by Mike Chiricuzio Blue Moon Solutions, Inc. December 1, 2003 -- Recently, while attending the GATF Variable Data Printing Conference, ODJ Editor Noel Ward asked me if I had any ideas for naming my monthly column for On Demand Journal. Being normally clueless, I was surprised to find that I did, in fact, have an idea. During my ‘good old days' in traditional printing, I worked in just about every position in printing: press operator, stripper, hot typesetting, camera, print buyer, production management, estimating, customer service, general manager, etc. With this experience, I developed a pretty fair knowledge base of information. Being gregarious and always willing to try and help people, I also developed a reputation for being someone you could call to ask questions. What kind of questions? And for who? Basically, any printing related topic, and I would receive questions from other printers, print buyers, designers, equipment manufacturers, etc. Here's a typical question/answer scenario from those days of yesteryear: Q: Mike, my printer recently did an annual report for my client, and the contrast between the gloss and dull varnish was much more subtle than I had intended. They tell me it's because I specified a dull stock instead of gloss, and that it would have been better if the varnishes were dry-trapped to the four-color process images, but since I had not asked for that, they ran all four colors and the two varnishes inline on their six-color press. Is this true? Should I be expected to know that, or should I expect my sales rep to explain options to me? A: Well, under the heading of ‘buyer beware', you really need to know what you want, research how best to accomplish your goal, and always work with a printer that sees their role as consultative rather than predatory. Having said that, it is true that you would probably have achieved better results with a gloss stock and varnishes run separately from the process colors. There are also other considerations, such as quality of the paper stock and which brands of varnish were used. I suggest that you ask more questions, and don't be afraid to ask for samples of previously printed projects that have the effect you're looking for, or even to ask for a press test for effects to be included in the production plan for the job. Anyway, I think you get the picture. Lots of these calls came to me, I enjoyed being a resource for the printing community, and my reputation and willingness eventually led to a nickname: “Doctor Printing” This, of course, was a take-off on the public radio personality, Doctor Science, billed as America's foremost authoritarian on the world around us. Or at least the world around him. "There is a thin line between ignorance and arrogance," he says, "and only I have managed to erase that line." Doctor Science is heard daily on radio stations throughout America and the world, although he is no longer heard in my area. If you'd like to learn more about Doctor Science, go to his website at www.ducksbreath.com or click here: Nit Picking to listen to one of his daily question and answer sessions. I like to think that I, too, have erased that thin line between ignorance and arrogance. I am well-versed in both areas, having worked very hard to achieve the balance. So to make my future columns at ODJ more useful to you, here's your big chance to find out anything and everything. Address your questions to Doctor Printing at [email protected] . I will answer all questions received to the best of my highly-educated ability, and will post them next month, right here at On Demand Journal for everyone's edification and pleasure. But then there's the education thing. Since making my grand entrance into the world of consulting in the digital printing arena (you know, arena, like in a circus?) I have continued my long-standing high-level communications with the leaders of over-developed foreheads from our industry, including Dr. Joe Webb and Dr. Frank Romano. My aging, hair loss and weight gain has continued to a point where I now feel qualified to shine (or at least reflect) with these pontificators of printing pointers (or PPP's, as they are known in academia). Unfortunately, my scholastic background leaves something to be desired. I am the first (and only, to my knowledge) of my extended Italian/Irish mixed-multiple marriage dysfunctional family unit to have actually graduated from high school. And I have to admit that it was a close call. I believe my ranking was approximately 847 in a class of 852 graduating seniors at good old Westwood High in Mesa, Arizona, finishing only ahead of students who had disappeared, to be next seen on the back of milk cartons or on the top sheet of those nasty coupons packets that come in the mail. Or ahead of others who had died suddenly of mysterious causes in their sophomore year, therefore qualifying for honorary diplomas. Accordingly, I concluded, it would now be difficult for me to flourish in the highly competitive world of printing gurus. I had a niche in digital printing, which helped, but I lacked any academic status… If I Only Had a Brain… But then I remembered what the Wizard told the Scarecrow: “Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the