Pokémon Collector Checklist v1.0

One of the side effects of the girls participating in the Saturday-morning Pokémon open play event at Accidentally Cool Games is that they’ve got me to play with them. As with other trading card games I’ve been involved with in the past — the excellent Star Wars Trading Card Game by Decipher that went away over a decade ago, and Magic: The Gathering for a year or so — I’ve enjoyed collecting Pokémon cards as much or more as I’ve enjoyed playing against the girls. And as with the previous games I’ve played, I’m a collect-first, play-second collector — the first copy of a card I get goes into a binder for the set, the second copy and beyond are available for decks.

With the February release of Pokémon’s next set, called Ultra Prism, almost upon us, I wanted to find a good checklist for keeping track of the cards in my set. Ultra Prism will be the seventh set that has been released since the girls and I started collecting and playing frequently, and there’s an eighth pseudo-set running parallel to everything if you count Pokémon’s extensive promo-card program which, as I write this, is up to 99 cards. And each of the seven main sets includes a parallel subset, with most cards having a foil variant — essentially, Pokémon’s way of making you collect two versions of most cards if you want a truly “complete” set. And, some cards have alternate-art versions, such as an added Toys ‘R’ Us logo for a card used as a store giveaway. Those kinds of cards are always an interesting addition to a collection.

But I haven’t found a checklist that tracks everything I want to track. Pokémon has PDF card lists available for download on its website — like this one for Crimson Invasion — and while they look great they don’t include the “secret rare” subset of cards at the end of the set. The website Pokellector has a good web version and a mobile app, but the mobile app — which I’m going to use the vast majority of the time — only allows me to check off a particular card in the set and not the foil alternate (the website does allow you to mark ownership of alternate versions of a card, but viewing a set as a whole shows only the “base” card). So the mobile app effectively does half of what I want it to do, and the added capabilities in the website still dont work the way I want them to work. And, navigation within a set on the website is inconsistent.

So I built my own checklist using Pokémons online card lists as a base. A single six-column landscape page has space for two sets, plus additional space for an “alternate art” list for each set. I have a six-page checklist built that includes sets going back to 2016’s XY: Evolutions, the set that was current when we started playing, and has space for next month’s Ultra Prism set. There’s a page for promo cards, which includes a note about where the promo was distributed, plus a page for other cards only found in certain sets such as Trainer Kits. And, since it’s on 8.5×11 paper when printed, it can be easily tucked into a binder when we go to the shop to play.

And since there’s no reason not to share, you can download a PDF of this checklist for your own use if you’re so inclined.

Building a news clip database

Tracking the News

Since I moved to my current role in Bemidji State’s Office of Communications and Marketing in 2007, I’ve used a static list in InDesign to keep track of the news releases I produce each fiscal year. It looked a lot like this one, from FY2013, and it was basically the same for six straight years with some cosmetic changes every now and again. It had a simple purpose: keep an ordered list of the releases I distributed each year and track the code number assigned to each release depending on the range of distribution for each story. I moved it around, from InDesign to Pages and back to InDesign, but it was basically just a text list.

For this year I wanted to do something different; for a variety of reasons, I decided to move the list to a spreadsheet in Google Docs. It looks like this. Just a few releases into the fiscal year and it’s working perfectly fine.

In the past, I had been using Filemaker Bento to keep an archive of stories mentioning Bemidji State found in various places online. It started out as a way to keep track of stories sourced from Google Alerts, Yahoo! News alerts, Bing news alerts, etc. Eventually I added the stories we were pulling in from our clip service at BurellesLuce. I kept track of a variety of information about a particular story — where I found it, how I found it, whether I could identify it as coming from a story I had released, a number of things. Each story in the database had an entry that looked like this. This database fell by the wayside during the year that I served as interim director of the office, but the idea of this as a tool to help keep track of news mentions was solid.

This year our office is putting an emphasis on measurement; measurement of our traditional media efforts and of our social media efforts. I’m using tools like Sprout Social and Crowdbooster to track social; for traditional media, I’m using tracking functionality in Burrelles, and this year we’ve subscribed to Meltwater, which has some media tracking tools as well.

