Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Computer Ghost Story

When you are Hawaiian-Chinese like me, you are very sensitive to the unseen in the environment. I was raised with stories of night marchers, mo'o, evil spirits waiting to get your fingernail clippings or hanging out with your laundry left on the clothesline after sunset. Perhaps the awareness is simply an understanding that there are forces in our lives that go beyond the concrete and tangible. This is healthy respect engendered to promote proper behavior and consideration.

But some things are just too weird. There are collections of occurrences that warn us that we are going down the wrong path. For example, after I finished my doctoral studies, I wanted to apply for a post-doctoral award so I spent a lot of time distilling my dissertation to meet the requirements of the award. When I checked my writeup, pieces were mysteriously missing and appeared in strange sequence. So I redid my writeup only to find out that the download was again all kapakahi (mixed up). I took my disc to the computing center to see if they could clean it up. They tried to do their best but suggested that I retype my writeup just in case. This is like the fifth or sixth time I am redoing this darn paper. I am no quitter and wanted to see the project through. The last straw occurred as the deadline neared. The neon sign of destiny had been turned on. One night, I was working late in the University of Southern Mississippi's library when a sudden thunder storm struck. Lightning hit the library, and the electricity was knocked out. We sat in the darkness for a few seconds. Everybody's computer came back on except for mine!! Whatever I had typed was lost. When I went to see the librarian the next day, she said that all the computers were operative except for the one I was working on. It was inoperative.

That was the last straw. In frustration, I went to my major professor for my dissertation committee and explained the string of events and told him that I was withdrawing because the lightning strike was a sign that I was barking up the wrong tree. Dr. Hamilton Williams was the best professor anyone could ask for and he agreed that perhaps I should not pursue it. He wished me well and told me that he would see me at the commencement exercise. Then he said that it would be his last commencement. I made light of his comments and reminded him about how he was so loved by his students and everyone was jockeying to see if he would serve on their committee.

Graduation came, with the post-doctoral award forgotten, we shared orchid leis with our friends. That was the last time I saw Dr. Hamilton who suddenly passed away a few weeks after graduation. Were the weird string of events a harbinger of things to come? Was the computer trying to tell me something? I don't know but am certain that our energies have a direct relationship to how well or how poorly technological hardware operations. There are signs in our lives. We need to be open to them to understand the path we should be taking. Don't let the neon sign of destiny might be too late for corrective action.

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