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    Mail Merge Experts?

    2012 - 02.08

    The need for this has actually passed, as we solved it (or got around the problem), but thought I’d throw it out to the internet and see if anything came back.

    So one of the problems with having an online magazine is that you’re going to publish content written by other people, which means that you need the rights to publish that content, which means that you need contracts which give you those rights.  Because Karin’s had Abandoned Towers open for submissions essentially since she took it over, she’s got a bunch of submissions that she has accepted and which needed contracts (so that we could have content to publish for launch and going forward).

    I made up the nice template for the contracts, and thought that it might be possible to use a mail merge in order to make the individual contracts.  However, I didn’t find any way that I could do what I actually wanted which was this:

    • Use the Word 2010 document that I’d created as a template (this is easy)
    • Use an Excel 2010 spreadsheet as the source list of fields (this is easy)
    • Merge the source fields into the template document to create unique contracts (this is also easy)
    • Instead of printing, emailing or generating a PDF, I wanted to generate individual Word documents for each contract (and ideally which allowed me to dictate the logic that was used for the file names of those documents).  The key reason being that we need the people who receive the contracts to be able to enter some data into them. (this as far as I was able to tell was impossible)

    Anyway, just throwing it out there that this seems like an oversight and an incredibly useful feature (especially in the current digital environment).  In the long run this probably isn’t a big deal for us, as Karin will going forward be making only a couple of contracts at a time for content (instead of the giant number created just before launch).

    As a second question, anyone know of a way to create a custom Document Information Panel with InfoPath for a Word document without having to use SharePoint?  I suppose I don’t actually care if InfoPath is used to create the Document Information Panel, realistically I just want to customize it and include additional fields (specifically for the contract) without having to resort to using SharePoint (which I don’t have easy access to at present).  All the steps in the process are pretty simple as far as I can tell (and remember) but in InfoPath 2010 at least, the first thing you get prompted to enter when trying to create the custom Document Information Panel is the SharePoint location, and it just seems like this should be possible without using SharePoint (at least technically, if not practically or being worth the effort).

    Turf Goaltimate Kit: Illustrated Step by Step

    2011 - 12.19

    A while back I talked about my struggles to get Goaltimate to work on turf fields that you couldn’t physically anchor “into”, and documented a bit about how I thought I’d overcome those problems in “Turf Goaltimate Kit Reborn!“.  Well, it’s been 9.5 months since then and we’re still using and happy with that same system, so it’s probably about time I illustrate it a little better.  If you want the full part’s list, check that earlier post.


    Goaltimate Kit




    Goaltimate Kit


    Flange attached to half of shelf:

    Goaltimate Kit

    Goaltimate Kit


    Goaltimate Kit


    Attach reducer to the flange/shelf assembly:

    Goaltimate Kit


    Assembled “base”:

    Goaltimate Kit


    Take the bushing, and put it on one end of the pipe: 

    Goaltimate Kit

    Goaltimate Kit

    Goaltimate Kit

    Goaltimate Kit


    Insert the bushing/pipe assembly into the base:

    Goaltimate Kit


    Voila, a completed support (repeat for the other side):

    Goaltimate Kit

    Goaltimate Kit

    Now assuming that you have an actual Goaltimate arch (generally out of PVC pipe) you can insert each end of the arch into one of these supports, add an Ulti bag, sandbag or some other “weight” to the extended portion of the shelf to provide additional stability.  Ideally use something soft, or at least without any dangerous edges in case someone runs into it.  It should be possible to run into the completed assembly and have the weight move and/or the arch fall down and/or the support come apart.  All of those are definitely preferable to having a broken person.  In almost a year of use, these mechanism has survived tumbles and collisions, has been responsible for zero injuries, and has not needed to have any components replaced.

    Good luck, and let us know if you’re using it, or if you improve upon the design.