However, there are two questions that were going to be extremely difficult to answer related to print media, even with all of the tracking tools we have access to right now. Those questions:
1) Of the news releases distributed in X period of time, which one generated the highest number of stories in the media?
2) How many stories did a particular news release generate last year?

The basic data to answer those questions exists in the relationships between two existing tools – the news release inventory lists I’ve been maintaining by hand for years, and the measurement services that track our media mentions. However, nothing that I’ve done connects those two tools in any way, leaving answers to questions like these two, and others like them, just out of reach.

However, moving the release inventory from a static text list to Google Docs sparked a thought — this new spreadsheet could be moved to a database, the Bento database to track news clips could be resurrected, and I would have the data sources I would need to find the answer to those two key traditional media measurement questions.

None of the tools I was using would do the trick. Bento is a single-table database with no relationship-building capabilities, so rebuilding the clip database there was pointless. Moving the clip database to Google Docs would give me parallel spreadsheets and allow me to save all the relevant data, but I wouldn’t be able to get the information I wanted about the relationships between data in those tables. I needed an actual database tool, and I chose Filemaker Pro.

I picked Filemaker over something like PHP because of Filemaker’s ability to easily deploy to iOS devices; I figured that might come in handy if this became A Thing.

So I had a problem to solve; I had picked a tool to try and use to solve it. Off I went.

Building the database
My first task was to try and recreate the clip archive I had constructed in Bento in Filemaker. This was relatively straight-forward and not terribly difficult; the final result looked like this, which looks basically the same as the Bento version I built a few years ago. All of the information is there, save for the “related art” data box to save PDF versions of the stories; that no longer seemed necessary. Once this was built, I populated the database with about a dozen records as a starting point.

I then toyed around with deploying that database table to my iPad, just to see how that worked. It required that I set up permission levels to grant access to my iPad, and in the process of setting up this guest access I apparently inadvertently assigned an overall administrative password to the database. Which, of course, I had no chance of remembering later, which means I locked myself out of my first draft.

So I rebuilt it from scratch, tweaking a few things along the way, until I got it up and running again and repopulated with about two dozen records this time.

Once that was done, I built a second database table to hold the information I’m currently storing in Google Docs as a release inventory; that screen looks like this.

The release code that has been part of the inventories I’ve been keeping plays an important role here. It quickly occurred to me that this unique code, which had been used to segregate and sort stories by category, also could function as a unique database key. The structure of the key is straight-forward – 2014-B-X-015 is the 15th story released for Bemidji State in Fiscal Year 2014 as an extended local story (a geographic category that carves Minnesota up into zones that stories can be sent to; “extended local” draws a line through St. Cloud and includes basically everything north of that line). That structure also creates a unique identifier; there can only ever be one 2014-B-X-015; thus its suitability as a database key.

I created a connection between the media clip table and the story inventory table within the database, using that release code as a key identifier. Then, I used the portal functionality in Filemaker to pull that release code information into an individual story in the clip database; this would allow me to identify a clip as having come from a BSU news story, as I had always done in Bento, but then also indicate exactly which release in the news release inventory had been the clip’s original source. That connection looks like this in the story database; it shows whether the story was sourced from a release that came from BSU, then has a field where I can display the release code of the story it came from.This field is connected back to the story inventory table, which also dynamically displays a Bitly link to the release’s home BSU News.

The magic
The fun part came when I built a second tab for the news release inventory data table and connected that back to the clip database; it scans the connections that were made in the previous step and returns a list of every clip that has been tagged as having been sourced from that news release. So for 2014-B-X-002, the second tab lists every story in the clip database that says it came from a BSU release and also came from story 2014-B-X-002. That display looks like this.

Recap
Honestly, this is about the most-basic multi-table database you can build in Filemaker; the two individual tables are just straight-up data tables that could easily be reconstructed in Excel or some other spreadsheet, and there’s only a single point of connection between the two tables, identifying the release code for the source stories in any news clip identified to have originated from one of our news releases. Even the “magic” piece that returned the list of every story that had been tagged with a certain release code used a function that is built into Filemaker. The most challenging aspect of this was simply learning Filemaker; the documentation could be better, and the software is not at all what you would call user friendly. Still, what I built today could end up being a powerful tool for us, and I feel that to have built it start to finish in one day while learning the software on the fly as I built it was a solid achievement.

