Technology has been unkind to me
From the simple to the massive, various systems have been coming down with bugs …
Since Thursday, I've been hit by several failures of technology.
Thursday night, the bulb in the halogen torchere in the living room burned out. No problem, I thought, we always keep a spare in the tool drawer in the kitchen. Nope. Apparently the last time that bulb was changed, whoever changed it didn't put a new spare bulb on the shopping list. OK, I thought, I'll turn on the hanging lamp in the other corner. It's not as bright as the torchere, but it's bright enough to read by. It's plugged into a wall outlet that's controlled by a light switch near the door. I flipped the switch, and nothing happened. Well, all right, I reasoned, the living room is open to the dining room; I can turn on the dining room light. Three of the five light bulbs came on, and as I watched, one of them flickered out. OK, I'll just put new bulbs in, I thought. I went back to the tool drawer and found that there were no candelabra bulbs either. So when I'm in the living room, I'm pretty much in the dark. (Of course, there are some who would argue that I'm in the dark most of the time.) Yeah, I'll get to the store eventually and get some light bulbs, but I've had other things occupying my time.
Also Thursday, my ISP was having problems; I could get online, but I couldn't access email. This was a problem, as I had set the email system at the community college where I teach to forward email coming from the student information system. That meant that if my students sent me a message, I couldn't get it. When the ISP continued to have problems into Friday, I reset my account on the student email system so as not to forward to my ISP anymore. The student system was scheduled to be out for maintenance all weekend, but if my ISP was flaking out on me, I didn't really have any other choice.
Then there has been a problem in the blogosphere. It's not earth-shaking, it's just that there's a feature on one of my favorite blogs that isn't working. The cessation of its function coincided both with the blog author's making some changes to improve the feature and with my receiving an upgrade of Java. Since nobody else who visits that blog has reported a problem, I'm more inclined to blame the Java upgrade than the blog owner's revision, although it may just be plain bad luck that the revision and the Java upgrade happen not to agree with each other.
This morning, I was lying in bed, annoyed at how noisy the neighbors' bug-zapper was. Yes, the number of mosquitoes has skyrocketed in Albuquerque lately, but this was ridiculous – popping so often, and so loudly, it was almost as if it was in the house instead of next door. Then I realized it WAS in the house. I jumped out of bed and ran to the computer room, where I found the monitor of the desktop computer was doing a very good impression of a bug zapper, making big popping noises each accompanied by a flash on the screen. Pressing the power button caused no change in this behavior; I had to turn off the power at the power strip.
Late this evening I got an email from a student who didn't pay attention to the multiple announcements I had made in class about the student information system being down for the weekend, who needed to know the homework assignments for tomorrow. OK, so that one's not really my problem, just the student's, but it was annoying. It would have been good of the IT people to have made the major system upgrade between terms.
So today I was working on grading papers, and then creating what I call Reality Checks. These are mini-report cards, about the size of a check, that give each student a snapshot of his or her standing in the class – whether the student is doing well, keeping up with the work, needing to work a little harder, or needing to work a lot harder. While I create all of my class documents on the laptop computer, the desktop computer is what's attached to the printer. Usually, that means I copy the files onto a thumb drive and take it over to the desktop to print the files. With the desktop's monitor doing its bug-zapper impression, I needed to clear space for the laptop on the desktop's desk, unplug the monitor from the power strip, turn on the power strip, plug the printer into the laptop, and wait until the printer and laptop decided they would be willing to talk to each other.
About halfway through printing the Reality Checks, the printer stopped printing and refused to do any more. It had decided that one of its toner cartridges was empty, and it simply would not print until the cartridge was replaced. That is one of this printer's more frustrating "features" – there is absolutely no detectable degradation in print quality, and I expect even when the print quality does decline, it would still be OK for a couple hundred more pages, especially if the toner cartridge gets shaken up once in a while. Sure, the print quality might not be good for important stuff, but it would certainly be OK for rough drafts. It's a huge waste to have to replace a toner cartridge when it's probably still usable. What's even more frustrating is that if one of the color toner cartridges needs replacing, the printer will still refuse to print even if it is told to print in black and white and not even use color. And the printer is clever, oh, so clever – it isn't fooled when the toner cartridge is taken out, shaken, and replaced. Oh, no, it's not going to fall for that trick.
Meanwhile, I'm wishing the desktop computer's monitor really were a bug zapper. I'm getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. They love O-negative.
Going back to the beginning, here's a group writing project that shouldn't take too much time and energy – create a light bulb joke with the format "How many ____ sailors does it take to change a light bulb? ____, (because) ____."
For example, "How many Etchells sailors does it take to change a light bulb? It doesn't matter, because they're all busy bragging about their fraculators."
"How many MacGregor sailors does it take to change a light bulb? Six: one to change the bulb and five to replace the wiring on the boat."
Post your answers here and/or on your own blogs with a link here. Come on, I'm expecting some good ones about Lasers and Force 5's.