Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

Friday night I got a phone call from the director of "Titanic, the Musical" offering me a part, or parts, including a solo. A small solo - just a couple lines, in German. Because on the audition paperwork I said I could muddle through German. So I get to play both a first- or second-class German passenger, and a third-class one, too. But really its a chorus part, and I'm good with that.

Except for questioning my sanity, because rehearsals are (up to?) four nights per week, and between now and the performance dates we have Anime Midwest and creation of the MuseCon program book. Wheeee!  

That isn't going to leave a lot of time in the evenings for working on things for Anime Midwest. Fortunately, we're still pretty well off for stock - the advantage of having lots of things is that you sell lots of things, so except for tails nothing really looks too depleated, at least to the casual shopper. Xap did suggest that I'd have down-time during rehearsals to work on things, though.

An Grumpy Aside Regarding Teslacon

Getting a bit annoyed with Teslacon, and starting to question the wisdom of doing it. Teslacon vendor applications were due by May 1, vendors were supposed to be notified by the 15th, and then payment would be due by the 30th. On May 7th, there was a Facebook post stating that almost all the vendors had been selected, and trying to get "more space without adding a room".

In response to Facebook questions about notifying vendors, on the 20th the main Teslacon organizer responded, including the "relax" and "hang on" comments that annoyed me earlier, as well as "I am trying to fit everyone in". On the 23rd, somebody asked him not to do two vendor rooms, as seems to have been done last year. The response (same day) to that was that women's finery will be in one room, most of the rest of the vendors wil be in another room, there's only certain areas vendors can be located in, and something about doing what's necessary to make things work.

Now, the thing that worries me is that the vedor information says that the spaces are 10' x 10', and if you only have certain places you can put vendors, there's only so much time you can spend on playing Tetris with floor space, unless some of the making things work is playing with space sizes. Ron asked if we need to add a tape measure to the supplies that go to events. I'm thinking so (not just because of this - we helped Gretchen check aisle sizes one year at Cap, and we had an issue at ACen last year).  

If we're accepted, I'm going to get confirmation that we will be getting a 10' x 10' space before I pay - and I assume the deadline for that will be extended accordingly.

While I have issues with non-responsiveness from Anime Midwest, they did do their space thing right - they didn't leave everybody hanging while waiting to see if they could/would get the membership numbers to enlarge their vendor space. They did an initial round, then when they got more space, they went back to vendors who didn't get in on the first pass - which is how we got in. Teslacon could learn from that, and could do even better by saying "These vendors are confirmed, but we're trying to get more space, we'll know by X date." 

And for the love of Cod and little fishes, DO NOT use Facebook as your main means of communicating!  If you haven't noticed, FB keeps getting more and more craptastic, and "helpful" about showing you only the things *it* thinks you want to see. Most of the Teslacon facebook posts have not shown up in my feed. 

But no, they're keeping everybody hanging. Fortunately, the cost of the space, over and above of tickets, since we'd decided to go even if we don't get in as vendors, is low enough that we don't need really great sales, so I probably won't back out if accepted, unless something really egregious is done/said in the meantime.

Back to the Weekend Report

Saturday morning I cut out soft-ish pouches - horizontal soft pouches in black and brown, because we have exactly one, and medium horizontal soft pouches in brown, because we have none of those, and half of a half-soft, because I had a front already cut out and a piece big enough to make the back out of. Adding on a purple medium horizontal soft left over from the pre-ACen binge, that's 11 to work on. 

Ron got home about lunchtime (he and Xap helped with the MuseCon party at WisCon Friday night/Saturday morning). After lunch I laid out really soft pouches - garment/upholstery leather ones that get sewn together. I know there were three sporrans, and I'm thinking 8 little tabbed soft pouches, and my SWAG is about a half-dozen belt satchels. Ron worked on cutting out, as did I at times, and we determined that I cut out faster than he does. He decided electric scissors would be a good idea. 

In the evening we ordered tails - three dozen of them. Which is only three more than we sold at ACen. 

Saturday evening I also worked on getting the soft-ish pouches ready to lace. That process continued through a big chunk of Sunday, with breaks for errands, etc. Ron worked on inventory and updating his perl script that gets inventory into the Point of Sale app, and sales records back out.

Yesterday we were more slugly. In the morning we went to Dick Blick and looked at airbrush adapters for Copic markers, for experiments in airbrushing leather. For one reason and another I got ink refills in the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, instead of the widget that lets you use a marker as an airbrush source. Then we went to Games Plus looking for small cans of dullcoat for Robin's minis, then to Hobby Lobby, where we had more success (Games Plus only had large cans). We looked for electric scissors at Hobby Lobby, but didn't find any (not a big surprise). 

