Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Is this good news or bad?

Saw this "inspirational" quote today in the Puget Sound Business Journal: "Leap and the net will appear."

It occured to me that this would be great news if you were, say, a tightrope walker. It's not so great news, however, if you're a fish.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A four-letter word that means "merge"

I hate mail merge. For a program that ostensibly makes life ever-so-much-easier, it is clumsy, cumbersome and downright mean-spirited. Join it up with a printer that pouts if you try to print a card or envelope on it, and you've got a Very Bad Tuesday.

Let me tell you about my Very Bad Tuesday. I got to work relatively intact, only one minor bike vs auto incident where a woman cut me off in a red-assed hurry to get to a RED stoplight where she sat in the RIGHT HAND TURN LANE, unable to turn, until I calmly pedaled up, prepared to give her a look so nasty it might leave a scar. She was tweezing her chin. Tweezing. Right there at the light, feeling around on her chin with her thumb, looking for that long, curly, wirey one that even scares the cat if left unattended. Maybe she's growing it for Locks of Love, and now that it's long enough, it's time to tweeze and donate it to some pre-menopausal woman or pre-pubescent boy who can't grow chin hairs of their own. Whatever the case, I'm gobsmacked (look it up) that I nearly got clobbered by a woman driving what is apparently a brand new PT Cruiser because she had a tweezing emergency. Then she drives off, and I notice the Hummer insignia on the back of her car. I pull the mini-bazookette out of my backpack and take. the. bitch. out. That'll teach her to tweeze while driving.

Anyway, I arrive at work still a bit grumpy, and find it's time to do the monthly address labels for the birthday cards we send out to clients (presumably those having birthdays). ARGH. In the past, I was strictly the middle-person on this: the labels came to me, formatted by someone who had fought the good fight with Mail Merge and won, and I sent them on to the people who would print them out and send the actual cards. Alas, the person who sent them to me no longer works there. Now I get the list of names and addresses and must somehow produce labels.

So here's what happens: first, the list comes in the wrong form. It is NOT POSSIBLE, I repeat NOT POSSIBLE to generate Mail Merge labels from a PDF. That's the whole point of PDFs--there's very little you can do with them, presumably so that you don't screw up the original document. Fine. I monkey around with that for awhile, try a cut-and-paste into Word, con the intern into helping laboriously retype all the info into spreadsheets until we realize that there are HUNDREDS of names and addresses on the list, blah blah blah, then finally give up and ask the IT guys if they can do any better. They send me back copies of the original files from which the PDFs were made. I don't know what the heck program this is, but it doesn't work either. When I try to cut and paste, it ignores the first line, which then shifts everyone's address up a name. Back to the drawing board.

It's now been a couple of hours, and I'm no closer to generating labels than I was when I sat down. I have, however, received a couple of emails asking how soon they can expect the labels. I opt for discretion, concluding that it's better not to answer than to send a stream of curse words ending with "They'll BE there when they GET there."

I have forgotten to mention the parallel project that's going on while I'm doing this: I'm also printing the monthly anniversary cards. Well, I'm supposed to be printing them... I also have to do a merge for this one, since the card says something along the lines of, "Dear {first name}, Thanks for {number} great years!" After much scheming and end-running around Merge when Microsoft's back is turned, I have gotten this down to "Dear 7, Thanks for Margaret great years!" I feel confident I can crack this one.

I go back to the IT boys and ask if they can give me the birthday list in an Excel document. They can. There is much celebrating. Why we didn't start there, I'm unsure, but we're here now. It's not quite lunchtime, and I've done nothing else this morning. Despair is starting to set in.

I finally get some sort of document sex to happen, but it's kind of like you'd expect a couple of teen-age virgins to do it: sloppy, brief and mostly pleasureless. The Excel document puts its thin little arm around Word, there's a bit of awkward flirtation, they shoo Clippy off the couch, there's a lot of fumbling, and finally we get some sort of beginner's merge. Clearly Excel and Word are brother and sister or some other direct relation because the labels are, sadly, RETARDED. They come out almost normal, but still definitely short-bus. There's no Zip code, and no option to include one.

Much fighting ensues over the retarded children. Word claims it's not her fault, Excel gets all huffy at the notion that he's somehow inadequate, and I have to step in and figure it all out. Finally what happens is the State column has to be absorbed by the City column so that we can call the Zip codes "States" and trick Excel into doing his duty by his stupid children. It works. Labels are created, all accurate and proper, and they get sent off to the next phase of their brief, pointless little lives. I do a little happy dance and receive applause and accolades for both my victory over merge and my creative cursing.

Ah, but it's not over yet. There are still those stupid anniversary cards to do! I have mentally blocked most of the struggle it took to get this to work, but if we go back to the beginner's sex analogy, I'm guessing one or both of these "learned" about sex in one of those abstinence-only education programs because they keep slotting things in the wrong holes. I produce a copy of "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret" and a Playboy magazine, and we finally get it figured out. But then there's the printer who, in this rather tortured analogy, must be a nun, because those cards are NOT going in. That door is firmly closed to cardstock, thank you very much. After much cajoling and pleas of "you'll like it after awhile," I give up. This printer is a prude.

I'm told to try the VERY EXPENSIVE printer in the copy room. Lordy, do I not want to. The nun sits behind my desk and is only used by the 3 people in marketing. This other printer is huge, costly, and used by the entire floor. I'm going to call this printer George W. because it won't do anything it's told to do by reasonable people, and no amount of pushing his buttons will get him to change his mind about what God has clearly ordained. This is the Village Idiot of printers.

In the end, it is the humble Admin printer that takes care of it in somewhat robotic fashion, joylessly cranking out the cards in black and white instead of color (which the other two had the capability of, if only they could be convinced). This dutiful housefrau of copiers, indispensable but largely ignored as it goes about its labors, saves the day.

And so it is over. Until next month.