Bibliographic Blues

Now, I don’t know how often you have to compile a bibliography, but it’s harder than it used to be.  Some time ago—my hardware’s a bit aged, so I can’t remember exactly when—Apple products wouldn’t run Microsoft software.  In one of those turf wars that occasionally break out among those who vie for technical control of the world, the two companies divorced for a period.  As a result, when I open Word files on my Mac, they become “Pages” documents.  That’s fine; since I use a variety of word processors I can usually figure them out fairly readily.  One thing, however, that both Word and Pages do is to assume they know what you’re trying to do.  Software engineers control “smart options” so that when, for example, you’re working on a numbered list (or lettered list) it automatically goes to the next number or letter, formatting happily as it goes.

I have an article coming out in a collection of essays and I had to put a bibliography together.  One of the books was, unfortunately, written by an author who styled himself with an initial for his first name.  Since that initial was “A.” I had great difficulty convincing Pages (as I would have Word) that I was not trying to start a lettered list.  I was trying to build a bibliography.  No matter what I did—copy and paste, retype, hit “delete” til my fingers bled—it simply would not change this A. from a numbered list (just as it likes to capitalize the word that comes after a period automatically) to regular text.  I finally had to retype the whole entry, careful not to put the first initial first, so that Pages wouldn’t reform everything with no option to shut that feature off.  I later snuck in while Pages was dozing and added the A.

Early on, I admit, the footnote function in Word saved premature graying.  Having typed—literally typed—many a college paper only to find that I’d misjudged the spacing required for footnotes and having to retype the entire page, I appreciated this auto-function.  It was great to have an option where an algorithm could figure out all the spacing for you, and all you had to do was enter data.  Now, however, word processors think in terms of the lowest common denominator.  If you begin with “A.” you naturally will be progressing to “B.”  Apparently there is no other reason that a sentient being would begin with “A.”  And of course bibliography begins with “B.”

How do I list this?

TechnoFrazzle

Hebrew can be an obstinate language. And computer software companies can be immature. In a biblically inspired pulling out of the hair and rending of mine cloak, I am trying to submit an old manuscript for publication. You see, I have been a loyal Apple user from the beginning; Moses himself was one of my original teachers. This was back in the day when the processor took up proportionately about 90 percent of the space, and the screen was about the size of, say, an iPad. Monitors were black-and-white then, kids, and you had to save everything on devices called “floppy disks.” In any case, Macs died and Macs resurrected—actually, they never really die, as an attic full of aging, but document-rich Macs attests. Operating systems evolved at a frightening rate, and the document I want to submit was originally written *gasp!* about eight years ago. The Dark Ages. Before OSX. Before Keurig individual serving machines. When fax was still used.

The publisher made a simple request: send us a Word document. The problem, you see, is that Apple no longer runs software based on Microsoft platforms (Bill and Steve, play nice!). That means instead of Word I now use Pages. That’s mostly fine, but then Hebrew can be an obstinate language. It is written backwards. The vowels are above and below the consonants. It has letters that English doesn’t and most English speakers can’t even pronounce. So geeky font-makers came to the rescue and devised clever fonts to fill the gaps. In Word. I convert my old file into Pages so I can open it on a laptop that actually connects to the internet (the laptop on which it was written never could quite manage that) and guess what? Pages can’t display the fonts. I convert them, but like stubborn infidels, they remain the same on my screen. It is like driving through a blizzard with windshield wipers that don’t work. I can’t be sure what a PC reader, using that antique software, Microsoft Word, will see on the screen. I’m not sure what I’m writing.

I remember the rejoicing in heaven the day Apple announced that you could open a PC file in Word on a Mac. My life was easier, except for the fact that I was unfortunately working at Nashotah House—but that is a different story of archaic woes, for I could slip in a floppy disc (consult your dictionary) and share it with a less-sophisticated PC user. Now Mac OSX no longer supports Microsoftware and I can’t read my own fonts. I decide to copy the file onto a flash drive and submit it unchanged. My old laptop scratches its metaphorical head at this strange device I’m inserting into it and tells me this wondrous USB-deity is beyond its capacity to fathom. My Hebrew is stuck in the past. Along with my head, which, as you’ve been given to understand, is now bereft of hair.

In the beginning was Word...

In the beginning was Word…