When we got home, we did some on-line research. Industrial textile cutting on a major scales uses things more like scroll saws, or tools with small rotating blades for shorter stacks. There are also a few more scissor-like appliances. Looking at those reminded me of what I termed the Universal Mangler oscillating tools we looked at before buying the dremel scroll saw for trimming hard pouches. 

One of which, from Rockwell Tools, was conveniently on sale at Menard's. And Menard's was open. So we procured said tool (and the rebate form for another $20 off, must take care of that). We got home, grabbed some scrap leather, and Ron tried it out. Umpty thousand oscillations per second are effective. I tried it too, but decided to leave it to Ron. I found some thick, challenging-to-cut leather. No problem, nice smooth edges. Tried it on lightweight leather, no problems. 

We rooted around the dining room, thought about what else we'd sold/needed, and pulled out more leather. In the end I laid out and Ron cut the parts for 2 big rectangular purses (one brown, one black), and 4 "lace mania" belt pouches or purses - 1 brown, 1 blue, 1 black, and one with a black flap/back and a red front. We needed the browns, the blue and red/black seemed like they'd sell, and the black parts finished off the last of a black side. Ron cut them out faster than I could with a knife. So new he has a new job. There are still some things that I'll end up doing with a knife (like inside corners), that the Universal Mangler can't do, and straight cuts are still easy with a (safety) ruler and rotary knife.

Here, hopefully, is a link to a video I took of Ron cutting out the brown lace mania back/flap. The leather is about an 18" thick. Yes, it is rather noisy, in part because the table the cutting board is on is hollow plastic, so it resonates well. The cutting board was to hopefully cut the noise down (questionable success), and it also ended up with vibrated-in shallow grooves from the backside of the lower cutter blade. In the future we'll probably use a piece of inexpensive plywood instead. 

Looking at cost computations, one of each size purse we cut out will pay for the Universal Mangler. And a new power shear head is inexpensive enough ($20 or a bit under), that we can replace it if it seems to be getting dull. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pouch #1000, and Related Natter

Here you go, as promised, a picture of Pouch #1000:

We forgot to get a picture at home, but remembered Friday morning before it got busy, and the camera on Ron's iPad is pretty good.  Good thing we remembered Friday morning, it sold Friday afternoon.

Underneath the leaves, #1000 is a fairly standard large hard square pouch, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 8" wide, 9" tall, and 2" thick, with the flap lengthened an inch or an inch and a half (I forgot to make a note of how much). It fastens with a magnetic clasp.  The new price for a basic large square hard pouch is $62.50, we got $75 for this one. I was worried it was too expensive, apparently not. 

The back/flap was dyed golden brown, and laced with lace about the same color - I decided it needed to look finished under the leaves. The body was also dyed the same brown, before waxing, which results in a really nice color after waxing. Dark brown lace on the body.  Ron cut the leaves out of various autumn-ish shades of garment and upholstery leather using the Sizzix papercrafting machine and cutting dies we got a couple-few years ago. There are three different leaf shapes, but I mostly used the two with better coverage.

I'd originally planned to rivet each leaf on, but Ron talked me into (machine) sewing them on instead, which was a good call. There's one leaf near the edge flap strategically located (and sewn) to hide the boring side of the clasp, where it fastens to the outside of the flap. Then I sewed leaves down in curving rows, with added fun sneaking a couple rows in when I realized I didn't have sufficient coverage to hide the earlier lines of stitching in spots. The last row, of just for strategically-placed leaves, is held on with rivets. 

I'd been meaning to make a pouch with leaves for quite a while - since about the time we got the cutting dies - and pouch #1000 finally supplied the necessary Round Tuit. I'd originally planned also doing one in spring colors, and maybe winter. I'll probably do a spring next, although I think there's enough autumn-colored leaves for another one. Spring would be with leaves in shades of green, and maybe some yellow. I'd probably do the same gold dye and gold lace on the flap, although I do also have green lace. For the body I'd skip the dye, so it would come out a lighter color.

For a winter I'd probably do white and blues for the leaves, not sure on a brown body or on black.

