Too Old For This...
Chipping Away at Privacy

19th Nervous Breakdown

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Steve Sherlock invited me to discuss leadership with him last week and we had an interesting telephone chat. He's distilled my ramblings into a more coherent form and posted it at his Passion For the Good Customer Experience blog. Check it out.]

What a lot of sympathy Crabby's computer catastrophe evoked yesterday. She thanks you all for your comfort and sympathy and even the laughs one or two of you had at her expense. It is funny when you take into account that eventually every computer user suffers a major malfunction and knows that computers are immune to salty jeremiads. But they help by releasing Crabby's ire without doing harm to property and small animals.

In her more fanciful moments, Crabby Old Lady sometimes believes electronic devices respond to human emotion. Too much anger, stress or anxiety hanging about in the atmosphere and a cell phone drops a call. Or the DVR playback breaks (as Crabby’s did several days ago). Or a computer eats its own data.

What with the seven months of her home on the open market, deadlines on a couple of projects nipping at Crabby’s heels, looking for a new home to buy, packing for her move, juggling finances and an elderly computer going wonky lately, yesterday’s debacle was more like the 119th Nervous Breakdown - the computer’s, not Crabby’s - although the Old Lady wasn’t far behind it in her own distress.

As predicted yesterday, Crabby lost about 10 hours to computer tinkering. Not that it’s of wild interest to anyone, but it’s still on Crabby’s mind, so here are the results:

  1. The import of the IE bookmarks to Firefox went without a hitch, as it should. Crabby had last exported them from Firefox to IE about a month ago, so not too much is lost.
  2. Firefox refuses to save preferences or, rather, saves only some of them. Crabby likes a clean, uncluttered look at the top of her browser and those giant icons and extra toolbars now reappear every time she opens Firefox, along with a gaggle of unwanted Google choices. She’s given up on ironing out this little snag and will wait to see if Firefox will behave better on her new computer.
  3. After two lengthy phone calls with customer service at her domains registrar and some adjustments to her email accounts, they are functional again. But it wasn’t easy. Test emails severely strained Crabby’s patience all day because the registrar’s servers were having their own nervous breakdown (probably Crabby’s fault) resulting in a wait, sometimes of an hour or two, for email to arrive.
  4. Unanswered email in Crabby’s inbox cannot be recovered. If you’re expecting an answer to anything sent recently up until about 8PM Monday, add a re-send to your to-do list because it’s not here anymore.
  5. Most painful is the loss of all - did you hear that? ALL - of Crabby’s archived email including many previous years’ worth she ported onto this computer when it was new. Years of conversation with friends old and new, which includes many of you. Email archives are the modern equivalent of saved snailmail [see this story] and it breaks Crabby’s heart to lose so much personal history.

For a long time, Crabby conducted one of those email conversations in the early mornings with her oldest, closest New York friend. They were serious and silly and fun and thoughtful and warm and witty, and they were the best keepsake Crabby had of Ann, who died two years ago.

In the 20 years Crabby has owned computers, it is her experience that their useful life almost never exceeds four years. After that, there are dire consequences to contend with and this machine is four-and-a-half years old (Crabby was kidding yesterday about it being built in 1910).

On the other hand, maybe Crabby is wrong about electronic devices reacting to human emotion. Perhaps they have their own feelings and this guy is angry about his impending replacement in three weeks.

Which is a nice segue into this computer joke emailed to Crabby by Chancy who blogs at driftwoodinspiration:

As you are aware, ships have long been characterized as female (for example, "Steady as she goes" or "She's listing to starboard, Captain!"). Recently, a group of computer scientists (all male) announced that computers should also be referred to as female. Their top five reasons for drawing this conclusion are:

  1. No one but the Creator understands their internal logic.
  2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else.
  3. The message "Bad command or file name" is about as informative as, "If you don't know why I'm mad at you, then I'm certainly not going to tell you."
  4. Even your smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory for later retrieval.
  5. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

However, another group of computer scientists (all female) think computers should be referred to as male. Their top five reasons are:

  1. They have a lot of data, but are still clueless.
  2. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they are the problem.
  3. As soon as you commit to one you realize that, if you had waited a little longer, you could have obtained a better model.
  4. In order to get their attention, you have to turn them on.
  5. Big power surges knock them out for the rest of the night.


Dear Crabby, thank you for the blog humor. I needed a good chuckle today as I sense you did. Have a wonderful day! Dee

Sympathies for all your anguish over the lost emails--especially those exchanged with your late friend. That is awful.

Over the years, I've resorted to the time-consuming activity of copying emails exchanged with friends and family to into Word files--usually, one person's exchanges for a month or two in each file. It's a pain in the butt to do, but it means that I've a much greater chance of being able to retain the exchanges "in perpetuity". If I had ever taken the time to really understand email archival systems, this might not have been necessary; but, it's been my way of coping.

My computer is coming up on four years of life; so, I'm hoping to hold off on replacing it until the new OS has had a chance to be released and some of the bugs worked out of it. Good luck with your new computer. I know that some of the new machines are "ready" for isallation of the new OS when it comes out.

I'm sorry the email was not recovered. I do have one thought. You said you didn't know how to restore JUST the email - but implied you could restore the whole disk. Can you save that backup - and restore it to the current computer's disk AFTER you have set up the new computer and transferred everything? That might get you your email archive back....

Regardless of their gender, I am convinced that computers are really bureaucrats, the way they make sudden decisions that appear to benefit no one, with no explanation. Most maddening: "[name of software] has performed an illegal operation and must close". What? Why? It reminds me of a sign I once saw in a London shop window, an announcement that the business would no longer stay open till 4pm, but would now be closing at 3, because "this will enable us to serve you better". I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Laura: Just what Crabby Old Lady was thinking. If she copies off the stuff that would ruin her life to lose (not that much), she could skip backups until the new computer arrives and then try exactly what you suggest.

Sorry to hear about all the bad stuff; glad to hear about all the good stuff.

Guess depending on how my computer behaves in the future I can decide if it's male or female. Frankly, I'm inclined to think it's a bit adolescent in it's behavior at times, either way. In the instance of your computer, Crabby, I have to say I've seen some 4 yr olds that parallel in behavior.

Ronni I am glad you got my email so now I at least know yours is working.

Two thoughts here,...
Don't throw out your old computer when you get your new one or when you move. I know I probably dreamed this up but isn't there a way even "fried files" can be redeemed by an expert (probably too expensive) but maybe one day.

And---of course you are right about electronic objects picking up on stress and bad vibes. Thinking about your old computer, HE is irate that you are ditching HIM for a newer hotter model, sorta like a "Trophy Computer"... A newer sleeker model comes along and the old one is tossed aside and thrown out like a sack of potatoes.

hi crabby gal,

loved your ramblings today; you sure make me laugh...I so wish that your computer woes are gone as I know what you mean by an old computer gone awry. For our 40th wedding anniversary, hubby bought me a brand new Gateway system, with Windows XP, complete with a 21 inch is heavenly. The old one we had was 8 years old. Hubby knows the secret to his happiness: my happiness. lol

Have a great day hon, and please stop by and say hello.


may this experience be the most stressful one visited on you in the challenging days ahead. my sense is that your ability to tilt your head and view what's happening from another angle with humor is your saving grace.

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