Mark Pendolino

October 19-2004

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Pulling an All-Nighter Without the Booze: Yet Another Microsoft Word Mystery

We're Not Communicating

At around 2:30 am I realized that I might have a problem. My interaction with Microsoft Word was becoming more and more difficult and my bleary eyes were not comprehending the horror that was beginning to unfold.

The program includes a utility entitled "Track Changes" that decorates and distorts the document in obscene shades of red and green. It highlights where others have made changes and additions - a helpful utility at first blush, and one that should certainly be helpful in my current situation. But the utility was not responding to any of my commands.

Click after click, I tried to turn off the intrusive colors, but the program ignored my instructions. It thumbed its nose, intentionally disregarding all of my desires. Eventually, text began to disappear, pages were breaking in unorthodox spots, hidden characters arose to life. I thought perhaps my sleep depravation was producing hallucinations, but alas, such was not my good fate. It was the computer deciding to think on its own and avoid my pleas for help.

The process was like trying to convince your worst enemy to do you a monumental favor. One that would put him out. Make him lose face. You can plead on your hands and knees but the enemy would simply scowl and scoff in shades of blue and green and then indignantly turn his head, leaving you bellowing into empty air.

Then the program began to freeze up. Leaving me with an immobile screen, no coffee and nothing but contempt. Several re-boot attempts seemed to reinvigorate the beast for a few moments, but the instability was increasing, and I was saving every 30 seconds in sheer paranoia.


Making Progress

At around 4:00 am I finally felt some sense of progress. I was nearly through the entire document. At some point the file stabilized and I quickly took advantage of the lull. I was able to make changes to text and graphics alike without the interface reacting in a schizophrenic manor. It actually began to comply. My conversation was turning into a dominant/subordinate relationship and I tried to keep the upper hand. I needed it, I was running out of steam.

At 4:30, with the LCD glow now beginning to devastate my retinas, I worked through the last page. It was done. I saved the file one last time and transferred it back to my laptop using a small, USB jump drive, which holds 32MB of storage. I had decided to transfer the file to my work laptop and transmit via Microsoft Outlook (irony?). For some odd reason, I felt that the chances of the file successfully making it to my colleague through the treacherous waves of air were greater using our business network. I could have sent from the home PC, but I was fearful of some wrong turn in the ethernet. Some miscommunication between proxies. Some inadvertent interception.

The large file made its way quickly through the mail program. I was using a connection via wireless router through cable modem and a secure VPN guard. The beast was gone.

I went to bed. It was now 6:00 am. I had been up for 24 hours with absolutely no alcohol.







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