Balloon HQ news for February 1999

My rambling about current happenings on BHQ last month generated a lot of positive feedback to my e-mail box, so I'll do my best to make this a monthly posting with updates, pointers, current discussions, industry announcements, and generally anything that looks useful to share with the balloon industry. I'm still working on when the best time to make this posting is, but the exact timing on sending this out will vary depending on my workload each month. - LM

The latest article in this series will always be available at http://www.balloonhq.com/bhqnews.

This "issue" of Balloon HQ News contains the following topics:

BHQ's new look

Ever since Balloon HQ acquired its own domain, we've wanted to give it a new look. We've been hard at work behind the scenes improving the less noticeable areas to help things run smoothly and make sure the information we had available could be found. While we've always believed in the adage that you can't judge a book by its cover, or a web site by its home page, we also believe that an improved site needs to look the part.

The new cover of BHQ is notable in several respects. It's more streamlined so it will load faster, look cleaner, and be easier to use as a jumping off point on your web surfing. This improved navigation is something that you'll be seeing over the coming months and years throughout the site. (But please bare with us. Aesthetic changes will happen very slowly. We're sticking with our old beliefs that content is the most important thing we have to offer and we're concentrating our efforts there.)

Most importantly, we want the home page to reflect the ever changing nature of BHQ. The insides are always changing, but that isn't always obvious to people just perusing it every so often. Magazines change regularly and always show new cover art. We're going to extend that idea to our web site and offer new feature photographs each month.

As always, see the BHQ home page at http://www.balloonhq.com

Industry spotlight

If a picture paints a thousand words than there must be a story behind each picture found on our new and changing cover. That's what we hope anyway. With that in mind, we're hoping to highlight a new piece of artwork from different people in the industry each month. If all goes well, we'll have a new twister creation as well as a new decor photo with every home page update. If you have a photo that you think would make a good welcome to the site, send it in. If you can tell us a bit about it too, that would be even better. A few lines, a recipe to reproduce it, or a complete story about the photo you send in will be greatly appreciated.

Current spotlight photos at http://www.balloonhq.com

The NASA balloon car contest

It takes a rocket scientist to do cool things with balloons. At least these cool things. NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab hosted this contest. The idea was to build a model car that used two nine-inch balloons as their only power source. Photos and descriptions of all of the cars, along with descriptions of the event are on the 'net exclusively on BHQ.

http://www.balloonhq.com/balloon_car/balloon_car.html

Searching tips for Balloon HQ

We often see questions on the balloon lists and our personal mailboxes that go something like this: "I need help with this problem. I know it's been discussed before, but I can't find the information when I look through the Guide and the list archive." Whenever we receive requests like that, we do our best to help people locate the information they want. But lately we've been getting more requests than we can handle. With that in mind, we thought it best to provide some searching tips. This article starts with the basic searching information that everyone should know. Some of the more complex stuff is really intended for those brave souls that want to really explore the power of BHQ searching. If some of the information presented here gets more complicated than you care to deal with, that's fine. Come back to it later when you're ready to do an advanced search.

There are three distinct areas of BHQ that can be searched independently. These are the Guide to Balloons and Ballooning (http://www.balloonhq.com/faq/), the balloon twister archive (http://www.balloonhq.com/twistmail), and the balloon decorator archive (http://www.balloonhq.com/deco). On each of those pages, you'll see options to search those areas. In addition, you can now search all three of those sections at once from http://www.balloonhq.com/search.html.

Searching Balloon HQ is as simple as filling out a form and pressing a button. If you have a Macintosh running OS version 8.5 or later, you can use Sherlock to search BHQ directly from your Mac without having to go to the links above. A Sherlock plug-in is available at http://www.balloonhq.com/sherlock/.

For some time, I've been experimenting with search engines that we can use on BHQ. That's not to say that the one in use on BHQ is bad. Actually, I've heard from many people that have said they find it to be far better than the search capabilities found on many other sites. It is quite powerful and usually more than sufficient for the kinds of searches the average person wants to do. There are, however, some limitations which I will describe shortly.

First, let's look at what the BHQ search engine offers. When you enter a word or phrase to search for, the default behavior is to exactly match what has been entered. For example, entering "latex" will find all documents that contain that word, and also list all of the places within that file that the word has been found. On a site about balloons, that's going to be far more documents than you care to read in any particular session.

We can narrow that search by entering the phrase "latex allergy". That will look for all occurrences of that complete phrase. The terms "latex" and "allergy" need to be next to each other on the same line of text for the search software to report a match. For example, that search might locate the line:

A client of mine recently developed a latex allergy.

