If you don't want to read my technical tirade against Microsoft products just scroll down to the bottom and download the PDF files.

The Adventure

This Christmas card was an adventure.

The original idea for the ballot started in the days after the election when a rather unique block of voters in Palm Beach claimed they were confused by the butterfly ballot that only 1% of children had problems understanding.

The cover was originally going to be just an elephant dressed like Santa in a wintery setting. However, after observing weeks of Sore/Loserman minions engaging in legal gyrations and ballot tampering in a futile attempt to rob the American people of their election I was inspired to incorporate chads and ballots.

I wanted to do something in color, but due to the numerous technical problems there wasn't time. Maybe next year.

Desktop Publishing! Desktop Publishing! My kingdom for Desktop Publishing!

I had been doing Desktop Publishing (DTP) on computers back when they were still carving computers out of stone and disk drives took up as much space as a car. Ok, slightly overdone -- I've been doing Desktop Publishing on computers since at least 1989.

My PC is loaded with all kinds of graphics toys. So, I figure doing the ballot would be a piece of cake. After spending fruitless hours with all of the software I have on the PC and then buying more I had managed to make one square box.

Scouring Best Buy and CompUSA revealed no workable solution. There's DTP for making boilerplate brochures, DTP for canned birthday cards, DTP for rummage sales signs; essentially, nobody sells real DTP software anymore, they only deal in DTP for Dummies. Apparently, everyone using computers today is now too stupid to use real DTP software.

So, I returned to my roots and looked up Pagestream by Softlogik which I had orginally used on the Amiga, a 15 year old computer that was technically obsolete about 5 years ago. Softlogik is still in business, and they still make Amiga software, and they've ported PageStream to Windoze. COOL! So, I upgraded my Amiga version and bought the new Win version.

Ahhhh. Life was wonderful again. I whipped out the first version of the ballot in a few hours.

Then I tried to print it. Did I tell you Windows stinks? It does. Badly.

I have a LaserJet 4 with 24M RAM and Postscript. It is beyond probability that a single page could contain anything too complicated for this printer to handle.

Well, it turns out that when the ballot page prints Windows churns out a 1.5M print job that takes almost 10 minutes to send to the printer and be processed by the print engine -- Just for one stinkin' page?! Just for some lines and text?!?

Just for giggles I loaded the same page into the Amiga and generated the postscript job on that computer which came out to a mere 67K, only about 5% of the size of the Windoze version and it prints in no time.

Did I tell you Windows stinks? It does. Badly.

Next I had Windows generate the page just for a LaserJet 4 without Postscript. The printer received about 1/8 page of data (in 15 minutes) and then complained about a buffer being full and spit out the 1/8th page.

Did I tell you Windows stinks? It does. Badly.

Next I tried a trick that used to work for Win95/98 to speed up printing to a local printer -- print to a file, then use DOS to copy the file to LPT1. What works for Win95, doesn't seem to work for WinME anymore. The DOS window crashes.

Did I tell you Windows stinks? It does. Badly.

So that everyone else can download and print it as needed, I saved the Christmas card pages as PDF files. They are much smaller than the print jobs, and they load and print almost instantly. However, they lost most of the fun fonts that aren't Arial/Helvetica, and the bold text attribute has disappeared.

How Much Is That Elephant In The Window?

Next came the dilema of finding some bit of artwork that says Republican and Christmas at the same time.

I had originally asked a friend who is a graphic artist if she knew anyone who could do a line art cartoon of an elephant. Due to a small problem with communication the request languished until it was too late, because she was under the impression that I didn't want to pay for the work. (I made a joke about starving artists. Bad idea.)

So, I started the work myself and discovered that Ken (copyright 1966) is a product incompatible with graphics tablets and most freehand graphics software. My several attempts at making cartoon elephants looked like the results of unethical bioengineering experiments.

Next I tried to find license-free clip art in books. I spent a few days crawling all over Barnes and Noble, and Borders looking for the books of clip art for scanning. I found the perfect book -- Animal Caricatures -- in the entire book was only one picture of an elephant presented in a way that would have been great if I was working on a birthday card.

So, I continuted the hunt and finally found (bought) more computer clip art that came closer to what I wanted -- a circus elephant standing on a ball. In order to guarantee the highest quality possible when printing I needed the elephant as a structured graphic and not the original TIFF file. I worked with PageStream for days to hand trace the elephant picture with structured drawing tools.

It didn't take too much to make a snow (rather, chad) board instead of the ball. I also managed to draw a Santa hat on the elephant without it looking too hideous. Next I added chads and ballots flung about by the chadboard and I was finally done!

When I printed the cover page with the elephant illustration Windows generated a Postscript print job that was 4.6 Megabytes and took almost 20 minutes to print.

Did I tell you Windows stinks? It does. Badly.

The Amiga's print job for the same page is only about 136K. Windows is supposed to be modern and the Amiga obsolete, right? Why do I get the impression this is somehow reversed?

Lessons Learned

  • Did I tell you Windows stinks? It does. Badly.
  • Start working on do-it-yourself Christmas cards in April, not November.
  • If you need to do anything that involves printing avoid doing it with Windows.
  • Don't make jokes about starving artists. (At least not in front of an artist.)
  • Sometimes the best computer for the job is something everyone else thinks was last year's garbage five years ago.
  • I remember now that I got into 3D graphics years ago, because I can't draw a straight line to save my life.

The PDF Files

Since I didn't have time to do color this time, have your kids color in the Chadboarder picture and send it to me and and I'll post the pictures on the website. I may even pick one to use on next year's Christmas cards, but no promises.

PD. POL. ADV. Paid for by Ken Jennings (R) Campaign. Approved by Ken Jennings.