We've also got cutting dies for gears, so I'll probably do a steampunk-ish pouch soon. I've got metallic copper leather, as well as some metallic puple-ish leather Robin says is bronze for the gears. Not sure if I want to put them on a dark brown or on a black pouch - I think they'd stand out better on black. I can also put antique brass rivets at the centers of the gears, if they'd look right. My plan is to sew the gears down with the lightweight sewing machine. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Teslacon vendors were supposed to be notified by the 15th if they were accepted. Still nothing. I went to the Teslacon Facebook page to ask what was up, and found a couple people already had done so, and the organizer telling vendors to "relax please", he's trying to fit everybody in.  Well, that's nice, but maybe some of the vendors need to know if they need to make alternate plans if they don't get into Teslacon. 

Over the weekend we finally heard back from Geek.Kon - no go, as suspected, since they've had at least some vendors listed for a while now (I didn't go back to look and see if there's more now). I may try again next year, if we're seen around more we may have a better chance of getting in next time around. 

E-mailed Anime Midwest this morning to ask what hall at Stephens Convention Center will be the exhibit hall, and if/when a layout for the hall will be available pre-convention, so I can start guessing if we're in a decent spot or not.

Anime Midwest booths have no pipe and drape, but the costs to rent from RES (Rosemont Exhibition Services) are somewhere between expensive and stupid expensive. I can buy 60" x 60" white shower curtains for the price they're charging for one foot of 8' high drape. Similarly, if I wanted 8' tall gridwall, I'd probably save money by buying it, having it delivered to RES and stored until the show, then throwing it out after.  The battery for the UPS we use at events seems to be pretty close to dead. I can buy 4 new ones or 2 whole new UPS units like the one we have for the price of power for the weekend.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

ACen Pictures

Soooo, ve gots peeektchers. Lots und lots ov peektchers...  (No, I don't know why I'm doing a "Girl Genius" Jaeger accent):

First out, the layout as it happened:
The bottom edge is our front.

Going from left to right, the overview shots:

And now the closeups. Starting at the left-hand side:

Then turning the corner around the belts into the center opening (left side):

Along the back wall, from left to right

Turning to the right side of the center opening:

And turning the corner around the belts to the right side of the front:

Yes, there was a strange blue curtain-like apparition in those last two pictures!  How very, very odd!  Was it the The Phantom Donald E. Stephens Convention Center?  Join us on the next episode of "In Search Of..." when we'll investigate this phenomenon (muh nah ma na na, phenomenon, muh na na na, phenomenon, muh nah ma na na na na na, Na na na na na na)

ACen Report

tl;dr version: ACen was good. Am tired, fall down go boom now.

Let's see if I can produce a coherent report:

Thursday's Adventures in Plumbing:

Getting the septic tank pumped didn't fix the plumbing issues; had to get the plumber back out to rod the main line out to the tank. But the cost was lower, as he was able to work from the tank back toward the house instead of draining the pipes and working from the house out.

The minimum charge for Servicemaster to clean up anything water-related is $450. I declined to pay that much for cleaning a half-bath and small area of the basement and cleaned up myself. Cost: a bottle of bleach (which I had on-hand and didn't use up anyway), a basin for bleach water (because it'll probably go out to the curb tomorrow), water, a couple small rags, a half-hour or hour of my time, and hot water and soap for my shower after.  I also threw out the mat from the bathroom and the "dog towels" used to contain the mess, which I told the Servicemaster estimator was the plan.

Our plumbing issues can be blamed on simple old age. The house is in the neighborhood of 75 years old. The lastest crisis (and a good honest plumbing company - ABC) led to diagnosis of another, larger, related issue we can now take steps to fix before it gets to crisis mode. -

Thursday ACen Setup:

Ron stayed long enough to get the trailer unloaded and the gridwall set up, then had to get the truck and trailer out of the exhibition hall. 

In 20/20 hindsight, we should have made a couple-few fewer pouches and taken an afternoon weekend (as in the weekend before ACen) to re-tag all, or at least most, of the existing merchandise. It took longer than hoped for Xap and the three Minions to do that job.  

It was a really good thing that I had come up with a layout last week, since I wasn't there to figure it out on the fly. There was still some flailing, Xap says, but very little of it was of the "where does this go" variety (because I did forget a couple things). 

I think Xap and the Minions got back to hour house about 7 pm?  By that time the plumbing mess was cleaned up, and so was I. I had held off on making dinner until after that, because eww. Fortunately, we'd gotten pre-made chili from GFS, so I could heat it on the stovetop (as opposed to wanting to have it cook all day in a crock pot). 

Bodies! Everwhere!

There were bodies everywhere Thursday and Friday nights - Three Winsauer humans plus two Winsauer dogs, three Eslers, and Marmaduke.  Fortunately, Robin's room was clean enough to accomadate a cot, so Wash could sleep in a less doggy room, and up off the floor (allergies, and aversion to Robin's loft).  Saturday night was a smidge less crowded, since Marmaduke had a room at a hotel.

