Sunday, March 17, 2013

cut and paste

Some years ago now, I was flying a computer terminal at a library for a living, when I noticed my colleague at the next desk trying to design a poster on hers. She had the text all laid out nicely, and a space left for an illustration. But every time she pasted the illustration in, even though it was the correct size for the space, it pushed the text all wonky and out of alignment.

After she tried this several times, I suggested that she print the poster master out without the illustration, and then paste the illo in the old-fashioned way, physically with scissors and glue. That solved the problem.

I thought of that incident when faced with the bibliography I'm now assigned to compile. My colleague who did the basic searching in professional databases sent me the raw results in no particular order, which is what I'd asked for, since there was no point in asking her to put them in final alphabetized order. It's easier for me to verify the results and catch missing items if they're in classified order, e.g. all the papers from one theme anthology or from one journal together, so I'd have to re-sort them anyway.

So I get the results: a Word file with 230 Web database entries pasted in. I need to sort them into uncertain kinds and an unknown number (it turned out to be 16) of categories, in particular order within each. I could do this by opening up a random number of blank Word documents and cut and paste all day, but that much repetition of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V and Alt-Tab would be wearisome, not even counting the easy possibility of accidentally cutting without pasting and losing an item, and not finding this out until I count them all up again on finishing, and then pawing through the saved copy to look for what's missing.

No. It was much easier to do this the old-fashioned way, physically. I printed out the whole shebang. I made a big open space on the kitchen table. (My desk? Don't be ridiculous. Even if I cleaned everything off, which isn't going to happen, there's not enough room.) I cut the entries all up with scissors, put them into piles, regrouped and subdivided the piles, laid each related group out in order and then laid down rows of Scotch tape to fasten them together. This gave me a series of what looked like paper-and-tape Venetian blinds. I carefully inserted these delicate objects into a manila folder, I took them to Kinko's, and I photocopied them all onto fresh, uncut paper.

And there's my working bibliography, all sorted out and ready for notations, corrections, insertions, and any other editing. After which I'll type it all up afresh. Much easier this way.

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