2/3 the way through Tokyopop's one, and I just can't get into the Image one. In my not-so-humble opinion, though Tokyopop's is the most impressive (being a paperback book), it's all the first chapters of several different titles... which is good from a "sampler" point of view -- it may well bring readers to those books -- but I enjoyed Gladstone's and Archie's and Bongo's more, being all self-contained (or even multiple self-contained) stories. Marvel's X-Men/Runaways was all right... the main story was self-contained, but the bulk of the book seemed to be a "story so far" on Ultimate Spider-Man. I do find myself wishing DC and Marvel would follow the lead of Gladstone, Archie and Bongo more...

Let's say DC would do two different FCBD books... one of them could be a "Showcase Presents" or "Archives" book, or a combo of the two, with stories from upcoming Showcase or Archives books, to hook possible readers of those. The other one should be more of a regular sampler... with a short story or two (or even three) featuring some major titles... say, a Batman story, a Superman story, and maybe a JLA story. All done-in-one, complete in and of themselves. I think they should also do a Cartoon Network FCBD book, too.

Marvel, on the other hand... well, their Essentials books don't tend to lend themselves to a sampler format, since I think all the current books in the series have book-length stories. I'd say it definitely makes sense to have a Spider-Man book and an X-Men book... maybe even a flip book, featuring in-continuity Spidey and X-Men stories. I think that, too, a Marvel Adventures and an Ultimate Marvel book would be appropriate, just to cover all the bases.

I didn't get Dark Horse's entry.

Now, let's say that I was a comics publisher... remember when I posted all the stuff about my own characters? I think I'd have a book that was about 3/4 a story with my superhero team, and then maybe the rest would be bio pages or even one-page samplers of the other titles.

Oh, I almost forgot... a very surprising entry for me was "The Preposterous Voyages of IronHide Tom," published by AdHouse Books. It was a very fun read, and very creative and imaginative!

Overthinking Krypton:

You know, being an old-school comics guy like I am, sometimes my mind starts thinking about stuff that is really irrelevant today. Like Krypton and people and things from Krypton.

Take, for example, Superman's infinitely stretchable cape. I have always had a hard time swallowing that concept. Remember, Superman's entire costume was woven from the threads of his baby blankets by Martha Kent. Now, I can't believe that there was so much thread (well, they called it "yarn" in the stories themselves) that Martha could do some kind of ridiculous stretch-stich or weave, so one has to assume that the thread/yarn itself was ridiculously stretchable.

Now, my question is: Was all cloth on Krypton made of stuff that could stretch that much to begin with, or was this somehow a side-effect of the yellow sun rays (that also made it invulnerable)?

And the whole "everything from Krypton became invulnerable except Kryptonite" thing always bothered me, too... although moreso as an adult. I'll accept that biological organisms (like Superboy, Krypto, and Beppo) become invulnerable thanks to yellow sun rays... but was Krypton's entire chemistry and elemental table so different from Earth's that nothing in Krypton was composed of the same elements we have on earth? Even that doesn't work, because we learned in a story that there was a volcano on Krypton that spewed liquid gold. Don't try to convince me that while Krypton had gold, all other elements were different (and affected by yellow sun rays)!

Actually, the whole invulnerability thing bugs me a lot these days, too... I think it's all well and good to use a word that's an absolute if you have to, because using phrases like "limited invulnerability" is just ridiculous (kind of like "kind of pregnant")! So, let's say that in the DC Universe, "invulnerability" can be relative. Just go with me on this.

So, let's say Superboy has to face an escaped Phantom Zone prisoner, with Krypto the Superdog at his side. If this occurred in a regular story, Superboy's only edge would be that he's had more practice with his powers than the PZ escapee... but still, a full-grown man is stronger than a teenage boy (assuming that they're relatively in good shape -- one didn't see too many Kryptonians who looked like they should've been in Weight Watchers, or were the proverbial 98-lb. weakling, did we?)... so the PZ escapee should likely be able to put the beat-down on Superboy, right?

But remember: Superboy has Krypto on his side. I think that we can all agree that a dog can bite a human and draw blood, if not take away a chunk of flesh. So realistically, even after being super-powered, Krypto's bite should still be fairly lethal to a super-powered Kryptonian (and this was even borne out, to an extent, in a DC Comics Presents story, reprinted in Superman in the Seventies -- one of the books I'm currently selling on eBay, as a matter of fact -- in which Pete Ross takes over Superboy's body to attack Superman... Krypto actually tears Superboy's invulnerable costume). Of course, Superboy has trained Krypto not to bite like that... but still...