For the first time in a long time, I can say I built software. That’s a pretty excellent feeling.

Projects

Now that I’m done with graduate school save for my final paper and a comprehensive final exam, I’ve started giving some thought to what to tackle next. Grad school hasn’t been challenging, really, but having it hanging over my head constantly for the last two years, including summer school, has been incredibly taxing. It’s been a distraction, pulling my attention away from just about everything else with the mere fact that it’s been something that’s been constantly on my mind since August of 2011.

Right now, my “what’s next?” list has three projects. Those are:

• Write some software. This is a project I have already started; initially I want to work on doing some development for Filemaker Pro 12 as part of a project for work, and I think it’s finally time to stop making excuses and begin learning how to do iOS development. It’s something that has fascinated me since the very first moment I held my first iOS device, a third-generation iPod Touch.

For Filemaker, I want to start building a project for work. I maintain a series of spreadsheets in Google Docs to keep track of my news and social media calendars for work; right now there are three. One with an inventory of news releases I distribute over the course of a given year; one is a calendar of upcoming events on campus that I use as a coverage planner; the third is a similar calendar for scheduling social media posts, which is a new initiative for this year. With this system, I don’t have an easy way to answer questions like “what media outlets picked up X story?” or “what stories were picked up by the most number of media outlets?” I think I can use Filemaker to build something that can answer these questions for me.

For iOS, I have all kinds of ideas. There are things I could build for work; I have ideas for things I could build in order to support Brad’s new initiatives in athletic media relations; there are things I could build to help deliver publications and presentation materials. I also have an idea for a game, to digitally resurrect something from the late 1990s that has been gone for awhile and never got the virtual version it deserved.

• Write a book. Taking inspiration from this, I have an idea for a similar encyclopedic look at something that I’m pretty sure has not yet received this sort of formal treatment (although there are several web versions, but none that do exactly what I have in mind). This will take a ton of work, but I think the end result could be cool.

I also have had an idea for a work-related book in my head for about 10 years; it’s something that is right in my wheelhouse, and I have the ability to gather the assets I would need to write this book at my easy disposal through work. And, it’s a subject that deserves to be written.

So, ultimately “write a book” might become “write two books.” We shall see.

• Finish my postcard project for my friends. Just over a year ago, I put out a call to my friends on Facebook to request postcards – “Ask me to draw you something, and I will send it to you on a postcard.” I expected a few responses, and I ended up with a list of about 36 of these to draw. I had this idea that I’d do one of them each week. The first one was done for Megan in early June of 2012. By October, I had done eight. I finished a ninth in November, and have barely touched pencil to paper since then save for the Megan Fox piece I started in May. I need to get this off the ground again, and get my friends the cards they asked for. Maybe not a card a week, but at least a card every other week.

I also need to start drawing Lego Gagas again; I’ve scrounged up some great reference material on Pinterest that needs to be Legoized.

Thoughts after midnight

Man it is late. But I started reading and it was difficult to stop. I have been laser focused on something I can’t even talk about, and tonight I started reading a pair of books to help get my mind into necessary shape (which, honestly, has been needed for awhile for any number of reasons 🙂 ). They both are off to a good start. I got through all of the introductory chapters for “Making Ideas Happen,” which has been rotting on my iPad since before I even had this particular iPad — so, Y’know, a long time. I read the 22-page iBookstore sample for the second book, which was fascinating; I will definitely get that book once I have finished “Ideas.”

Obviously my little goal of posting here daily has been a dismal failure so far; part of my efforts tonight with reading are to try and do better and to force myself into a disciplined rhythm even if, like tonight, I end up being awake irresponsibly late in order to do what I want to do each day. The kids/family/job/school blender of life makes my days pretty short, but I would like to put more effort into making good use of the time I do have — which I am terrible at.