However, it would not find:

My client wanted to know how to identify an allergy to latex.

We can slightly modify the search term entered above to "latex;allergy". This would look for the terms "latex" and "allergy" anywhere they occurred on a single line of text within a document. This form of the search would find both of the above lines of text.

What's more, the search page allows you to enter a number of errors allowed in your search. That refers to the number of mistyped characters. Or, you might choose "best match" for number of errors. By selecting "best match", you might find a page that contains "latex allergies", rather than just "latex allergy".

Only two major limitations still exist in this kind of searching. All reported matches will be found completely on one line of text within a document. So, using the above search term, a dcoument containing the following will not be found.

A recent paper in the JAMA discussed the rash of latex
allergies that have been encountered in hospitals.

In this case, the two words in our search term are divided over a couple of lines and will therefore not be found.

The remaining limitation is that you can't use the BHQ search engine to locate numerical terms. For example, to find discussions about uses for 130 balloons, searching for "130" would prove useless. Altavista, one of my favorite Internet search engines, can be used to search for particular terms within a site rather than locate the proper site for some information as most people do. The search capabilities of Altavista are rather impressive and highly configurable, but being an all purpose engine on the 'net won't necessarily be up to date on a daily basis with material on BHQ. I use both Altavista and the internal BHQ engine depending on what I'm looking for. Further discussion about doing detailed searches on Altavista is beyond the scope of this article, but may be covered in greater detail in the future if there's interest.

Balloon HQ directory

A number of people have recently posted to the BHQ mailing lists looking for others to fill in on jobs or to give referrals. While sharing work is a great idea, and one that we support, posting to find a person in particular location is like posting to find a needle in a haystack. You can expect that a couple thousand people will read your message, while only one or two may be eligible for the position you're offering. We ask that rather than posting to find a person in some area of the world, you use the BHQ directory to find those people.

The directory can be found at http://www.balloonhq.com/dbindex. Go check out the directory. See if you're listed. If you aren't, there's a link to click on to submit your information. Searches through the directory are as easy to do as searches for other information on the site. However, unlike other things on BHQ, additions and changes to the directory are not fully automated. I go through each entry by hand and verify that the email address is valid and that other things make sense. I'll never change an entry without first discussing it with the person that submitted it, but I do my best to verify things. If I am unable to verify the supplied e-mail address, the entry is not made to the directory.

Over the last year, several attempts have been made to expand the directory and add new features. I do have some things in the works right now that will make updating your entry easier.

Upcoming events

International Balloon Arts Convention
March 10-14, 1999.
Chicago, IL USA

National Halloween and Party Show
March 12-16, 1999
Chicago, IL, USA

Australasian Balloon Convention
April 12th-16th, 1999
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Southern Ontario Spring Clown Conference
April 23-25, 1999
Brantford, Ontario, Canada

More information about each of these events and an updated listing can always be found at http://www.balloonhq.com/events.html.

Balloon fabric creations

For some time there has been a balloon fabric tutorial on BHQ. What we refer to as balloon fabrics are what others have been calling "weaving". The reason for the name change, aside from being more technically accurate (we have a discussion of the meaning of "weaving" online), is that balloon fabrics cover a more broad range of creations. "Woven" sculptures really only apply to a particular type of balloon fabric creations.

In connection with Larry's new CD-ROM on the subject, the balloon fabric tutorial has been completely revamped. We now have video online as well as other cool stuff to help those of you that want to explore that area of balloon art.

http://www.balloonhq.com/faq/weave

The ever popular and ongoing BHQ photo contest

The great thing about the Balloon HQ photo contest is that the winner isn't determined by a set of judges that have preconceived ideas of the types of sculptures that should win. Instead, everyone on the 'net can vote. To win means that random people in the world, both your peers and the folks likely to hire you, are the ones selecting the work they like most.

The latest contest was for sculptures resembling humans. This was open to wide interpretation. Some people sent in photos of very small creations. Others large scale designs.

The winner of this contest was Otis M Baker, Jr. He will receive a Balloon Pro prize package consisting of:

Thanks to Balloon Pro for providing the prize. Learn more about Balloon Pro drop kits by visiting http://www.balloonpro.com.

Check out all of the submissions to this last contest by visiting http://www.balloonhq.com/photos/olddec1998.html

We are currently accepting submissions for the deflated balloon sculpture contest. See http://www.balloonhq.com/contest/contest.htm for more info on the current contest and the contest rules.