In the evenings I pretty much got home, ate dinner, and went to bed. In the mornings I took refuge in the dining room. 


The mostly-GFS food plan worked out pretty well. We got breakfast casserole-ish things, which were decent; sausage, cheese, crackers, granola bars and pistaschios for lunches and snacks, plus lots of bottled water; and various things for dinner. There was a small problem with the wet burritos Robin tried to cook Friday night not being hot when we got home, so in disgust he gave up on it and fried pierogis instead. Yum yum. Saturday night was lasagna, galic toast, and chips and guacamole (we'd stopped for more OJ on the way home and the guacamole jumped out at me...). 


Friday morning I took Wash and Marmaduke and went down early-ish. Which was mostly unnecessary, as I only made one change to the layout, condensing all the fiber-ish things to one corner instead of two.  Ron and Xap followed up with the other Xaplet, with a stop at the bank for what turned out to be Stupid Amounts of change/bills for the cashbox. Which was fine, I'd rather have more than necessary than to run short. 

It was busy. It was noisy. I wanted to kill whoever was in the same location as us, but one aisle over and playing the music TOO DAMN LOUD for us to hear the customers, or even each other when right next to each other. So ACen staff had a talk or three with them over the course of the weekend, since Xap and I asking politely (at two different times Friday and Saturday) didn't help. 

As noted in previous posts, I expected being next to Blonde Swan to be dangerous, and it was. Ron got two new hats, a steampunk-ish one with a pair of goggles, and a fez; I got one - a "Kraken" topper, which is black with dark silvery grey tentacles. 

Pouch #1000 didn't even make it through one day. We did get a picture Friday morning. 


Saturday we squashed all 6 of us (Robin stayed home, as per the plan) into the truck. I wore my silver and black corset over a black chemise and skirt, and am told it looked very good with my new hat.  Ron's new vest looked very spiffy. We kept forgetting (all weekend) to put the Minions/Booth Babes in the green vests. 

Saturday afternoon Xap re-arranged The Grinch contents between The Grinch and Max. 

It was busy again. A bit more sales than Friday.


The original plan was for Ron to stay home Sunday, until time to bring the truck and trailer down with Robin. We'd been busy enough we changed the plan, and we took two cars down, with Ron. Good thing, we needed him. Sunday's sales were a bit below Friday's, but not hugely. 

Ron left about 3, by which time things were calming down. The hall closed at 4, and by 5:20 we were on the road/hiking to the parking deck. I have no idea where/how most of the merchandise got packed, only what I dealt with myself. 

Got home, parked the trailer, saw the Eslers off, dropped Marmaduke off at his house, dinner at Toreo (more guacamole, and meat, red meat), got home, and went to bed.  After the dogs celebrated having room in the house by a rousing game of Rip Your Throat Out at the end of Ron's bed. 

And that, I think, is enough for now.    Pictures to follow.  Also analysis of the weekend.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Is that a wall up ahea . . . WHACK!

Monday night, instead of doing any of the things that I mentioned in Monday's blog post, we made sporran hangers and sporran adapters.

Oh, wait, we did get the 2-ounce bottles tagged.

Tuesday Ron sold two sporrans and a set of sporran hangers to a co-worker.

Tuesday night we went food shopping. I felt like I was shopping for a "Deadliest Catch" crab-fishing boat, but then Robin and I concluded I maybe had one day's worth of food for a crab boat. Maybe.  

Last night I did the second side on a stack of business card coasters (finishing them), then moved on to a third stack. Then I got Ron to change polymer plates and finished that third stack. IIRC a stack is 125 coasters, so that means I did 500 impressions. 

Vests and shirts arrived yesterday, they look good. The issue with the plain vests (Ron got a fancier one) was not having black in stock, so I got green instead, and they look good. 

This morning, in order to punish me for thinking that things were going pretty well, and teach me not to wonder what was going to happen to change that, the plumbing gods demanded a sacrifice, in the form of, well, unpleasant things going "blorp" out of something used to get rid of unpleasant things.

We suspected a blockage in the main line out to the septic tank. The plumber we called did not concur, and strongly suggested we call a septic company to pump the tank instead. So now I'm waiting for that. And Service Master, because the phone estimate for getting the tank pump was for much less than I was afraid it was going to be, so maybe I can afford to have somebody else clean up the ground-floor bathroom, and part of the basement.  And mop the kitchen floor, but I think the mud there was tracked in from outside by doggy paws and strong young men who were packing for ACen.

