Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Even A Brand-New PowerPC G5 Isn't That Great If You Have To Use Word

I have just started working in a new (previously non-existant) position in a media empire based in Cape Town. One perk of this was that, instead of inheriting some grime-encrusted, multi-previous-owner computer, I have been handed a brand-new PowerPC G5, complete with bright, white keyboard (I cannot tell you the joy of not having to turn a blind eye to generations of food particles) and that wonderful new-computer smell, which is surprisingly, and sadly, not as noticeable as the PC new-computer smell. Complete with wonderful new Mac comes blank desktop, empty hard drive...and I have just noticed that the stupid Mac is showing an American flag up in the corner, although it's on South African regional settings. I must investigate...

...right, I think it's the keyboard input/layout yadda yadda setting thing, so I'll just leave it alone, as I know the British keyboard layout is weird: if you type a hash you get a pound sign, for example. Except I seem to have a British-layout keyboard, so I must remember to type a pound sign to get a hash.

Anyway, as I was saying, complete with wonderful new Mac comes the annoying necessity to customise, set up, and fix.

I'll start with Word, which is an experience in itself. And not a good one.

In Word, as soon as you start typing, you realise that you have to switch off all those stupid AutoCorrect, AutoText, and AutoFormat "features" that interrupt your attempt to write anything (it keeps changing my simple lists into Bulleted Lists and my -ises and -isings into -izes and -izings, which is enough to make me want to kill people). This is time consuming as you have to hunt down all the different (obscure) items, which usually takes weeks. Oh, yeah, and I can't change any generic preference settings without having a document open, because, somehow, that makes sense, but at least, in here, I can view one of my favourite "settings", under Spelling and Grammer: the "Use German post-reform rules" checkbox. If you roll over the "description of preference", you get: "When language is set to German and this check box is selected, spelling rules follow the German post-reform rules instead of traditional rules." Yeah, I noticed that.

Another thing I can't do is make Word switch from US English to UK English, which will comes as no surprise to anyone that's every tried to do this, even though it says it's on UK English (har har). This is something that I have struggled with for about six years (so have all my friends). I have managed to get it working properly once in all that time and on all those PCs, Macs, and different versions of Word that I've used.

I'm still not finished trying to fix the settings so, in order to expedite my work, I wanted to set up a few of my favourite fonts with shortcut keys, so I don't have to hunt for them in my very long font list, because typing the name in the font text field doesn't always work, especially if you have a lot of fonts installed. I have a lot of fonts installed. Luckily I have over a gigabyte of RAM, so I'm OK for memory clogging. For a while.

Anyway, I couldn't do this. I've done it before on a number of Macs running Word but, for some reason, the settings and layout have changed in whatever version of Word I'm now using (I thought it was the same, but I guess it isn't), and I haven't been able to do it.

So I've now had enough of customising my Mac to last the rest of the week. The only easy thing so far has been resetting my TextEdit so that I can edit the raw code of HTML files. Ah, TextEdit. Much simpler. So efficient. Nothing tops it except NoteTab.

Tomorrow (or whenever I next feel like posting): the Big Brother joys of watching an IT Guy set up my logins and email account remotely from an entirely different floor in the building. <::wave::> to IT Guy if you've busy watching me type this now from your console.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

How The Hell Do You Start A New Blog?


That's about all I can say right now (because it is). What else do you say to start off a new blog? Probably something such as: "This template sucks. I need a new one." Which is true. I do. So I'll get on to that, I think.

At least this thing is working...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


4x4/Land Rover/Jeep/SUV
I'm adding this entry because I suspect I will rant many times about these things. While Africa is rugged and those old Land Rovers are cool, suburbian South Africa is, well, suburban and the roads, in many places, are narrow yet, for some inexplicable reason, businessman and soccer moms feel they need to 4x4 their way to and from schools, work, and malls every day. This results in three problems: 1) most people who drive these vehicles have no idea how long or wide their vehicles are, so they drive like morons; 2) most people who drive these vehicles have never been 4x4ing in their lives and would probably balk at the idea of venturing into "darkest Africa" or in, near, or past a desert, which just makes them totally, well, moronic; and 3) if you're trapped behind one of these things you can't see a damn thing.

arb (ärb)
adj. (South African slang)
1. Short for arbitrary. That was such an arb thing to say.
v. arbed, arbing, arbs
1. Drift around in an aimless manner. I just arbed around the mall because there was nothing else to do.

