returning my ticket to the surfeit
Sunday, August 24 2003
The air today was cool and dry, making for flawless blue skies and a brilliant sun. It was the first day since the summer that carried with it a hint of autumn. For the past few days we've been closing our windows at night to avoid the cold. I talked to my Dad on the phone today and he told me it was so brisk last night south of Staunton, Virginia that this morning he checked the ground for signs of frost. An August frost would possibly constitute some sort of record, even up here in the Hudson Valley.
I was at a client's house today and I had a terrible time transporting her Outlook Express address book from one computer to another. The problem wasn't that I was moving to a different program, it was that I was moving from a Windows computer to a Macintosh. It turns out that Outlook Express on a Macintosh has no idea what to do with a .WAB file, the database file used by Outlook Express to store the address book in Windows. Complicating the matter is the Macintosh file type architecture, which makes opening unusual file types with arbitrary applications a major hassle. It's part of the underlying "don't worry your pretty head" Macintosh methodology, a major inconvenience when working on a Mac lacking a suite of hacker tools. I've become terribly spoiled by the ability to change a file type by simply editing the extension.
Another problem was the great difficulty of ascertaining where Outlook Express stores its files (including its Inbox) on a Macintosh. If you have a Mac and are foolish enough to use Outlook Express, I defy you to back up your Inbox. If, after an hour of looking, I can't find where it stores its data, it's obvious that the idea of backing it up was never considered by the software's designers.
But back to the address book. You'd think Microsoft would have a simple mechanism for transferring it between different computers running different operating systems. It would consist of an interchange format that could be written and read on both sides. It turns out that Outlook Express can write a comma-delimited text file, but when I went to import it on the Macintosh side, Outlook Express completely screwed up the fields, acting as if the wrong delimiter had been used. I finally gave up and presented the client with a comma-delimited text file and told her to "look for your contacts in there." Outlook Express, with its wizards, talking paperclips, and useless help menus, is the half-realized crap that passes for consumer software these days. There are better alternatives, but it hardly matters, since every Windows PC comes with Outlook Express pre-installed.
When I got home, Gretchen was giving our friend Suzy (from Gardiner) a tour of our house. The two of them had spent a large chunk of the afternoon attending a concert at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock. For some reason Gretchen has a surfeit of tickets to Maverick performances, but she's been having surprising difficulty giving them away. She gave me one today so I could join her and Suzy on my way home from my housecall, but the housecall went on too long and I was forced to return my ticket to the surfeit, assuming that a surfeit is the sort of entity to which things can be returned.
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