Thursday, October 28, 2010

Q4 Lights N Decor, Halloween Sights N More

More and more, appearances by outdoor lights and decorations have been creeping backward and forward in the calendar in the 4th quarter. What formerly had been prominent displays only during the end of the year started showing up near Thanksgiving, staying around into the following year. This year, Halloween lights and decorations seem to have started as soon as early October.

In past years, simple paper-bag-shape lights lining driveways and walkways seem to have made way for Christmas lights, air-pumped lawn balloons, tree-hanger illuminators, and other lawn decorations. During the years that Christmas displays have become more elaborate, illuminating, and animated, Thanksgiving themes have been creeping in as if they were preludes to the BIG EVENT. Think inflatable pilgrim-outfitted turkeys.

In more recent years, Halloween decorations have gone on display since much of October. There are ghosts and ghouls, jack-o-lanterns, black cats, graveyard scenes, and more. Lights? Lots! A few years ago, they seemed to be primarily orange. Black is a common color for Halloween, but pretty impractical. This year, I've seen several houses that have multiple-color lights.

I think a possible trend could be lights and decorations that segue from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas. Well, maybe not all three events. You CAN have common items for Halloween and Thanksgiving using a harvest theme—pumpkins, orange lights, straw brooms, maybe more. Thanksgiving to Christmas might be less likely for common items. Hmmm, maybe make up an inflatable turkey wearing a red suit? (Yow!) I think that's a worthwhile marketing idea, maybe not too far-fetched! In any case, multicolor lights can make it through all three holidays, starting in early October through a few weeks in January.

Technologically, I wonder how feasible it might be to make strings of lights that are programmable for color. I know there are already light strings that blink, flicker, and chase. If someone could come up with lights that are programmable for motion and color, the lights would be REALLY multifunctional. Maybe a three-color lights gadget (red/blue/green) in a string of many that can display any one color or combination? Maybe a chasing-lights rainbow display? Programmable lights for color could be useful even for Valentine's Day and Easter! Well, one possible obstacle might be the association of red lights to a different meaning ("red light district").

For decorations versatility, companies could come up with inflatable balloons of cutesy kids that wear velcro-fastener outfits of holiday-theme clothing. How about witchy or batty for Halloween, pilgrimy for Thanksgiving, Santa Clausy for Christmas, …. Further use of my hypothetical kid balloons could include outfits with red hearts for Valentine's Day. For Easter, they could wear springy outfits (maybe including duck-bill hats and rabbit-ear headgear) and hold Easter egg baskets.

It might only be a matter of time before marketeers successfully induce mass use of outdoor decorations for Valentine's Day and Easter. They are very good at getting people to prep for those days, seducing us to buy holiday main-course food, desserts, and candy. Speaking of which, we sure don't need to wait for THOSE events to start in on the consumables. There's a lot going on this quarter!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

DIY Bizcards and Name Tag

Attending meetups and attaching sticky-back name tags that you print or write your name on? Attending meetups and NOT having any name tags at all? Prepare for the next event by making your own tag and also having your own DIY business cards. Visit https://www.box.net/shared/usayfv8pv4, download my Word file, and modify it using instructions farther down in this article.

When I attended a networking meetup about a week ago, I received compliments about my name tag as I introduced myself. The tag was black on white, business-card size, double-side-tape attached to a paper trade-show card—all tucked into a clear, trade-show badge. I explained that I had attended so many networking events that I made up my own name tag.

As a writer, I considered the appearance of my tag to be an opportunity to display typography know-how. The tag displays my name and occupation, readable for type size and type face. Furthermore, I inserted Webdings that I felt symbolized my occupation—computer, sheet of paper, open book, stack of books, world globe, spider, and spider web. For subtle grouping, I enclosed a dotted rectangle around the globe, spider, and web.

The name tag is one of 10 cells that fit on a 2 x 5 grid, suitable for printing onto perforated card stock, commonly available at office supply stores. (Do a Google Image search for "perforated business card paper" to see packaging.) My process represents an alternative to getting business cards from Vistaprint and similar companies. And you also get a name tag as a bonus. With the Word file I have made available at https://www.box.net/shared/usayfv8pv4, anyone can use it to create their own business cards and name tag.

