Runaway Italics


Another Day, Another Lurch

A Tourist Attraction

Stonehenge: A Tourist Attraction

I was born a long time before personal computers. Come to that, I was born a long time before pretty much anything that’s not a tourist attraction.

So I remember, back in the 1970s, that early frustration with computers: If they’re so smart, how come they can’t read my mind? Okay, I entered “@#$%” but I meant to enter “@#$^.” Shouldn’t the computer have known that?

A lifetime ago I was the editor of the University of Arizona catalog. We worked on CRTs that were connected with a mainframe (a DEC-10), which was later converted into student housing. Our “text editor” was programmed in SNOBOL and was called “SOS” (“Son of Sam” or “Son of SNOBOL”); it was, in some ways, similar to HTML. If you wanted italics, you entered <it>, and when you were done with italics you entered <eit>. If you forgot to enter <eit>, the italics just went on and on and on, but you didn’t know that – this was pre-WYSIWYG – until you hiked over to pick up your fifty-pound green-and-white-striped printout and carried it back to your office and proofread it. This was eons before spellcheckers, but even a spellcheck wouldn’t have picked up the typo in the Special Education course “Reading and Study Skills for the Dead.”

Univac Mainframe Computer 1951

Univac Mainframe Computer 1951

Then you fool around with them (computers) (not the dead, unless you’re into that, and, hey, who am I to judge?) for a while, and you learn their little quirks, kind of like a spouse, and the accommodation becomes automatic.

That’s kind of how it is with Auctiva. For example, it has this habit of freezing up (kind of like a spouse). You open Auctiva, you list an item, all goes well, you’re on a roll, you try to list another item, and SPLAT! That’s the sound of instant freezing-up.

So you learn that it’s best to close not just Auctiva but Internet Explorer, then reopen, and all goes well. I might have better luck with Firefox, but I have “issues” with Firefox.

They’re selling like hotcakes

SOLD for $1

SOLD for $1

What the hell does that mean, anyway?

Hot cakes cooked in bear grease [yum] or pork lard were popular from earliest times in America. First made of cornmeal, the griddle cakes or pancakes were of course best when served piping hot and were often sold at church benefits, fairs, and other functions. So popular were they that by the beginning of the 19th century ‘”to sell like hot cakes” was a familiar expression for anything that sold very quickly effortlessly, and in quantity.  —From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997)

I’m averaging an item a day, saleswise, though I’m pretty sure the revenue from my eBay store hasn’t overtaken the eBay fees, but we’re making progress, and we’re getting ready to launch our Christmas/Solstice/Pick-Your-Holiday Department. (By “we” I mean “I” plus Elaine, who supplies some of our finest merchandise and offers moral support.)

I’ll leave you panting in anticipation. May Whoever Is On Duty bless you and your endeavors. —Mary

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