Because ACen prep continued with not too much interruption. Ron, Xap, Wash, Marmaduke, and Robin went to Rosemont to do setup, armed with the labelled layout that I finally did finish yesterday.  I stayed home to invoke plastic, since Ron's better at backing up the truck+trailer combination.  

Ron's on his way back with the trailer now, apparently Xap is worried she'll mess something up, but I'm not.  And the hall opens for setup at 8 AM, and we don't open to customers until 10, so if there are problems we'll have time to fix them.

Septic company called, driver is on the way, so time to wrap up here and put the dogs to bed (I don't need them helping, or worse yet getting out of the house and out the big gate that we'll have to open to get the pump truck to the septic tank). 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hill Crested, Picking Up Speed...

We're accelerating toward ACen at a fairly breakneck pace at this point - from a non-ACen point of view, today is Monday, tomorrow is Virtual Wednesday, the next day is Virtual Friday, then The madness that is ACen weekend begins.

Typing this with the on- screen keyboard on my iWhatsit for Reasons, so to summarize since I last posted:

Ron continues to be very happy with the label printer and the P-Touch software.  All the tags for older merchandise subject to the (scary) price increase have been printed.  New stuff is being entered into inventory and tagged as we finish it.

I keep finishing pouches, lacing-wise.  So much so I started marking and punching 4 purple soft-ish pouches I'd previously accepted would not be done for ACen.  They still may not be, and I'm still OK with that.  Although I am heartily sick of black lace.

Finished the leather satchels and related soft machine-sewn belt pouches (18 things). Finished 22 small drawstring bags, abandoned several more with minimal regret (leather was a bad choice).

In a marathon day of mass production yesterday, that actually started Saturday, We did all 12 of the 8-ounce cobalt blue plastic bottles, and 40 of the 42 2-ounce glass bottles: 18 cobalt blue, 11 amber, 11 clear.  The only reason for not doing all 42 was not having enough bottom cups molded.  If we really wanted ewe could have molded them last night and dyed/waxed/assembled Wednesday, but we decided it isn't necessary.  

For both size bottles, 1/3 have black leather parts, 1/3 have tan.  Which used rather a lot of leather, snaps, and rivets - per bottle that's one bottom cup, one top collar, three body straps, one belt loop strap, 2 snaps, and 6 rivets.  Making one is not much materials, 52, OTOH...

The living room is a mess, little (and some not-so-little) leather scraps everywhere. Thank goodness the Cleaning Fairies come tomorrow, which forces us to pick up/put stff away, and the cleaning they do.

Shirts, etc. are still supposed to get to us by Thursday evening at the latest, despite a capital-I Issue with the plainer vests. As of 3:30 the order status was "Ready to Ship".  The order is coming from Connecticut, so I'm not too worried. Or trying not to be.

Still need to finish the business card coasters. 

Tomorrow night is food shopping - going to get the ingredients for a big batch of chili and to GFS to get some frozen meals, which Robin will be in charge of.  That way we don't have to wait for delivery or try to remember to order on the way home, and we get not-quite real (ie: home-made) food.  And in the case of the chili, it will be real food - we'll probably do that Thursday, as it is the least predictable day, and a little more or less time in the crock pot is no big deal.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick . . .

The clock is ticking down to ACen. Things are getting done. Other things . . . may not be. 

Ron picked up the label printer Monday after lunch. We got a Brother QL-700, which is supposed to play nicely with iFruity computers, deal with database-type output, be fast, handles labels of various sizes, including continuous ones, and didn't break the bank. In 20/20 hindsight the similar wireless model might have been worth paying a bit more, as then we wouldn't have to find room for it within cord range of the computer. OTOH, it isn't something we expect to keep set up and ready for printing at all times, so it can have a less convenient storage location.

Ron is very happy with it. It does indeed play nicely with our system, and it sounds like the Brother P-Touch software is easy to use and flexible. IIRC Ron hasn't read the instructions at any point. The printer a very simple barcode printed on the back side of the label roll to determine what size is in, and will tell you. We're using a continuous roll of label tape, and you can set the software to make all the labels a certain size, and set different lines in different maximum type sizes (it'll scale as necessary to fit), and AFAIK change the font for each line. If you're printing out of a table you can tell it to print lines X-Y. 

And it is fast. Monday night we started printing new price labels for belts, and it was shooting labels all over Ron's desk (auto-cutter). Oops, so much for keeping them in the order they came out. A small plastic tray solved the problem of labels everywhere. 