Instructions

  1. Download the file and save it to your drive.
  2. Edit each line of one business card cell to suit yourself. Save the file.
  3. Select and copy that cell's information to your clipboard.
  4. Paste the information onto one of the business card cells to see if the pasting looks good.
    • If the pasting is good, continue to paste the information onto the other eight business card cells.
    • If the pasting is not good, undo the paste. You might need to copy/paste special, line by line.
  5. Modify the name tag cell as you wish. Save the file.
  6. Print a test copy of the file onto plain paper. (Don't worry about the paragraph markers, non-printing symbols, and borders printing. They won't.)
  7. Overlay the paper over a perforated card stock sheet, checking that the information aligns and also that each cell's information is well within its borders.
  8. Adjust information alignment and looks as necessary.
  9. Print the file onto a sheet of the perforated business card stock.

Suggestion: Save the file under a slightly different name. Copy a business-card cell, replace the name tag cell, and save the file so you have a file with only business cards.

For those who want to consider name tags that attract more attention than static ones, get one that scrolls. In my article—"Inventions Running Around the Blockhead"—I mention scrolling name tags (accompanied by URLs) and someone who has created her own to wear at events.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

PDF2W--Converting PDF to Word-recognizable Format

You have a PDF file that you would like to convert to .doc or .rtf and you don't have access to an Adobe Acrobat version that will. How to convert for cheap? Even better, how about for free? Try two free online converters—Free File Converter (.pdf to .doc) and PDF Online (.pdf to .rtf). I have tried both procedures using an experimental PDF file, listed results for both tools, and discussed the results.

Free File Converter

  1. Visit http://www.freefileconvert.com/.
  2. Click the Convert File tab.
  3. Browse to your input file, a pdf in this case.
  4. Select the output format, doc in this case.
  5. Click Convert. Wait as instructed.
  6. On the new screen, click the file link to open it.

In my own case, my converted .doc file opened as a read-only file and had hard breaks at every line instead of line wrap. It also showed weird lines (correlated to no-longer-functioning hyperlinks) across some of the text. Just as an experiment, I did a save-as to the desktop. I closed the newly saved-as file, then re-opened it to view the actual new results.

The doc file ended up with extra pages, far beyond my experimental doc file of two pages. My observations:

  • The converted PDF-to-doc file wound up as six pages:
    • 1st page totally blank
    • 2nd page with lines that had correlated to the hyperlinks and an image that had been on the first page
    • 3rd page with content from original 1st page with no-longer functioning hyperlinks
    • 4th page also totally blank
    • 5th page also totally blank, but with some weird anchoring
    • 6th page with content from the original 2nd page
  • The page header converted to regular text.
  • The font appearances and section breaks stayed.
  • Style names and table formatting didn't carry over.

Cautionary note about Free File Converter results: If your PDF file has anything besides line-breaking text, you can kiss everything else good-bye—line wraps, headers (and presumably footers), tables, selectable images, styles. If you care to apply the PROPER techniques to obtain the looks (not just settle for the looks), you can be looking at all sorts of formatting and adjusting.

PDF Online

  • Visit http://www.pdfonline.com/pdf2word/index.asp.
  • Click Browse, then browse to your input file, a pdf in this case.
  • Click Upload and Convert. Wait as instructed.
  • Click the right-click here link to download the zip file.
  • In the dialog box, save the zip file to your drive. Extract (uncompress) it. View it.

My observations:

  • My PDF converted to rtf.
  • Almost all my content turned into tables with extra columns.
  • Hyperlinks no longer worked.
  • Image was no longer selectable at all.
  • The page header converted to regular text.
  • The font appearances stayed.
  • Style names, table formatting, and section breaks did not carry over.

Cautionary note about PDF Online results, which are similar to Free File Converter results: If your PDF file has anything besides line-breaking text, you can kiss everything else good-bye—line wraps, headers (and presumably footers), selectable images, styles. Table modifications could be a major issue. If you care to apply the PROPER techniques to obtain the looks (not just settle for the looks), you can be looking at all sorts of formatting and adjusting.

Using Free File Converter vs. PDF Online

The major contrast between these two converters is that PDF Online didn't add extra pages. If you want to convert for only looks, the PDF Online results file would probably be easier to work with than Free File Converter results file. You should try both free converters and decide which one to go with.

Free File Converter does all sorts of file conversions, including image formats. Now, here's my shameless plug where I cite Free File Converter and numerous other handy online tools—Tooling Around, at http://whilldtkwriter.blogspot.com/2010/05/tooling-round.html.

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