The Recurring Full Moon Phenomena

March 3, 2010

The stuff that dogs howl about

It’s been a while. I’ve been out of sorts with nothing good to say, so I’ve ignored the blog altogether. After a couple of good months at the end of 2009, Poor Richard fell back into panic mode as business disintegrated at the printshop behind the red awnings on Poplar Street. January 2010 was bleak. I had just begun a serious study of biblical eschatology when the last day of February rolled around and all of our customers woke up at the same time.

I’m thinking it’s the moon. I’ve written about this before (see Poor Richard’s post The Full Moon). Last time, I discussed the deleterious effects of  minute changes in the force of gravity on machines and those who operate them. This time, I’d like to consider the tidal effect on the minds of the folks who visit our Gralpharaphics “business center.” (The franchise, who shall nevermore be named in this blog, became disenchanted with printshops a year or two ago and decided that we would henceforth become “business centers.”)

The moon was full on February 28th and the orders came rolling in. All of the work that our customers had decided they didn’t need in January and the first 27 days of February, they now needed immediately on March 1st.  It’s not that the tight deadlines are all that unusual, but there were small oddities about several of the orders. Just for entertainment, Poor Richard is pleased to provide you with a few snippets from the past couple of days:

“I gave you my business card as a .jpg. What do you mean you can’t blow it up into a 24 x 36 poster?”

“My last printer closed down. I had been doing this business with him for a while and he wasn’t charging me much. I was hoping that you’d be less expensive.”

“No, the order for 10,000 rack cards went to another shop; but we need you to donate 1,000 posters. Is that a problem?”

“All of their salespeople quit. They decided not to do the mailout because there wouldn’t be anyone to respond to the leads.”

It’s not quite the Twilight Zone, but things are a little bizarre. I answered the phone at lunchtime on Friday. “Do you do raffle tickets?” queried the voice on the line.

“Yes, ma’am, we’ve been known to,” I responded.

“Well, how much do they cost?” said the voice. Even with the sure knowledge that I could not be seen through the telephone, Poor Richard made a conscious effort not to roll my eyes and began to launch into his memorized series of questions regarding quantity, size, paper, numbering, perforations, etc.; only to be interrupted in mid sentence:

“My baby’s in a pageant, and I just need some raffle tickets.”

What kind of person raffles off their baby in a pageant?

We delivered 5000 sets of a stapled document to a customer on Friday – 4 sheets, 2 sides, stapled. This morning they called and said that they had counted the order and were 25 sets short. Poor Richard found it peculiar that anyone would actually take the time to count 5000 sets of copies and also a little dubious that they were short. The job is simple and familiar. We send the file to the big black and white machine manufactured by the nearly palindromatic company that begins and ends with X. The quantity is specified in the print job. The machine prints and staples, the documents are boxed and delivered. The machine log indicates that 5005 copies were produced. Poor Richard is certain that the missing 30 copies were transported into a parallel universe.

About the poster sized business card . . .  we printed it. When we explained that it would not print clearly at 24 x 36, we were instructed to repeat it as many times as possible on a 24 x 36 board. We printed it 90 times with a pretty blue background on a nice piece of foamcore for the customer to put on an easel.

It may be the full moon, or  perhaps terrorists have injected hallucinogenic drugs into the water supply in Macon. Poor Richard isn’t sure, but he’s happy to be busy even if the orders are a little odd.

Isn’t life grand?

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The Full Moon

December 7, 2006

Gravity is always bringing me down.

The full moon has an effect on tides, people and machinery! It’s really hard to explain, but things sometimes go badly awry around the printshop as the moon becomes full.

We had two critical projects going into last week. The first was a challenging, but not unusual trifold brochure for one of our best customers. Heavy ink coverage, process color with some color critical builds on a cover stock; it should have turned in two days. The second was a run of 7500 booklets, color cover plus 16 text pages. This one should have taken 3 days in press, plus a couple of days in bindery and another one to mail. That’s what should have been.