    Craft Project: Guitar Picks

    2011 - 11.20

    This craft project was actually from Thursday night.  Karin has many superpowers, this particular one has been used lately: the ability to lose guitar picks.

    We did a quick check at the mall to see if anyone happened to have guitar picks, we didn’t find any.  Before we started scouring all the stores however, it occurred to me that guitar picks don’t appear to be fundamentally complex items.  I could be wrong, and maybe there is a significant difference in how they are made in terms of an impact to your playing, but if there is I’m blissfully ignorant of it, and either so is Karin, or she hasn’t noticed that difference in her playing yet.  Regardless, we decided that we’d try to make our own and see how that worked.

    I did a quick search to see if this was something that other people were doing, and there’s lots of hints and videos and such out there for how to do it yourself.  At the mall I was thinking of using used gift cards, and the internet suggests that as well as used CDs (which we haven’t tried yet).  Overall the process is pretty simple, although you’ll find that the vast majority of the instructions out there are not necessarily helpful if you’re starting from a “have not” situation.

    The reason they aren’t helpful is that they instruct you to trace an existing guitar pick onto your chosen medium.  But I don’t have a guitar pick, which is why I am trying to make some you observe.

    “We can’t help you then”

    “Huh, there must be some other way!”

    So grabbing an image of a guitar pick from a location which allows you to order custom artwork on guitar picks, past it into a document, print it on card stock and now I have a template that I can use to trace a guitar pick like shape onto the gift cards.

    I was able to get 5-6 guitar picks per card, depending on how tightly you group them, and how big your need them your experience may vary.  So it’s just a matter of tracing, then cutting them out with good scissors, sanding or filing down the edges so that they are smooth, repeat.

    For anyone who wants to try this themselves you’re welcome to use the Guitar Picks Template (pdf) that I did, enjoy.

    Turf Goaltimate Kit Reborn!

    2011 - 02.27

    Everyone probably knows already that I’ve been the coordinator of Burnaby Ultimate and Disc Sports since it was started back in 2005.  More recently we’ve diversified and have been offering a Goaltimate option as well.  The original kit was donated by Doug, but required modifications to work on turf.

    Brief explanation: Goaltimate is an Ultimate [Frisbee] variant which is roughly the equivalent of half-court basketball.  That is there’s only one goal which can be scored in, and after each turnover you must clear the disc before you can score.  The other key difference is that instead of a football style endzone, you have a much smaller endzone with a croquet wicket on steroids in front of it.  The disc must go through the arch and be caught by someone who is in the endzone.  That’s a simplification, but it gives you the basic concept.

    The regular game is played on a grass field, so they take a hammer, some rebar and pound it into the ground, they then put an arch (typically made of PVC pipe) over top of the two pieces of rebar, which anchor the arch (it’s supposed to be 18 feet wide at the bottom, and 11 feet high in the middle, requiring a total length of 32 feet of pipe).  This is a very simple system that works great, the ground adequately anchors everything, and the anchoring system is internal to the pipe and not exposed.  So why didn’t we use this mechanism?  Well unfortunately we play of field turf fields which you can’t pound rebar into.

    At the beginning of the season we used a creative solution of old tortierre bases with the bottom segment still attached.  This bottom metal piece was big enough to allow the pipe (our set is 3/4 inch PVC) to fit inside.  This worked pretty well, but the lamp equipment wasn’t ideal, as the bases weren’t heavy enough to support the weight of the pipe themselves (we added Ulti bags for extra weight), and they weren’t engineered with the intent of being put together and taken apart regularly, not to mention the strange angular forces we were applying with the arch.  So although a decent solution in the short term, in the long term it was inadequate (we broke 3 bases over the 14 weeks or so we used that solution).

    This past week after having yet another base fail, it was time for a change.  I had frequented Home Depot which is next door in search of a better solution, but failed to find something adequate there.  So I changed tactics and went to Rona, where I found some different supplies which either weren’t at Home Depot or I failed to find there.  A small amount of assembly later, and we had a new working support design that held the arch better than everything else we tried, and didn’t break or fall down even once in our 3 games, despite the fact it was particularly windy (which the old support did not handle well).