We display one of each type/color of belt on the belt displays, and they get a 2" round plastic tag, on a brass clip, which we re-use. I was thinking I'd have to re-write all of them, but we determined that we could print a label of a reasonable size to display the size and type of belt, so new printer for the win. 

Except I didn't have enough blank plastic tags. Fortunately, the best source, even with shipping, is ULine, which is local. Those are out far delivery today, with only standard UPS service. Also more zip-ties, which are used for assembling gridwall (faster and easier than the "proper" gridwall connectors), hanging things, etc.

Last night Ron got all the larger bottles (29 of them) into inventory, printed labels, and I helped get he tags on them.  Then we moved onto hard pouches (22 of those):

 One of Max's drawers, pretty much full of bottles (corks are in another drawer for the moment). If you embiggen you can see one of the tags. 

Pippin's wondering what I'm doing standing over the bin of pouches, or am I going to deposit food into Elrond's bowl for him to steal?  It isn't obvious, but under the pouches laying flat is a full layer of pouches up on edge.

I think tonight I'll work on finishing off the satchels and soft machine-sewn pouches while Ron gets them into inventory and makes tags. 

Monday afternoon I stopped at the Container Store and picked up a couple hanging fabric magazine organizers (the version in shades of brown) to display knitting patterns and the couple leatherworking books we have for sale. We have a folding metal literature rack, but that takes a big chunk of table space, and I think that the hanging displays will be a good alternate choice, especially when table space is short.

I think Ron finally came up with a viable layout for ACen last night:

10' x 20 space (light blue), front is to the bottom. Quarter-circles are the belt displays, heavy black lines (which includes the straight sides of the belt displays) are 6' tall x 2' wide gridwall, heavy green lines are 5' tall by 1' wide gridwall, and the diagonal lines in the corner of the gridwall on the back wall are corner shelves.

The width between the tables and belt displays is 8' wide. Each side space is 4' x 6', with a 2' wide opening between the table and the gridwall wings coming out from the back wall.
(Thing 1 and Thing 2 are taller than our 4' tables, so we'll probably actually swap the Things and the tables, but that doesn't make an appreciable change in terms of this drawing). This layout gives the most table space yet, reasonably demarcates the public and private areas, and has space for Marmaduke, Wash, and X2 in addition to Ron, Xap, and I. 

The private spaces are split, which kind of splits us up. The belt displays will also break up the visual connection between the Things and the tables, but I think those are tradeoffs we can live with. 

Later today I'll probably take a stab at labeling where I think we should put what merchandise - for instance, the bottles, especially the little 2-ounce ones, will not go out front, they're a little too easy to have wander off. Per-capita I don't think the risk of shoplifting at ACen is any higher than any other event, but the population is umpty times higher, so the overall number of naughty people will be higher. Plus, with more people shopping comes more possible distraction. Therefore, I'm trying to think ahead a little.

Last night Ron was questioning if we could get everything done. I think its a good thing Ron started getting merchandise into inventory and tagged. That, and printing new tags for existing merchandise, is a job that has to be done. If we don't get as many more bottles made, or a few less pouches finished, is less important.

FWIW, I think we'll get at least pretty close to finishing, even though we're taking most of Saturday off (my birthday/Mother's Day lunch, MuseCon meeting, and Spamalot in the evening). I think we can get the inventory/tagging done evenings, and on Saturday morning and Sunday get a good bunch more of bottles made, along with hopefully the two bandoliers I have strips cut for. And I keep working on lacing up the soft-ish pouches at lunchtime and evenings. I've pretty much written off the few that aren't ready to lace, but I'm plowing through the rest.  And one evening should finish off the business card coasters we have started (stalled while we debated a printing issue).

Trying not to get antsy about the shirts and vests. I approved the proof Monday, and the salescritter said he'd send them to production ASAP in his response. No shipping notice yet, but it should only take a couple days to get to us from Connecticut, and I did pay extra to guarantee arrival by end of the day a week from tomorrow. 

Table runners for neatening up the belt displays are scheduled for delivery this week. I have a possible grommet plan for those if time permits, but it isn't necessary. Still waffling on another couple side-drape shower curtains, but we wouldn't need them if we go with the layout above, and they'd be picked up from a local brick-and-mortar store if I do decide we want/need them for ACen.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Layouts and Displays for ACen

As mentioned in my last post, last night I (finally) started trying to come up with a layout plan for ACen, a process Ron was quickly sucked into. 

