Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Laughing at my “Computer Jinx” syndrome

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I have to admit this: I am a natural optimist, but I really do have a computer jinx thing going. People don’t believe it at first, but if you know me long enough, you’ll start to believe it, too.

Today, my new self-hosted blog (this you’re reading now) went erratically down then up then down then… But thankfully, now it’s up. This is quite hilarious because I had just posted a sort of urgent blogpost about an upcoming online crowdsourced interview with Dave Cormier, and needed people to read, retweet, participate, etc over the coming two days. It was on long enough that some people did. I also created a parallel post on my old wordpress.com blog just in case. The hilarious part? Dave Cormier’s (And Bonnie’s) website also went down & up around the same time as mine, apparently! We don’t have the same provider, and apparently the problem was not with the provider. So ummm, sorry Dave, sorry Reclaim. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m not breaking up with you 🙂

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(P.S. I have to assume this image is not copyrighted, coz i could have created an identical one in 5 mins, but attribution is there anyway)

Recent history: when I returned to work after maternity leave, we had a new tech staff member who was supposed to set me up with a new computer. We all joked with him about my bad luck with computers, but he could not believe it. I kid you not, we tried something like 5 different computers, one for each weekday, for several weeks, and each one would give me a blue screen or restart or shutdown spontaneously within an hour of operation, even though I was only using a browser and MS word. The tech guy gave in to my jinx theory. Turned out there was sthg wrong with the Windows installation used for all the computers, so technically, it “wasn’t me”, but, you know, it really looked like it was me!

As an undergrad, my team did our computer science thesis project using parallel processed population-oriented simulated annealing neural networks (the code for which is much more elegant and simple than the name). It was this amazing thing where you program it and you let it play with data til it “learns” to “evolve” to better solve a problem (in our case, predicting whether stock prices would go up or down one day ahead). Anyhow, we ran this on the university’s powerful and robust UNIX servers. Ummm one night, the entire UNIX infrastructure went down overnight because of our program. We were so proud.

More history? Gross one: Like a week after I finished my PhD thesis, my toddler threw up on it, then it fell on the floor. End result? To fix it properly, it would have cost 90% of the actual amount of money I paid for it as a brand new laptop a few months earlier. Thankfully, in Egypt we have geniuses outside the official manufacturers who will fix it for much much less. Yes, it could have been worse. This could have happened while I was still finalizing my thesis. But believe me, I know other people whose kids threw up on their laptops, people who threw their laptops on the floor, and nothing happened!

This last one is not so funny, but still. The day my dad passed away, when lots of friends were trying to reach me on my mobile to come over and visit? My mobile phone just wouldn’t work properly and the entire mobile network for my provider only was down.

Anyway, I love this South Park episode where the internet is down and everyone’s suffering.. And of course the solution ends up being a “restart” which Kyle figures out.

When you work with computers, life is a series of restarts :>

One Comment

  1. Excellent post, Maha! Made me laugh out loud. I’ve always had almost the opposite situation: in my whole life I think I’ve only had four or five computers. That’s from 1990 (I think) to now. They go on forever, like old warhorses. My PC at home is seven years old, and the rumour is that tribes of computers gather around a campfire and tell stories about it lasting so long. It’s painfully slow… but it works.

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