My Bill Gates Billingsgate


This is my eleventh day at Covenant Woods, and my little apartment is getting that lived-in look. Lived-in, we know, is a euphemism for disorderly mess. And nothing in my disorderly mess is more disorderly than the table at which I am sitting. The lamp and computer belong here, and they are bravely trying to defend their territory. The question is: how long will they be able to hold back the horde of illegally immigrating junk that threatens to overwhelm them?
    The encroaching disarray includes, but is not limited to: a cell phone, a book of stamps; Funk & Wagnalls Standard Handbook of Synonyms, Antonyms & Prepositions; a ragged paperback copy of Single & Single by John LeCarre; a box of Puffs tissue, which I will not call kleenex lest I offend the Kleenex trademark lawyers; a NOOK; the box in which the NOOK came;  a box of plastic food storage bags; a notebook; two plastic bottles of fiber pills and one of multiple vitamins; a food storage bag full of chocolate chip cookies – they were parting gifts from Marcia and Joyce; a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips; an empty plastic creamer that will remain forever empty and ought be thrown out, because I don’t put cream in my coffee; a plaster cast of a hand giving the sign for “I love you,” that Russell made in high school art class, and which deserves a more prominent spot; a stack of paper napkins from Subway; a screwdriver (a tool, not a drink); a juice glass; a notepad; my keys; $1.13 in change; a TV remote that no longer works; a book of crossword puzzles; several pens and assorted scraps of paper.
   All of which segues nicely into my Microsoft spell-check rant. Where, I wonder, were Microsoft’s geeky spellers during the sixties. Didn’t they ever watch Laugh In and hear the man say, “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls?” The fact that most of them had yet to be born is no excuse. They should know that Wagnalls was the name of the Funk’s partner, and that they called their business Funk & Wagnalls Publishing Company, Inc. Wagnalls is not possessive and it does not require an apostrophe. 
   But try telling that to Microsoft. Every time I type “Wagnalls,” the computer tells me I’m wrong and should either insert an apostrophe or drop the “s.” It even did this in when I typed “Wagnalls is not possessive and does not require an apostrophe.” I don’t know what Microsoft thinks Wagnalls possesses in that sentence.
   On the other hand, John LeCarre is supposed to have an accent mark over the second “e.” I know that, I just don’t know how to get it there. The keyboard does have an accent mark; it’s to the left of the “1.” But it doesn’t put the mark on top of the “e” where it belongs.  It puts it next to the “e,” –  LeCarre` or LeCarr`e – and it looks like a defective apostrophe. Please don’t get me started on apostrophes.
   When I’m typing words such as fiancĂ©, I rely on Microsoft to know an accent is needed and to put it there for me. Mr. LeCarre is hardly an unknown, and you would think the people at Microsoft would have heard of him and added his name to the spell-check function. Well, think again. I typed “LeCarre” and got the expected squiggly line beneath it. But when I went to spell check, I didn’t get the expected suggestion of LeCarre with an accent over the final “e.” What I got was a list of words it thought I might have intended to use: lucre, Lexar, Leary and secure among them.
   Then there’s Kleenex. Microsoft fights my every attempt to type Kleenex with a lower case “k.” It’s understandable that the Kleenex people strenuously object to the use of kleenex as a generic term for tissue. It’s not so understandable, however, why Microsoft is so persnickety about Kleenex and so absolutely clueless about Wagnalls and LeCarre. Apparently, Kleenex is nothing to sneeze at.

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