    And to the purpose of this post, sharing the design and materials needed to make a viable Goaltimate base for turf fields.  Total cost on the base was$66.48 (after taxes) although I suspect that with a little creativity and comparison shopping you could bring the price down (perhaps dramatically).  So this is what was used:

    • 2 – 4″ to 3″ Toilet Flange (ABS) – $9.19 + HST ea
    • 2 – Reducer Coupling 3″ to 1.5″ (ABS) – $3.99 + HST ea
    • 2 – Bushing 1.5″ to 1.25″ (ABS) – $1.37 + HST ea
    • 2 – 1.25″ x 3′ pipe (ABS) – $6.81 + HST ea
    • 1 – 1″ x 12″ x 3′ laminated pine – $10.77 + HST ea
    • purchased but not used ABS cement (couldn’t get the container opened) – $5.82 + $0.05 ECO fee + HST
    • not purchased but used 16x 1″ wood screws

    To assemble:

    1. cut the pine shelf in half so you have two 18″ by 12″ pieces.
    2. at one end of each piece screw a toilet flange to the wood
    3. put the bushing on the ABS pipe (cement if using)
    4. put the reducer on the bushing (cement if using)

    When at the field, put the wooden base 18′ apart, put the ABS uprights onto the base, assemble your PVC arch and insert into the uprights.  Additional weight is probably required to keep everything stable, Ulti bags work fine.  Because of the stiffness of the ABS pipe you are able to mimic the rigidity of the rebar mechanism, creating a very nice and stable arch.

    As mentioned we didn’t cement anything together, and the friction fit worked fine for us.  One of the nicest things about this design is each piece in the ABS construction has sufficient overlap that if desired (or required) a hole could be drilled through the two pieces and a bolt could be used to secure the pieces at the field.

    If you wanted to reduce the number of pieces and the cost a little you could cut out the bushing and go with 1.5″ ABS pipe instead of the 1.25″ stuff, but I wanted the tighter fit.  Note: the 1.25″ ABS pipe has a large enough internal diameter to support 1″ PVC pipe or the 3/4″ stuff we’re using.

    Overall we’re very satisfied with this solution so far, and the fact that it’s fairly simple, that the pipes should break apart in the event of a collision, and the fact that all the parts should be easy to find, and are replaceable makes this a very attractive and sustainable solution for regular use.

    Hope this helps someone out there who is trying to build one for themselves, let me know how the experience goes for you.

    P.S.  Another solution that we’ve seen used is those giant 18 gallon water jugs (used for water coolers) as the anchors, but we don’t have an easy water source at the field to fill them up with and fundamentally I object to such a waste of water.

    Wine Tasting Cards

    2010 - 12.24

    So a little over 14 months ago Karin did a double blind wine tasting at her birthday party, and in order to do that we came up with some wine tasting cards.  Surprisingly a search for Wine Tasting cards still doesn’t produce much in the way of results.

    As part of their Christmas gift we gave Karin’s brother and girlfriend-in-law some of the cards that we created for the birthday party, as they have started hosting their own wine tastings.  So given that we’re already sharing the cards with others, I figured what the hell, let’s release them to the world, and see if anyone else finds them useful. 

    So we can only take partial credit for these cards, as they are heavily based on the score cards from www.finedinings.com and their suggestions on how to host a wine tasting.  Another viable alternative score card is available from Better Tasting Wine, but for now we like ours better.

    One thing that is probably worth mentioning in case people from all over the Internet happen across the post, is that I essentially typeset the existing cards that we found, I’m not a wine connoisseur, in truth I don’t drink at all.  Essentially, I claim no wine expertise, and don’t in truth understand all of the criteria used for rating the wines on the cards.  That said, feel free to offer feedback or suggestions.

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