Rendered Fat Content


Francis Picabia: La Source [The Spring] (1912)
"This Authoring crap ain't for wimps"

It might be a feature of modern times that I seem to have only fragmentary understanding of how most things work. I know enough about automobiles, for instance, to drive them, or many of them (not Buicks), but not enough to fix them should they break. I tried at one point in my life to learn enough to be able to perform simple periodic maintenance on my vehicles, but vehicles have changed since then, and even then, I was prone to making mistakes when taking care of my cars. It's genuinely difficult to clean up a four quart oil spill in a driveway after discovering that you forgot to replace the drain plug before attempting to refill the crankcase. Difficult and embarrassing.

Most of the software that I use, I understand no better than I understand automobile maintenance.
I learned just enough of each app to avoid reliably crashing the system with it, but never enough to qualify as a full user. I never aspired to become a power user. I remember when I first encountered calculus, in my second year at university, and how it utterly baffled me. I was then in a period where I firmly believed that I could probably master anything I put my mind to, so calculus was a particularly cruel discovery. I spent long periods boring the professor with my well-intended questions which he found simply ignorant, culminating in him strongly suggesting that I drop the class and find some alternate way to satisfy the credits, which I did. By his estimation, I had made a wrong turn back around the time I was supposed to be mastering long division, and I would have had to unlearn six or seven years of mathematical instruction to make up the deficit. I simply lacked the fundamental understanding of how to manipulate numbers.

I kind of fear learning more deeply. I still type with two and a half fingers because when I took a typing class, I ran into a wall I could not get over. I type no faster now than I did when I first hunted and pecked my first homework assignment on a manual typewriter, the only difference being that the manual typewriter didn't generate errors like my spell-checking laptop app does. Due to an unfortunate physical anomaly—my thumb joints were installed backward—I cannot type with my thumbs on my phone, but only with one finger. I'll never be a power user there, either. It's a genuine wonder that I manage to post an essay every morning, but I'm certain that I do not do that correctly, that I employ unnecessary workarounds for secret imbedded functions I have not discovered yet. I have no idea where or how people learn to operate their computers, given that tutorials fall into two general classes: incoherent or unavailable.

I find myself at that point in my Authoring initiative where I need to re-generate a re-proofed manuscript into a more finished form. I own software designed to perform this chore, but it's software I so rarely employ that I need to relearn how to use it every time I use it. I don't start precisely at square one again, but maybe square one and a half, still, I have an awful lot riding on figuring it out. I have months of work stored in this app and I could innocently destroy it, even if I'm careful. Its menus remain mysterious. I was able to enter the material into it almost by accident. I cannot remember how I managed it, probably because I never knew. I just intuited my way through it. I seem to need to go back to school to proceed to the next stage of Authoring. I was always a terrible student.

I can sit through hours of detailed instruction, only to respond with a huh? when asked a question about what I've retained. I do not seem to retain instruction. I sometimes learn better through interaction, not by reading manuals or by watching tutorials. Like with calculus, I seem to always be missing a gist, which might be easily shared if only anyone understood what it is. I yesterday received an instruction to right click on something. It took me twenty minutes to translate that into something actionable. (It's Control + click simultaneously, though the purpose of the keystrokes was not made clear to me. I forgot it as soon as I passed through that gauntlet.) This system I use to format my manuscripts features many, many functions like this, combinations of keystrokes and illegible icons. It might as well be written in Klingon. I figured it out once before, so I figure I might be able to cobble together a useful outcome again, though I enter this classroom filled with dread and foreboding. This Authoring crap ain't for wimps.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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