Thursday, August 19, 2010

Of Kids and Star Wars and Noah's Ark

DOTH (Daughter Of The House) and I had the great privilege recently of babysitting for SOOTH (Son Out Of The House)

I mean it when I said it was a privilege. We have a family that seems to be getting larger by the minute and we enjoy them all.

They've just moved into a new house, so knowing that their computers are the 'main' toy, and that other toys were probably not unpacked yet -- and we don't allow hours on the computer when we are around -- we stopped off at a garage sale on the way and picked up Scategories and a couple of other games.

There was something we had to get used to first, though; some unexpected new additions to our family...

Something from Stars Wars, I think... Yoda? 

No, it's Reginald.
Well, there are two of them and I can never get the names straight, but I think this one is Reginald.
I'll show you Frederick in a minute - he doesn't show his face in the daytime.
They are called Sphynx cats.

So, there I am, working on my lap top, and Reginald jumps onto my lap. I am allergic to cats,
but, the good news is -- no fur, no dandruff. No dandruff, no sneezing, asthma or watery eyes.

The bad news is -- what do you stroke, when they are sitting on your lap...
...looking longingly into your eyes? No fur!

But he liked it!  You should have heard those purrs (louder, since they are not muffled by fur).
He could well have settled in for the day, but - sorry - I had work to do. He was quite miffed to be sent


...decided to go fly-catching instead.

"Why won't that dang fly stay still...?"

"...he's just too quick for me."

Meanwhile, sleeping in late, upstairs..

DOTH and Frederick

Do not tell DOTH I posted this picture...I will be homeless - may have to go and live with SOOTH and family, and Frederick and Reginald. You should try putting your feet on a cold, clammy, furless Sphynx in the middle of the night -- well, maybe some of you do have an equivalent.

On a lighter note, when Frederick finally forced  her out of bed, DOTH had great fun with GOTH (girl of the house).

They gathered all GOTH's stuffed animals and headed down to the pool

Played teacher for a while. Wonder which language they spoke - moo, baa, woof, gribbit...?
Perhaps it was an ESL class.

Then they all lined up for the ark:

I think even God might have been bit confused by this two-by-two configuration.

Some were coming, some were going, none of them were matched mates.
No wonder Noah was driven to drink.

Warm enough now for a dip in the pool...

...the turtle looks a little miffed about missing the ark - but maybe it was all for the best.

Still, he's not looking too happy about that water gun being primed for use, either.

Well, time to move to safer waters...

We had lots of fun with Scategories, and then it was time for the talent show.

This is DOTH's "escalator trick"

Unfortunately, no more to show you --

it all went downhill from there...|_

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Journey of a Book

So, here is the journey my book will take, once it arrives at Friesens in Manitoba:

First, of course, it will need paper:

It's this fellow's job to make sure there is plenty on hand:

Next the paper needs to be cut to the appropriate size
(my pages will be 11x8.5)

The paper is fed into this machine and measurements are fed into the computer - the cutting is automatic - just a press of a button (I'd be scared I would input the measurements incorrectly; what a waste of paper that would be!)

This operator has an easy job, although you wouldn't think so. After the sheets are cut, because it is resting on air (just like a hovercraft), all he has to do is just give the stack a little push and it gently floats in any direction.

This next part is not so easy to explain, but I will give it my best lay-person's language:

Somewhere in here :) is the final copy of the book, already typeset by computer. Each of these modules contains a different colour ink, and as the paper travels through each, it picks up the text/photo designated for that particular colour and prints it.

The yellow, red and blue inking modules

Filling the inking barrels

To make a long story short... comes out here!

Ok, so some of you are thinking about the environment --and saying, "let's hear it for the ipad!" when you see all this paper.
I may be old-fashioned, but I can't see me ever being happy curled up on the couch reading on an ipad.
Give me a book, any day.

Well, the next step is to fold all those huge papers (usually around 16 pages on each one, carefully positioned for folding so that they are in the correct order in the book)

So far, so good!

The pages are folded into 'signatures' -- a set number of pages in each.

If you pick up a book right now, and look at the top of the spine, you will see the signatures

Next comes the cover...

This, of course, is a hard cover -- with white 'end pages'

Lovely gold embossing for the title.

This young man is doing something special to the cover

that will give it this kind of beautiful raised, 3-D effect
(no, mine won't have all these fancy things!)

By now it was time for a bit of a rest. Although it's hard to show, this printing facility covers, what seems anyway, miles -- lots of walking!

That's a lotta paper!

