Thursday, December 25, 2014

X-mas Excuses

You haven't gotten your X-mas cards yet. Just in case you wanted to know why....

1: I retired. This doesn't mean I have found all kinds of time to be on task. It means I've been recovering from a regimented lifestyle, learning how to organize both waking and sleeping hours, adjusting my self-esteem to my new status, figuring out how the new budget works. It's a process.

2: I moved. There are still stacks of boxes all over, not quire matching stacks of spaces to unpack them into, and seldom matching their labels to enable items to be organized as wished. Or for that matter, found.

3: The plumbing needs major repairs. I think we can afford it in about two years. How this affects getting the cards out, I haven't quite decided, but, hey, it's an excuse.

4: The traditional card always involves selecting one or more pictures. Steve and I have known for nearly two years what that picture would be. It's been shot three times now. We spent hours looking for wherever the image has been stored, unsuccessfully. This required a last-minute trip into the desert with a functional, charged, and accessible camera to take the last shot, in proper lighting.

5: The traditional card also needs an appropriate text to match the selected picture. Back in the olden days, there were picture cards which offered one the choice of doing your own text. Those are no longer available. Thus it took a long while to figure out how to get the text onto the card anyway. Collage photo cards are now available, so a picture of text could be added. How convoluted is that?

6: Once decided, there was a learning curve. It involved figuring out how to get a large colorful font onto a computer screen, something I've never done. I'm still not sure just how I did, so I expect to go through this again next year. Be warned.

7: The text had to be located centrally enough so that the text margin lines could be eliminated, and large enough that an economy camera could close in sufficiently to shoot within those lines and still maintain reasonably sharp focus, otherwise known as having a decent focal length. Close ups are not generally the forte of economy cameras. Many shots were taken.

8.  Once satisfactory pictures were available, they needed to be loaded into my laptop. Unfortunately, my laptop often forgets just exactly how this is supposed to be accomplished. It has fought me on this procedure for months. First it required a source media whose own harddrive has not crashed. Imagine being so picky! Then it needed specific hardware to connect the source to the laptop, and a specific order of connecting, starting up the photo software, labeling the file, etc., etc. Once inputted, the files were carefully and I'm sure gleefully hidden away from view.

9. Additional hardware needed to be located in order to export the finally located and chosen pictures in order to take them to the store for printing. While I was still working and in Minnesota, one of my key rings (I always had two, one per pants pocket, so I'd never get locked out of my car. Again.) carried a thumb drive. It was very decorative. Also never actually used. But it could have been. Those two key rings are now split not between my pants pockets but between Steve and myself. Minnesota keys have been removed. Somewhere in that process said thumb drive has disappeared. Thus the search began for a disc to carry the needed information. There seem to be an amazing number of unpacked boxes scattered throughout the house labeled "computer stuff" which do not, in fact, contain anything resembling a printable CD or DVD. Additionally, every single one of said boxes seems to be stored under a stack of boxes labeled "heavy books". As I know I have dozens of disks somewhere, I was not in any mood to do some additional shopping.

10: Once located and loaded into my laptop, my laptop again demonstrated its memory issues and dogged stubbornness. It refused to let jpg files be loaded for burning. I had to call Paul away from his carpentry project - the one where we have high hopes that the new supply of shelving on two walls will finally enable us to empty boxes and thus sort and locate all sorts of missing items - so he could talk some sense into my computer and smooth the way for task completion. It seems the file needs to be transferred first to the desktop, then given a new name which changes the notation under the thumbnail from dark blue to light blue to white, after which completion of said process enables the jpg file to be dragged kicking and screaming onto the disk for burning. Since I wasn't exactly sure which pictures would be cropped how at the store, several options of each were loaded. Thus, repeat the process for each. The actual frustrating part of all this is I'm sure my computer will balk at doing this next year as well.

11: A printing source needed to be located. I started online. Target and WalMart are good starting points. With a firm idea in mind of the final result, I shopped thorough pages of choices offering both two and three picture spots, one of larger size than the other/s. Since the whole point of the card was inclusion of the entire holiday season and inclusion of people not particularly religious or even Christian, I tried to stay away from those cards that only recognized X-mas. Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays were the top choices. It turns out that combination of layout and messaging is rare. So rare it's nonexistant at Target and offers two choices at WalMart. At least I now knew where I was going shopping. Physically shopping, that is. I won't even begin to explain the issues with trying to do cards online, not to mention additional delays with waiting for delivery.

12: One can only go to the photo department at the store during certain times of the day. Not because they're only open for limited hours, though that's true. But because the store is a huge box store with a supply of electric scooter shopping carts that never quite matches demand and which never quite manage to get recharged during most of the day. One learns: never after 10 AM, never after school, never after work, never on Saturday, never on Friday paydays, never on month end paydays, never on days when SS checks go out, and never never ever during the Thanksgiving or X-mas holiday shopping rushes. Good luck.

13. Once the photo area is located, in this case hidden and barricaded inside the entire electronics section back in its corner, there is a wait in line for access to the machines to set up your order. Often this requires waiting for two adjacent machines to open as the scooter must be parked sideways to the machines. It is impossible for someone with normal length arms to reach to the end of the basket, nevermind past it in order to use the touch screen. I have found that even with a row end machine open, the many children of the person using the next machine spill over into the space I need to use, making it inaccessible.

14. Every year, the process of using the machine has changed. Options are different, searches are different, even changing from upper case to lower case text has changed. I spent a full minute trying to convince the machine that I didn't really want the Grinch card it thought I selected, finally cancelling the whole process and starting over. I spent 5 more looking for either of the choices I'd selected online, finally resigned to the reality that in-store used a whole separate data base than online offered and I had to start the search over. Eventually there was an option I could settle for. Printing would be finished in... oh hey, just 9 minutes! Cool. Then I had to go to the counter to pay and get my envelopes. The whole time I had been in the photo department there had been not a single staff person behind that counter. Not one. Nowhere.

15. Some of you have died. That's a problem in sending out cards. (We are, of course, upset about that for other reasons as well.) I don't know for sure just who to stop sending cards to, or whose name to leave off the card. I've been out of touch. Then again, so have you. When you move, I don't even know I need a new address, much less what it might be. I ordered extra cards to replace the ones that get returned, assuming there is still somebody to send something to. It takes time just to figure out as well as possible just how goofed up the card list really is. At this point, actual Christmas Day, I'm still at that point in the process. Plus there is a meal or three to prepare. And once I do...

16. I still have to figure out where the local post office is. I haven't needed to yet because everything gets dropped off and picked up at the house. I came down here with what was a good supply of stamps. Until card season, that is. Maybe I'll catch the carrier when he delivers tomorrow and ask him. Unless I'm in the bathroom or something.

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