I do like posting from my iPad though… Maybe I just need to be more flexible with my writing source instead of deciding I am not in the mood to get to the MacBook Pro. We shall see.

In closing, the greatest thing ever is hearing a two-year-old tell you, “thanks for making me happy.” Life accomplished, basically.

Good night.

(This post took 11 minutes. I can find 11 minutes a day to do this…)

Post Mortem: Oct. 25, 2010 sketch diary

In an effort to get back on track with my sketch diary and to actually work toward making sure things are consistently improving, I’m going to start doing a series of brief post mortems here after the Tumblr posts go up to recap what went well and what I still need to improve.

• Monday, Oct. 25, 2010
GOOD
– cake turned out well. I tried to go for quick and cute. Could’ve put more effort into the flowers on the side; I’ll do better there next time.

– I’m reasonably happy with Mel’s hair.

BAD
– Melissa still looks exactly like me, with different hair and a bigger mouth. I need to do a bunch of sketchbook work to polish her character design. I’m not remotely happy with it yet.

– as always, proportions are a disaster. Table is about a foot too high, I still can’t draw hands, she’s got a monster neck, etc. Practice, practice, practice.

OTHER NEWS
I found a website last night that has some low-res versions of eBooks that have figure drawing models. The high-res photos would be nice, but I think there’s more than enough in the low-res versions to get me started. I’m just struggling to find a good entry point; drawing skeletal armatures isn’t quite enough — even though I know full well the lack of fundamental skill in areas like that is a huge part of the reason I’m so terrible at this…

Scouting CL for drafting tables

I found a pretty killer deal on a drafting table, complete with a drawing machine, on CraigsList in Minneapolis; hopefully the person who had it listed will respond to my e-mail (hopefully he’s just out of town for the long weekend). If it’s somehow not still available, there are dozens of alternatives, and more added daily. I’ll find a suitable Plan B, I’m sure.

I want to put something like that in my office upstairs so I can have some space to set up a drawing and not have to put everything away after an hour, like I do when I set up in the dining room.

I wish I had some actual money to spend on this; there are some beautiful vintage hardwood drawing tables available, but I’m hoping to spend like $75 on this and not $350. Someday, maybe, if I actually get good use out of the low end one…

But, as always, once I’ve got the space, I’ll then need to make a concerted effort to actually use it…

Bah.

I had a pretty good “This Week in Twitter” post cooking up on my laptop; I was trying to compose it in a trial of MarsEdit to see if I wanted to take the plunge and buy that thing for managing the ol’ blog, but it decided to eat about five days’ worth of updates for some reason. And I do not feel like backtracking through an entire week of Twitter updates from teh 100-something folks I follow (many of whom are quite proflic) to remind myself of what I put in there.

So I’m skipping a week. It’ll hopefully be back on Sunday. Damn your dirty, evil soul, MarsEdit.

Work stuff

I don’t post about work stuff very often here because, well, it’s work and the other stuff I post about here is fun. But I did two things today that I thought were fun, so I wanted to share them.

First, this silly little image is going to be a handout at Bemidji’s Women’s Expo; this will have a little fun-size bag of M&Ms stapled to it and it’ll be handed out at a presentation given by a couple of BSU staff members. There’s nothing to this, but it’s the first “design” assignment I’ve had at work in I have no idea how long, so I jumped at the chance to do it. I’d change some things if I had to do this again, but isn’t that always the case?

Second, I wrote this story about a lecture coming up on campus in September; a guy who spent 17 years at the Navy’s NCIS lab in San Diego as a forensic chemist is coming to speak during a meeting of the American Chemical Society’s local section. I liked the lead a lot.

Charlton Comic Guide

Somebody scanned and posted JPEGs of Charlton Comics’ “The Comic Book Guide for the Artist • Writer • Letterer” from 1973. I made a handy-dandy PDF of the images for easier consumption. Download it if you wish; it even includes the old Code of the Comic Magazine Association of America, which is a great read if you are old enough to remember when comics had “Comic Code Approved!” on the covers. Very cool.

Charlton Comic Guide (6.8 MB PDF)