The Printing Press

My goodness, what a day!

Last night I put the finishing touches on the FOLK newsletter, and went to bed knowing all I had to do was get up, print, fold, and tab the sucker, and drive it in to the post office in Houghton, and I would be done with one more project. Easy as pie. Mmmm pie.

This morning start like so many others. I let Franko out of his kennel, and like usual he came out to greet me, and couldn’t put any weight on his front right foot! He got quilled several days ago, and we removed a couple of quills from one of his feet. His recovery from that mishap was remarkable until this morning. When he did walk it was with a heavy limp. It we tried to touch his front right foot, he growled. Shoot.

After we got Alice off to work, I started the printing process. The newsletter is double sided on 8 1/2 x 11″ paper. My printer is an old HP 4SI MX. This is the same kind of printer I used in the student computer labs I ran 15 years ago. I bought it surplus from MTU probably 8 years ago, and have used it heavily since then. It has a duplexer, which means I can print both sides of a page on one pass. That is if things work properly. Much of the time, the paper flies through the printer without a hiccup. Sometimes there is a hiccup or two. Sometimes, the printing process is like pulling teeth with a rusty pair of pliers.

I have about 280 pieces to print, and I started the project off in grand style. The printer is in the basement, so I leave the door to the basement open and listen fondly to the printer clicking away down there. Over the years I’ve learned what to listen for. And for the first 75 pages or so, the sounds were joyous. Then disaster struck. I could not get another single page to print. Every one I tried jammed. And I tried a lot of them. While this was going on, I was upstairs folding, stuffing, and tabbing the letters already printed. As soon as the vet clinic opened, I called them and begged them to see us today. They said sure come in at 10:00. We processed newsletters, while trying many different things to get more to print until about 9:15, when we loaded up and headed in to town. I brought along a package I had to drop off at the UPS store, so we left a bit early. When we got there, the sign on the door said they opened at 10:00. Sigh.

When we got to the vet, we were welcomed like usual. All the ladies at the vet clinic love Franko and he laps up all their attention. Today, he wasn’t himself, though. We got in to see the doctor and he poked and prodded, and said he thought the foot was acting like it had a fractured bone. So Franko went in for an x-ray. The picture indicated to the doc the possibility of a fracture, so he prescribed a pain med and an antibiotic. We stopped at Wal-mart on the way home to pick up some canned dog food to use as a meatball to deliver the medicine.

When we got home I got Franko to take his medicine, and went back to work on the newsletter. I found an option where I could print just the odd numbered pages, so did that and got every page 1 of the letter. Then I told the printer to print just page 2 of the document and use the manual feed. I did this because all the page ones came out upside down, and in order to get it printed correctly, I would have had to flip every page over. That was doable, but even then, with the pages curled, there would have been jams, so I decided to just do them a page at a time.

This went ok until I goofed up and fed some in upside down. Then I had to redo the ones I goofed up, figure out where I was in the process, and restart the whole thing. Each side of the newsletter has the member’s name and address information on it somewhere, so I can’t just print any page 2 on the page ones. They had to match up. So every 6th page I fed in by hand, I spot checked and miraculously, they all matched.

Once they were all printed, I brought them upstairs and restarted the folding etc. process. I should also explain that each page had some toner splotches along the edges. The splotches did not obscure the print, but they were very obvious. By now it was getting on to late afternoon. I put some Fresh Airs on my ipod player and folded and folded. About the time I ran out of return envelopes, Alice came home from work. She walked her into the house, looked at the printed newsletters, and exclaimed, “boy are these ugly!” She was referring to the toner splotches along the edges of each page. While I couldn’t deny that the weren’t as perfect as I’d like them to have been, they looked beautiful to me laying there all printed, after all the work I’d done. My answer to her? “Yes, they sure are ugly.”

folding.jpgAfter Alice changed her clothes and came downstairs, I ran out of return envelopes, one of which gets stuffed into each folded newsletter. I print the return envelopes on another laser printer that is even older than the one that I print the newsletters on. I use that one because it has a reliable envelope feeder. Let me put a hypothetical question to you… Do you think the printing of the return envelopes went smoothly?

It didn’t. I struggled to get even one of them to print properly for about a half hour. When they did start to come out of the printer as they should, they pretty much did that until I ran out of envelopes. This printer is attached to a computer that is upstairs, so I had to keep running up and down to deliver envelopes to the stuffing station, and to add more envelopes to the machine, and fix the normal jams.

With Alice’s professional help (she has helped me with nearly every newsletter I’ve ever printed) we got the folding done, and now all that is left is to take the tray to the post office, give them a check, and let them work their magic. I’d go and do it myself, but tomorrow is our chimney cleaning day with the fire department, so I’ll have to do that while Alice runs them into town for me. I nominate Alice for the Nobel prize in sweetiehood.

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