But that was before the change in the force of gravity. The full moon doesn’t negate all of Newton’s formulas, it only offsets them a wee, wee bit. Enough to make Rickie, the pressman, decide that he’d work on Thursday morning despite a 102 degree fever. Enough to kill a Xerox color machine. Enough to combine with high humidity and turn our smoothly performing Hamada 452 press into a paper shredder. And just enough to make AlphaGraphics look really bad to a couple of good customers.

I’ve written before about machinery problems. Before I became a printer, I thought that this was just Item #1 in the standard list of printers’ excuses. It’s not. Printing machinery is precisely tuned. When it gets out of tune, the printing becomes . . . imprecise. We don’t do imprecise. Add into that equation a human being with a fever who wants to battle the machinery into submission and the result can be disastrous. What started last Tuesday as a small scratch, stripe, and redo on Project #1 above, ended up with ink problems on Project #2, two days down time and a visit from Bob the Press Magician.

It’s expensive to call in Bob the Press Magician, but it’s even more expensive not to call him in. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to write about Bob. He’s one of the more amazing characters I’ve ever encountered. Bob’s over 50 now, but has retained the energy of a 3 year old on a chocolate high. I am entirely convinced that there is nothing that Bob cannot fix. His sense of machinery is uncanny. He helped me fix a press once by listening to it over the telephone. He’s that good.

Bob came in with his brother Steve. Steve’s just moved in from the West Coast to join his brother’s service company. The two are not really alike in appearance or personality. Bob talks incessantly. Steve eats incessantly. The common heritage seems entirely accidental; they could easily be brothers born of different mothers and fathers. I think Steve’s going to be a real asset, though. If Bob the Press Magician understands the mind of the machine, brother Steve relates to the zen of the monster.

We’ve enjoyed a long run without a major breakdown. This one made up for it. Two days ruined printing plus two days down. It took the Magician and the Zen Master 12 hours to track down all of the problems and fix them. We were back up and running this morning, but basically 4 days behind.

We’ve been in communication with the customers. Customer #1 (the color piece) is OK. She would have liked the trifold last week, but they’re still on schedule. Projects for Customer #2 are always on a tight timetable. The due date is usually the day before we get the order. We had set a tentative timetable with them last week when the problems looked minor (and recoverable). Then we discovered a problem on one of the sheets that had already been printed. We talked again on Friday, when we thought we’d be up and running on Monday. The project finally came off press today. It should have gone into the mail today. We talked again this morning. They’re not happy with us.

I wish I really could blame it all on the full moon. Maybe we could just take a couple of days off each month or something. Unfortunately, printing problems are far more unpredictable than the phases of the moon. We try our best. We do our best. We pray a lot. Maybe we’ll take a cue from the Zen Master and talk to the machines.

“Shall we print something now, grasshopper?”


Defying Gravity

September 9, 2006

It’s been one of those weeks in Macon, Ga. I’m not sure if it’s the phase of the moon (it’s full today) or if the force of gravity is just a little stronger than usual, but our customers are behaving a little strangely. To put it simply . . . they’re disoriented.

It all started on Tuesday with a proof response from a customer who claimed that her proof for envelopes had been sent to her upside down. She was able to read it and give an OK, but she wondered if her envelopes would also arrive upside down. We naturally assured her that all of the envelopes we printed are fully rotatable and that even in the odd event that they did arrive upside down, she would be able to make the necessary adjustments herself.

Then there was the question of the postcards. If the front of the card is oriented vertically and the back horizontally, should the left hand side of the back align with the head or the foot of the front. I submit that if you’re right handed, the alignment should be with the head and if you’re left handed the left side should align with the foot. So then it’s much easier . . . a simple question of whether left handed or right handed postcards are desired. Our customer is still trying to figure this one out.

Finally, there was the order for direction signs. There wasn’t much to them, just a large arrow on a piece of laminated 11 x 17 cover. Our customer was very specific. She needed six of them. 3 were to point to the East and the remaining three to the West. The arrows looked like this:

arrows.jpg

When the signs were delivered, our customer was satisfied with the quality, but called to state that she couldn’t tell the difference between the arrows that were to point to the East and those that were to point to the West. We apologized and told her that we had sent North and South arrows by mistake.

Disclaimer: Names have not been mentioned to avoid embarrassing the innocent. Stories have been embellished, but only very slightly. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.