Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas cards. I have grown to hate them! But not because of the season, or what they represent, but because of the shear amount of time I put in to the blasted things this year!

If you're one of the lucky few that received a Christmas card from me this season, you may have noticed that the message was printed on the card instead of written. Now I must admit, I find the note typed on paper and placed in the card rather impersonal, so I figured I'd actually print the message in the card itself. For multiple reasons actually. One, it is now a legible note. Two, I can type way faster than I can write. Three, I can say actually what I want to say and then make sure I didn't spell anything wrong or screw up the grammar. And four, I just thought it would be a neat thing to try with my new OpenOffice 3.0 Suite on my Linux OS. However you're wondering why I didn't sign the thing, well read on my friend.

A few weeks I went out the local Hallmark at the Logan Valley Mall to buy my Christmas cards. Later the next week I measured the cards for width and height and built a nice little template in Writer (comparable to Word for you Microsoft junkies) and started typing away. I had ten letters typed out in about 1.5 hours, which by writing would have taken probably about 2.0 hours, but they would have had way more errors in them. So my next job was to print them all out. I stuck the card in the printer, clicked the print button and watched the card get sucked into the printer like a wet noodle in the mouth of a child. Suddenly I got the message on my printer that read, "PAPER TOO SMALL." I tried it again. Same message. Now I had printed out items much smaller than this before. So I stuck in a full letter size paper and clicked print again. It worked flawlessly. Like the stupid stubborn-head I can be, I stuffed the card back in the printer and hit print again. Again, to my surprise (why I was surprised is still a mystery) the printer told me, "PAPER TOO SMALL." Now keep in mind, when I'm in Linux and printing, typically my printer locks up every print attempt and I have to reboot it and wait two minutes for the darn thing to load up.

So my next step was to make my Writer template a little smaller. I took off half an inch from the template, stuck my card back in, and got the same result. I stuck the letter size paper in, and it printed. So I took off another half inch, and clicked print. Suddenly ink started to flow! Oh the excitement I felt! For I only wasted another hour getting to this point. But wouldn't you know it, when the card was ejected, the printer had inserted an extra inch of margin forcing my note into the crease of the card. The words, "why I outta" came to mind along with a mental image of my fist shaking feverishly at the laughing printer. I stuck in another letter sized paper. It printed, but with the extra inch of margin. Now at this point I should have just accepted my losses, printed the notes on regular paper, cut them out, and stuck them in the card. But no, I was determined! I decided the night was spent and was determined to print the blasted cards the next evening.

Now it's the next night. I decided I'd attack this thing form a different side. I logged into my Google Docs account and attempted to print a card from there. I spent about an hour just trying to figure out how to design something 4.5" x 10.25" in size. Ultimately I gave up on that angle. My faith in Linux was gone. I booted into my Microsoft Windows Vista environment where my printer never locks up! And since my original files were in OpenOffice format I had to download and install OpenOffice 3.0 for my Windows environment or else, well there was no else, I am too cheap to pay for Microsoft Office. So I installed the app, opened my file, clicked print, and guess what the printer told me. "PAPER TOO SMALL."Oooh I was hot! But still, I was determined.

I opened my print settings and and suddenly realized how absent minded I was. Of course the paper was too small! The printer was set for a paper letter size! So I set out to change the paper size to the proper setting. Wouldn't you know it, I could not for the life of me figure out how to set up a custom paper size. I'm a frickin ' Computer Engineer for crying out loud! I could build a computer from integrated circuits (a pretty slow and basic one at that, but still) if I so chose to! So I searched thru what seemed like 100+ paper sizes and found one that was closest to my card. With mental fingers crossed, I opened the document, inserted the card in the printer, clicked print, selected the close-matching paper size and clicked print once again. The printer started. And finally, 5+ hours (accumulated time) after I started my Christmas card writing, I was printing text on the cards! The text still wasn't where I wanted it position-wise, but I was willing to accept that.

Now as if things couldn't get worse, they do. Usually I print addresses on sticky labels and then stick those on the envelopes. Can you tell? I REALLY despise writing things by hand. It is so inefficient.Anywho , I spent some time updating addresses and whatnot and got my template prepared for printing. Now my label template in done in Word on my laptop which I know will not fail me thanks to years of doing this. However, I had to get this right on the first print because I only had one sheet of labels left. If I screwed up, I was hand writing addresses or going to the store to buy new labels (even less efficient). So I set my my addresses up in an order of most efficiency and saved label space and clicked print. I watched the labels get sucked into the printer when suddenly I realized, I needed to print JUST page 4, not all of the pages! Suddenly the words, "Son of a . . . " came to mind with a mental image of me shooting myself in the head. I watched shamefully as the label page was tossed out of the printed filled with the incorrect addresses as expected. Then, glass-eyed I watched as the remaining 3 pages (that were not label paper) were tossed out with the final page having my addresses on them. Again I was defeated.

So once again I shamefully took my cards out when I got home that evening and started handwriting all the addresses on the envelopes. I joylessly stuffed the cards in their envelopes, licked the disgusting glue and piled them in the center of the table. It was my stack of shame. I failed my Christmas card efficiency process. But if only this was the end of my story.

Earlier today I was recapping this story in it's entirety to a colleague at work when suddenly, mid-story, I realized that in my frustration and disappointment when addressing my envelopes I completely and utterly forgot to sign the cards. But it was too late. The cards were in the mailbox with the flag up, over 40 miles away. Truly, shamefully, opprobriously a failed life moment. I could barely finish my story to my colleague I was so distraught and disgraced at this realization.

So to those of you who received a typed, unsigned Christmas card from me, I apologize. If you'd like, you can write "return to sender," on the envelope, place it back in the mail and I will sign it, put new postage on it and resend it. Or, if you'd prefer you can just sign it in my place. Again I truly apologize for this Christmas card catastrophe and hope that you won't hold it against me. For those of you that read this and didn't get a Christmas card from me, well consider yourself fortunate and have a merry Christmas anyway.


DMM said...

Merry Christmas, James.

Vikster said...


I LOVE the effort - I got mocked for sending out snailmail Christmas cards this year so it is nice to have someone else still on it!

And here's a suggestion for you: buy your Christmas cards between Christmas and New Years and you'll get them for half price. I picked mine out for next year. . .you'll have to wait to find out what they are. :)