earth, or slinks through slimy seas has a brain! Back where I come from we have universities - seats of great learning--where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts, and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma!” Ah, there's the rub. I barely had a high school diploma, much less an AA, or a BA, or (although a specialty of mine) a BS, or a Master's degree. Such a long way to go to become a doctor! But then, just as technology has changed all of our lives in so many ways, technology once again reared its digital head in the form of an email from Trinity Southern University, offering me a chance for academic status, based on all the mistakes I've made in my career! But I needed to assure myself that the shekels and 17 minutes of my time that I was about to invest would be worthwhile, and so I investigated their FAQ page intensely, to learn: Q. Trinity Southern an accredited college? A. Trinity Southern is privately accredited by the National Association of Prior Learning Colleges and Universities, www.naplac.org . (This sounds way too much like AFLAC, which rhymes with quack) Q. Is this the same as regular colleges accreditation? A. "Web" colleges do NOT have the same regional accreditation that standard 4-year universities do. Trinity Southern is a web or online college. (Web… is that another ‘duck' thing?) Q. How does this process work? A. Students fill out a prior learning assessment that lists their prior work and education experience. The more information provided, the easier it is to grant a degree. We also encourage students to fax resumes, transcripts and other certificates to 208-474-1477. TSU registrars then review this information and evaluate it based upon the standards required for a degree. Essentially this means that a student should have the same functional knowledge in their field as someone with a college degree. (That shouldn't be a problem; plenty of people in printing don't have degrees!) Q. Will this degree be accepted by everyone? A. A Trinity Southern degree works for 95% of its graduates, however, it is not appropriate for people in the public education field, government, or those who wish to use the degree to attend a traditional graduate program. (No problem there… I just need it for the title!) Q. How do employers verify I have a degree, other than the diploma? A. Trinity provides free degree verification by fax with a signed request by the student. (Ah… but I work for myself, so no problem there.) Q. Do you provide a transcript with the degree? A. Transcripts are an optional service that costs approximately $99. It is optional because most students will not need transcripts. (This is called an ‘up-sell'. You may have heard of it. I'd pass; it's not that great.) Q. Will my transcript be based on my prior learning, job, or resume? A. No. Your transcript will show the required courses for the particular degree at Trinity Southern you have qualified for including basic electives. You may request up to 5 specific courses on your transcript when you order. (My field was too specialized. I had to invent my own courses for this.) Q. Where are you located and what will be on my degree? A. Trinity Southern is located in Dallas, Texas. Your degree will state that it is from Dallas, Texas. (Texas! Oh, well, can't be fussy about everything.) Q. What is the difference between Trinity Southern and other prior learning colleges that charge $700-$1500? A. Nothing, the process is exactly the same. We evaluate your previous academic, work and extracurricular activities to determine if you have the same functional knowledge as someone with a traditional degree. Some others also provide student ID's and other information but we prefer to let you keep the extra $500-$1000. (I found the difference… my diploma had a typo, had to have it reprinted. How fitting!) Q. Is this a scam? A. Absolutely not. We accept credit cards and in fact we have a "no-questions-asked" guarantee that if you are not pleased you can return the degree and receive a refund less shipping and printing of $39 for domestic and $59 for international orders. (Well, I guess that pretty much legitimizes the whole thing. They take credit cards!) So, there you have it. You can get a degree for what you know. Or say you know. Or by having a credit card. I found myself to be highly qualified for their program, and am now proud to say that I have a Doctorate of Philosophy Degree from Trinity Southern University in Digital Printing Technologies (like that? I dreamed it up myself). Accordingly, from this day forward, I expect to be treated with the same lack of respect that I have become accustomed to over the years, but you should now refer to me as Doctor Printing, and keep the muffled guffaws to a minimum when you do so. Anyway, I now welcome all your questions and am eager to provide answers to the best of my highly-educated ability, and will post them right here at On Demand Journal. Just address your questions to Doctor Printing at [email protected] . I will answer all questions received. And, by the way, you can also contact me through my new website, which should be ‘up' almost anytime now (freakin' technology) at www.AskDoctorPrinting.com .