It was great to see that they are so dilligent about recycling. They gave us statistics, but unfortunately I didn't keep track.

Can't show you the finished product yet, of course, not due out until April 1st --
but won't it be awesome when the cover graces this wall, along with the rest of Friesens' masterpieces!

Can't wait!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What Will They Do To My Book?! (Part One)

Last time, I told you a bit about Winnipeg, and our visit to a Mennonite Village in Altona, Manitoba.

This time I want to 'show and tell' about the real reason DOTH and I were in Altona. As some of you know, I am in the throes of compiling a history book about a seniors' facility that is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011. It sounds like a boring project, but in reality it has been a fascinating project. Shepherd Lodge was a pioneer in seniors' homes, back in the early '60s, in Toronto. Prior to that, about the only care available was in government-run homes, which were apparently quite undesirable.

I was offered the expense-paid opportunity to visit the printing plant of the company who will print the book, Friesens Corp. of Manitoba. The trip was especially designed as a relationship-building venture. Friesens had come highly recommended to us, so I was excited to be able to see, up front, the service we would receive. DOTH came along with me (caring for her own expenses of course) because, as I explained last time, we have traveled so little in Canada - this was a good opportunity to visit a province we have never seen before.

The red carpet was truly laid out for us. We were picked up at our hotel in Winnipeg at 7:30am the morning after our arrival by an employee who lives in the downtown vicinity. It was about a 1.5 hour drive to Altona. Manitoba is SO flat!  The scenery was quite uninteresting, except for the birds. We would loved to have lingered with a pair of binoculars, but this was a business trip!

When we arrived, we met our host, Tim Friesen (not related to the company except as an employee -- there are lots of Friesens, Hieberts etc in Manitoba). As we walked through the front door, there was a sign at the reception desk personally welcoming us, which was rather nice. I am not going to go into all the details of our visit, as there was just so much that took place, but will let the following photos tell some of the story:

Not too far from the Friesens plant is this huge representation of Van Gogh's "Sunflowers."  Here is how the Altona website describes it:

"No stop in Altona would be complete without viewing the town's own contribution to the Guinness Book of World Records! Dubbed the Largest Painting on an Easel, the giant replica of Vincent Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' will simply take your breath away!

In 1998, local artist and school teacher, Cameron Cross had a vision: He would create a landmark that would combine Altona's reputation as the Sunflower Capital of Canada with it's deep artistic roots. With assistance from the Altona and District Chamber of Commerce, this vision was realized. How was this accomplished?

First, a 76'6'' high, 27,000 lb, three-legged easel was engineered and constructed. Then, 24 sheets of 3/4'' plywood were laminated together to form the "canvas". Top this off with talent, combined with 17 gallons of paint, and the vision is complete! Originally located north of the Altona Park, the painting was moved to is new location on 10th avenue in the north east corner of town in 2006. This wonder must be seen to be believed!"

Inside Friesens, near the entrance, they have a fascinating 'musuem' of interesting items, including ancient printing technology:

Old Computer

Old Printing Press (with an even older, and exhausted, operator!)
and the old guillotine, for slicing paper
(wait till you see the new one and how many pages it can cut at one time!).
Many of you will recognize this most favourite of children's books, printed by Friesens, and which has sold over 5 million copies! It is one of my favourite children's books.
Friesens has a tradition whereby, after they have printed one million copies of a book,

They have a full-size quilt made of the book cover, and hang it in a place of honour in the area of the administrative offices of the plant...lovely!

This is a library in which you can find one copy of all the books printed thus far in the year - so this contains the books printed from January to July 2010.

Here is Tim, in the library, explaining some aspect of the printing process to DOTH.

Along one hallway is this beautiful quilt of a Manitoba countryside scene.
(For quilt-lovers, here is a link to some photos Manitoba Quilt creations)

Another quilt of a million-copy seller: "Company's Coming" - a series of very popular cookbooks found at least throughout Canada, and maybe beyond, usually to be found in supermarkets.

A hallway covered with the covers of all the books printed in the current year. Imagine the pride of the plant workers, as they travel up and down these halls, seeing the results of their efforts.

A hallway filled with the awards Friesens has won over the last few years.

Finally, a library containing all the school year-books alone, that Friesens has printed in this current year (for those outside of North America, you may not know that a year-book is usually a student produced manual covering the school year, filled with photos of students and faculty, art-work, poems, stories etc -- a great memento of the school year)

Next I will show you a little of the actual printing plant and the process. We were shown the process, step by step, and it is nothing short of fascinating!