Most of the time we go to an event with only vague ideas of how we're going to set up, but for ACen that isn't as viable a plan as it could be. There is nowhere in the vicinity of the venue to park the truck and trailer, so we need to unload, unpack the Things, return the Things to the trailer, send the truck and trailer back home, and do setup without Ron, or with Ron there only while the truck is.

Also, while we'll have help in the form of Wash, Marmaduke, and X2, and possibly Robin while the truck is there, they have less experience helping set up. 

And we also need to put new tags on lots and lots of things. Which would be best to do Thursday, before ACen opens. 

So, going in with a plan is something we should do.

It was not entirely successful last night, in large part because Ron and I were both very very tired. But here's what we've got so far. The first one is mine, the second Ron showed me this morning:

The light blue box is our 10' x 20' space. "Lon's Lair" and "Blonde Swan" are the booths on either side. The front of the booth is down.   

The thick black (or dark grey, when they've been overlaid by the edge of a table) lines are 2' wide x 6' tall gridwall. Heavy green lines are 1' x 5' gridwall. The Quarter-circles are belt displays - two pieces of gridwall supporting quarter-circle hang rails. The right angles of gridwall with a straight line between is where a corner shelf is. Things like tables and the Things outside of our space were objects dropped into the original CAD drawing but not actually used.

The bits of gridwall right on the front line, at each corner, are to hang things on to get attention - last year it was tails and hanging pouches, which I think is probably going to be repeated this year. 

We usually use two belt displays, but we seem to be leaning toward only one for ACen (which we did last year, when we were squooshed into a 10' x 10' space). Yarn usually goes on the corner shelves.

At the moment I'm thinking of a modification to Ron's layout, swapping out the corner shelf for a belt display - I think the belts will be a better attention-getter. And moving gridwall from the Lon's Lair side to in front of Max and The Grinch, for security-ish reasons. 

Other display thinking/shopping I've been doing is for a couple more shower curtains (we got two white fabric ones for ACen last year), to make the sides/back of the gridwall look tidy. We probably won't need them so much for ACen, which has something like 8' tall back and 3' tall side drapes for booths, and considering what I expect our neighbors to have for displays (I expect our sides and theirs to mutually hide one another); but Anime Midwest has no drapes included with booths. Last year I had a horrible time finding inexpensive white or off-white fabric shower curtains, but this year I'm having more success.

Last year the belt display was facing in at one front corner, and I realized that all the belt ends stuffed into the pie piece were both visible and untidy from the front of the booth (usually the right-angle of gridwall faces our back space). Fortunately, I had a spare curtain piece that's usually used on the belt displays, which hid most of the mess, and the tails hid the rest.

Had I been thinking, I'd have used some more of the off-white muslin that I made the belt display curtains out of, and made 2' (or 2' + an inch or two) by 5' curtains. But I didn't think of it until last night. And I've still got probably too much to do. This morning I thought of table runners. 

Unfortunately, most table runners are 16"-18" wide. I did find a couple 26" wide ones on-line, for stupid amounts of money.

I did eventually find party/banquet/wedding supply places, with narrower runners, for stupidly inexpensive prices. So I got ordered some 14" wide ones, and I'll use them in pairs as necessary. Or singly behind 1' wide gridwall, thinking about it. They're something like 108" long, but I can either trim and hem, or fold over, possibly hem, and add grommets for easy hanging. Which would work better than binder clips, come to think of it.

At one point last night I said I wanted more gridwall, which Ron said we could do. On further reflection I think we're good, since there's no room in the trailer for long-term storage of gridwall (transport, yes, but it couldn't live there between events, Ron says). 

Still have to decide if want a second UPS - buying power from the convention center is way too expensive. We haven't run down the UPS in one day yet, but a second one might be a good backup.

To-Dos Becoming Been-Dones

Subtitled: Oh for the love of Cod and Little Fishes, Yet Still Another Busy Weekend, Again

We've getting things ticked off of the to-do list.  

Ron's spent a week or more working on updating inventory and the Point of Sale software. That doesn't sound like much, but it has been a big job, as it has included doing price increases. 

He's re-run the cost computations on almost everything, which not only means putting in new maximum expected costs, but also figuring out my spreadsheets, as well as finding and correcting all the errors that have crept in over the years.  He'd do a group of items, which meant questions for me about what parts were, or how much for hardware or this or that thing, and then we'd look at the new costs and determine new prices. Well, mostly Ron figured out new prices. I'm pretty much clueless at this point.