In South Africa these terms are used interchangeably to mean a road on which you can usually drive at up to 120 km/h (which means that you need to look out for people driving at at least 160 km/h) that may, or may not, consist of more than one lane at some point and which may, or may not (and shouldn't, but probably will), have a set of robots [*] at some point, and may, or may not, join one or more towns or suburbs of a large, sprawling city, such as Cape Town, together. Confused? Why?

adj. (South African slang)
1. Anything that is gross, vile, disgusting, filthy, yuck, unattractive (object, not person...usually), or unpleasant. The bin is totally manky because no one has cleaned it in three weeks.
  also mankers
[My sister tells me that this is a word, but I've never heard anyone use it except her, so I think she's trying to work a new term into the common consciousness...and, of course, I'm helping her by referencing it here...dammit!]

my friend in America
I have a friend in America (technically he is American, but he prefers to be referred to as being "in America" rather than "an American") with whom I have been conversing, almost daily, via email since 1998. We have yet to meet (all attempts at that, so far, have been thwarted by the universe), so we have a very odd relationship in that we know each other very well, but not at all. Our friendship started due to a mutual interest in singer-songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins and up-and-coming Canadian singer-songwriter Tanisha Taitt, but we have since found that we have many other things in common and many other shared interests, which has resulted in this eight-year (and counting) conversation that never runs out of steam. Isn't the Internet wonderful?
Update: It took nearly a decade but we finally met in December 2007. He still prefers to be called "my friend in America" even though I've heard his accent.

n. (South African colloquialism)
To South Africans robots are traffic lights (but no one calls them traffic lights), unless they're actually robots, which would be kinda cool, except you don't really see randomly roaming robots in South Africa, only traffic lights (except at Toys "R" Us, which is a toy store, but not the same toy store as the Toys "R" Us in America, even though they share a name and a logo, but that's a long story for another time...). And I didn't mean that traffic lights roam, because they don't - they're pretty stationary, unless someone knocks them down, which happens all the time, probably because too many people drive SUVs [*] who shouldn't.

squiff (or possible skwiff)
adj. (South African colloquialism)
1. Suspiciously curious, unimpressed, and irked. It's mainly used to describe a glance. He gave me a squiff look.
2 Skew. If you look at the building from that angle it looks a little squiff.

Steve Hofmeyr
It is hard to describe him, but Steve Hofmeyr (actor, musician, father of an unknown number of illegitimate children, self-proclaimed defender and saviour of Afrikanerdom) is to many South Africans what Celine Dion is (culturally) to many Canadians (you can take that any way you like).

The magazine that I primarily used to work for focuses on home décor, DIY, food, and gardening. There was a running joke amongst the copy editors about this (there were four of us - two for the Afrikaans version of the magazine and two for the English), as half the staff on the magazines comprises "visual" people who always want to style things and "make them beautiful". Usually in a way that is beyond our comprehension (and I, unlike the other copy editors, have a design qualification).

taxis (and taxis)
In South Africa, when people mention taxis, they usually referring (in disdain) to minibus taxis (also known as kombis). If not, then they are referring (usually also in disdain) to cars that have a taxi sign on top and a fare scale printed on the passenger doors, and which look more like your typical taxi. "Traditional" taxis charge an absolute fortune and are a total ripoff (hence the disdain): locals seldom use them. Minibus taxis, on the other hand, are designed to seat - I believe - about 12-15 people, but I would estimate that they average 20 passengers, especially in rush-hour traffic. They are usually unroadworthy (I only see a handful each month that are roadworthy, and only the very occasionally one that is in good condition and is well loved and well looked after by its owner and/or driver) and driven (usually wildly, with total disregard for human life - both inside and nearby) by black or coloured men, with an assistant who helps people in and out and shouts the taxi's destination at potential customers and tries to entice extra passengers onboard. I have never travelled in a minibus, because I fear for my life and have heard that, although it's cheap, it's incredibly unpleasant (it would be, with so many people squished into a space designed for not-so-many people). It is the mode of transport, however, that much of the population of South Africa is forced to use, because trains are dangerous (in terms of crime) and don't reach most areas, busses are unreliable (in terms of keeping to a timetable), and cars are so expensive (nevermind parking being difficult to find) that most people can't afford them. If you should ever visit Cape Town, hire a car. You will need it.

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