This would also mean that, relatively speaking, Supergirl would not be as strong as Superman, unless teenage girls on Krypton were as strong as adult men. If health and fitness is all level, so to speak... the fairer sex, even on Krypton, wouldn't be physically as strong as the men (although likely more agile).

Like I said, I seem to overthink this kind of stuff. Don't even get me started on what kind of evolutionary advantage the Thought-Beast gets from having a biological TV set on its forehead that pictures what it's thinking (much less why it would be in color, since most animals seem to see in black-and-white).


Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday Night!

So... after putting up a bunch of new auctions on eBay... they go and announce a 10 cent insertion day... for Tuesday.

Yeah. The day after I put them all up.

Anyway... I forgot to mention the other day about a couple of cool things I found at the local Dollar Store this weekend... little plastic figurines of Popeye, Mighty Mouse, and other old cartoon charcaters, like Tom and Jerry, and the original Porky Pig!

I'll have to keep an eye open for these at other Dollar Stores... I bought the Popeye and Mighty Mouse ones (Mighty's colored in his original red and blue outfit), and they're sitting on my shelf now! They're amazingly well-done for Dollar Store items! They're produced by X one X-Archive, Inc, and distributed by Greenbrier International out of Chesapeake. Somehow, I doubt either company has a webpage I can go to in order to find out what other figures they produced!

Still haven't read all the stuff I got from Free Comic Book Day, but I did read Gladstone's Duck book, which has good stuff in it!

Earlier tonight, I shot off a lot of new Cover Stories columns to Justin at World Famous Comics... and I did a 1-10 of Wow Comics for the DC History List. It's only 11:20 as I write this, and I seem to have accomplished all I planned to tonight! What else shall I do before heading off to bed?

More tomorrow!


Been Too Long...

...since I've posted anything here, hasn't it?

Well, wedding plans are proceeding, as can be expected. We printed out the invitations today -- well, Jessi printed them out, as her printer has ink in it, and mine doesn't -- well, mine is running low on ink, and I didn't figure I had enough to do the printing, and since my latest freelance check is delayed in arriving, I couldn't afford new inkjet cartridges. So anyway, they're printed, and we'll start distributing them during the next week.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Free Comic Book Day! Bizarrely enough, I didn't attend it at Olympic Cards & Comics, the shop I buy what few books I buy these days... instead, I went to the shop in downtown Olympia, Danger Room Comics, because Jessi and I met some friends for lunch Saturday at a restaurant that was across the street from Danger Room... and since Gabi at Olympic is holding some stuff for me I can't afford to get until that previously-mentioned freelance check arrives, I didn't feel it was right for me to go there and get free stuff.

The books I picked up and have read were all enjoyable -- although I think my favorite so far as been the Archie one. I'm amazed they actually created an all-new book for this! Marvel and DC should take notice. I'm also pretty impressed with what TokyoPop did, although I haven't read it yet. Bongo's entry was also good, as was last year's release, being a variety of features.

Also thanks to the lack of that freelance check arriving, I'm throwing a few more trade paperback books up for sale on eBay. I won't even put a link up in this post, because I figure you who read this blog probably already know my eBay ID.

Among the things we've picked up for the wedding are the shoes I'm going to wear... maybe. They're called "boat shoes" or maybe "deck shoes", and I'm wearing them now, trying to kind of break them in. They're a canvas-style shoe which I like because they look like the shoes Patrick McGoohan wore in "the Prisoner," but even though my shoe size has shrunk since losing weight, these shoes are a wee bit tight (my feet are still way too wide, it seems).

Next Sunday, at World Famous Comics, the first anniversary installment of Cover Stories will be presented -- amazing it's been a year already! And I've already mentioned, I think, that there'll be some brand-new, never-before-seen Comics They Never Made showing up there soon after that!

I will kind of spoil one of them that will show up in a few months there... Thunderbirds comics! There were some "Annuals" published in Great Britain, but so far as I can determine, none were ever done in the USA! I've created the covers for five issues, but I don't remember enough details about the series to fake up storylines for them, so unless I come across a bigger fan of the series than I am, who actually remembers everything about the show, I may say the issues were adaptations of actual episodes, and borrow some descriptions from online episode guides.

My good buddy Mike Ambrose, the head honcho behind Charlton Spotlight, has been of great assistance to me in working up the biggest series of Comics They Never Made, and I owe him an email really soon!

Not much else comes to mind to share right now... it's past my bedtime, and I'm in need of rest!