Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Machine Will Only Do What You Tell It

Anyone who believes this has obviously never owned a computer or a sewing machine.

My mother owned a sinister black Singer sewing machine with which she made many of our clothes. Mom worked in a sewing factory when I was in grade school, and she was proud of the way she could put sleeves into a blouse accurately just by feeding the pieces of material into the machine. She did beautiful collars, hems, pockets ... and she tried to teach me how to do those things, too.

I really did try, but that machine hated me. It would gnarl up the bobbin thread and leave looping loose stitches ("You must have changed the thread tension!" "No, Mom, honest, I didn't touch it!") and then if I tried to adjust the tension settings to correct the problem, Ingrid DoNothing (that's what I called it, but never to its face) would bind up the stitches until they puckered the material and I'd have to spend hours picking out the accursed thread with the point of a needle. Without ever touching the stitch-length dial, I could end up with tiny tight ones on one part of the fabric and others five times as long. Mom would get impatient, boot me out of the chair, use the same settings and fabric, and get a perfect result. "I don't know what you're doing to it!" She'd reprimand. I knew what the problem was. The machine did not like me.

As evidence, I present this fact: once she got a newer model, I never had another problem with sewing.

Autoformat in Word and I have much the same kind of relationship. The ugly dotted line that I couldn't get out of my document yesterday? In the chilly clarity of the morning I figured out how to look at the page formatting and discovered that it was a "border" ( -- I don't use borders, so why was it there? ) and with only a slight increase in blood pressure was able to find out how to remove it. Apparently Autoformat looks at asterisks and thinks, "Mmm, that sure looks like an impenetrable border to me! I know, I'll make Sand's day and link this nice thick border to another automatic command that will eradicate all the ^p^p's in the entire document! She'll love it!"

There were actually three chapters in which the border appeared. Only in one of them did the border NOT disappear when I hit backspace, backspace, enter, enter as the clever and gallant Joshua Louise suggested to me. If "B" is produced by "A", then "A" should produce "B" -- every time.

But it doesn't, and that's why I try never to use that stupid, interfering, spiteful Autoformat.

The creep.

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