Coming soon, a contest for wedding centerpieces. Decorators, get your photos ready.

This month's additions to the photo collection

There are far too many new photos this month to list them all here. Check out the latest pictures in the BHQ photo section at http://www.balloonhq.com/photos/newmonth.html

Recent twister list highlights

Twisters want light brown and Agate 260's, 280's, and most of all, ANYTHING that glows in the dark! The twisters who gotta have every shape and size in the full gamut of colors satisfy their cravings by combining balloons from every manufacturer. Even the variation in standard colors provides a wonderful contrast... for example, the different greens available make fantastic looking stem and leaf combinations. Wanna make your own balloons in your own balloon factory? Latex Engineering B.V. will build it for you!

Balloons twisted by our very own Pat-in-the-Hat made an appearance in the Robin Williams movie "Patch Adams." Meanwhile, on TV, it was reported that Pinky of "Pinky and the Brain" fame tried his hand at twisting but didn't have the lungs for it... all he could make was a worm.

T (free hard copy catalog, just ask) Myers gave us some history on why he made "the first High Volume, Low Pressure, Self Standing, Vertical Piston, Manual air pump, designed to fully inflate a 260." His pump turns 14 years old this summer. We love you, man! However, small hand pumps seem to be preferred at restaurants where room is limited and electric pump noise is not welcome.

Gold paint markers look great on black balloons, and a brown Sharpie looks particularly nice on the new gold 260's. We also learned that a small can of cheap hair spray is good to have in your pack to remove stray Sharpie ink from your hands.

Teaching balloon twisting garnered a lot of attention this month, and we've accumulated a lot of new material for the Guide. Pat-in-the-Hat and Bruce Kalver released new books, and John Holmes shot another video. But lest we forget, an experienced entertainer pointed out: "balloons are only part of the big picture. The personality that you convey, your appearance, and your entertainment value completes the whole package." Boy, this is a demanding biz!

Recent decorator discussions

Another Valentine's Day came and went. Just like last year, the number of posts decreased as people worked late for this big day... which wasn't as big as usual due to its falling on a Sunday. Next year V-Day comes on a Monday. It's too bad Hallmark can't just take it over and make it a Wednesday every year :-)

This warning came out again: be careful not to donate yourself out of business. When corporates or non-profits tell you they will trade you decor for advertising, beware! Some of these people that call for donated decorations are professionals at getting free stuff. Don't give in too easily to a plea for free or discounted decorating... often when you refuse to donate, money miraculously appears. It's great to help your community but you're in business - don't forget you have to help yourself.

Yvonne contributed this slick trick for getting balloons off the ceiling: just have a big roll of balloon ribbon with a 16" helium-filled round attached to the end. Add loops of clear packing tape (sticky side out) and you will be able to get down every single balloon that goes toward the ceiling. In addition, you'll have a grateful mall staff, impressed customers, AND you'll probably even retrieve a few that you didn't sell!

In the new product department we got the INFLATE-a-BUDDY. From AGA Balloons' "Fur's A Flying" line, INFLATE-a-BUDDY comes in over 20 adorable styles and has a multitude of uses. Next we want the LINK-O-LOON! (the versatile, round big brothers to the Bee Bodies so familiar to Twisters ). The boys down under have been using them for 8 years and we still don't have 'em in the USA. Alan Perkins, get cracking!

Need an attachment point on a round balloon? Don't use glue, use the "the belly button technique" or what the Twisters call a "Raisin Twist." Drop a washer or coin into the balloon, inflate and position the coin where you need an attachment point. Grab the coin thru the latex wall of the balloon and tie your ribbon or monofilament around the coin. Voila'. Ohhhh, the possibilities...

Many other subjects got worked over, including how to heat seal (get that neck flat and seal twice), where to meet clients (at the site!), bow machines (a good investment if you intend to use it often), deliveries (make sure the recipient will be there!), centerpiece rentals (use the "savings" to sell more decor!), and much, much more. Stay tuned!

New products or other announcements

Pat in the Hat's Alligator Hat Book features the creations made in the movie Patch Adams. Twisters that want to know what actually went into the movie may want to check this out.

Attack of the 50 Foot Demon by Larry Moss teaches you how to make massive creations out of twisty balloons. Featured on this CD-ROM is text, drawings, and video of balloon fabric creation. Many techniques are demonstrated and an example of a 15,000 balloon creation is provided. See http://www.fooledya.com/book/attackof.html

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This BHQ newsletter has been compiled by the Balloon HQ editors.

The Balloon HQ web site can be found at http://www.balloonhq.com.