Ron also updated the Point of Sale (PoS) software inventory, making sure that matched what we determined we actually have, and putting in all the new prices. Lots of new prices. And updating all the pouch numbers to be 4 digits, since we've shot past #1000. 

Upload to software, error-check, repeat a time or two. 

And we still need to add all the new merchandise.

As part of the re-pricing process, we need to put new price tags on things (mostly pouches). That's a lot of price tags. I've been hand-writing them, but that's a lot of work when we're re-doing everything. 

We looked at labels to run through the printer. Then on Saturday morning we looked at label printers. I decided to stick with Brother, since we've been happy with the ones at Ron's office and the hand-held we have. Then we refined that to look at label printers that would talk to the Mac, and could deal with output from a spreadsheet or database. Then we went to Staples to actually look at the printer we had in mind. And discovered that they only had a display model, none in stock. Call other stores, no joy. Call other non-Staples stores (while "test-sitting" in one of their display office chairs), still no joy. 

Finally success at CDW . . . which isn't open on Saturday. But Ron works right down the road, so I ordered and he'll pick it up today, which is good enough. I also got several rolls of continuous label tape, to print on. And while we were at Staples, I got some more tags, both because we probably need them, and because slightly bigger will make it easier with the printed labels. 

Back-tracking to Thursday evening, I did the corners on a bunch of soft-ish pouches, so Robin could do up the sides. Which he did several of on Friday.

Friday morning I ordered a whole stack of shirts and vests with our logo embroidered on them. We got shirts for Ron, Xap, and me, in various styles. Ron got a "diamond brocade" fabric vest, and we got several plain vests for strong young backs to wear. We got enough things to get the setup fee for the embroidery waived, so I'll probably order myself a couple long-sleeve denim shirts later. And lab coats and chef's jackets were calling to us, too, but the price tag was high enough as it was.

Friday evening I sewed up the last of the tails. Yay, job done. 

Saturday afternoon I got all the binding on the satchels, belt satchels, and little tabbed pouches, and did some work on Pouch #1000. Now they belt pouch-ish things just need some hardware put on the flaps, and the satchels need their shoulder straps.

While I was sewing, Ron was working on the belt portion of inventory, and then he cut and assembled a bunch of belts. 

Saturday after dinner I cut out a bunch of small drawstring bags. 25 of them, as it turned out. That seems like a lot, but they go together easily. 

Yesterday I finished Pouch #1000, which I need to get Ron to take good pictures of. And while assisting Xap with putting together the MuseCon grid, Ron and I worked on lacing soft-ish pouches. Ron's hand is getting better, he was able to work on pouch flaps. 

We've been molding sockets for small glass bottles, and two test-runs for larger plastic bottles. There were some bugs in the plan for larger bottles, but they have been addressed. 
After dinner last night I poked at possible layouts for ACen. But I think this post is  long enough, I'll natter about that, and hopefully include pictures, in another post.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sales Tax Fun

When we went into business in 1995 (almost 20 years ago, eep!), I decided that I was going to get all our bureaucratic ducks in a row in terms of registering as a business with the IRS, state, etc.

In the mid-2000s, Wisconsin started requiring organizers of things like SCA events to collect forms from vendors listing vendor names, addresses, registration numbers, etc.  In late 2008 I discovered Illinois has a similar program, and there's a form for vendors to pay their sales taxes for that event within XYZ formula time period that the organizer can/should provide. Department of Revenue (DoR) agents can also collect taxes at an event. More details here at the IL DoR web page about the program. Doing a quick search on the DoR website, the program has been in operation since at least 2005.

Most of the SCA events and conventions I've done in Illinois since then do not seem to be aware of the requirements, or have only done the reporting-to-DoR part and not the distribution-of-forms part, or otherwise haven't mentioned it.  Nor have I ever seen a DoR agent at any such event.

With the smaller events, that hasn't been a surprise.

I was somewhat surprised when there was no mention of it by ACen, other than the standard boilerplate that exhibitors are responsible for local/state/federal taxes, fees, laws, etc. I thought that ACen might be big enough to be worth DoR's attention and time.

Well, it seems I was right. Yesterday morning I found e-mail from ACen saying that the DoR had "reached out" to ACen, with a PDF of the form for reporting/paying sales taxes for an event attached. In the afternoon there was a follow-up e-mail, mentioning the exhibit hall staff has been getting a lot of questions.

I bet they have.

Yeah, I think I was right 20 years ago. Doing the paperwork and making the payments is less stressful than the "Surprise tax forms/payment!" situation some people are presumably facing now. 

(As a registered business we may use the special event form, or wait for our regular filing).