Computers: The Word of the Day

The reverb10 prompt for today was to sum up 2010 in one word.  It reminded me of a kid I used to play with. Her name was Star, her sister’s name was Secret and her brother’s name was Arrow. She said that, after each birth, her mom opened the dictionary at random and whatever word her finger landed on, that was the child’s name. Personally, I think this story is bullshit.

I mean, honestly, do you think that on three tries she never once landed on a word like “the” or “pancreas” or “fornication” ?

So, I read a lot of these other posts.  One advantage of being a procrastinator (which is Greek for “night person”) is you get to read other people’s stuff before you write your own.  Most of them had words like “Sanguine” .

The blog by The Annoyed Army Wife was more credible as she said the first word that came to mind was “fuck!” but  then she had a beer and thought of a different one (“surprise”, in case you are wondering, oh, sorry, now I ruined it).

The word that best describes my year is, “Computers”.

Coincidentally, next week is Computer Science Education Week and everyone is trying to be all politically correct in telling you, “Hey, kids! STEM is great! Computers are cool!” and showing pictures with nationally representative genders and races included of people looking like the cult from Bubble Boy and smiling at screenshots of the moon. I predict this will be about as successful as the “Just say no to drugs” campaign, which, contrary to expectations, did not stop people doing drugs. Don’t even get me started on abstinence education.

I think perhaps what we should say to young people instead is this ….


I have a truly great life and it revolves around computers.

I spend most of my working hours sitting in front of a computer doing things I could never have imagined thirty years ago. I’ve worked on a couple of projects this year analyzing genetics data, both human and animal, that’s the type of job that only existed on Star Trek back in the 1960s. Much of 2010 I spent working at a university with a direct line to several thousand CPUs right over my head. Other projects ranged from studies of government spending, “reading” posts to websites (yeah, you’re in my database, watch out), projections of election results, complete with color-coded maps and other stuff that you see on TV and movies now, except I’m a real person, not an actor, and I get to do this for a living. Yeah, I know, it’s hard for me to believe, too.

My first job I made minimum wage, I think it was about $2 an hour back then, waiting tables from midnight to 8 a.m., then going to class.  Even if we give a discount for telecommuting, flexible hours and volume, I still make more in an hour now than I used to in a week. I get paid this because whether you want it using Linux or Windows or on a Mac, I can get it done and I have all three operating systems in my house. If your data are on websites scattered across the world, in an Excel file written in Korean or a 100GB dataset on a supercomputer, I can pull out what you need to know. For this, they pay me. Well. Many of the people I knew growing up ended  in jail, on welfare or dead before they got to my age. I didn’t take an eight-month course at some institute – I spent 40 hours or more in front of a computer for decades of my life and it paid off. And I was HAPPY doing it. (See previous paragraph.)

Speaking of that telecommuting – flexible hours thing. Because almost all of my work is done through a computer, I can do it in jeans and a t-shirt, starting at 10 a.m., with Christmas music playing in the background, a glass of Chardonnay on one side of my monitor and a candle burning on the other. Walking to the beach for a break is nice, too.

Don’t get me wrong – I work a lot of hours and do my, very, very damnedest to deliver great work – BUT when I was in business school, young women (of which there were two or three in most of my classes, counting me) were counseled that they should not have pictures of their children on their desk because it would make them seem less serious about their careers. Imagine me saying this when I graduated with my MBA back in 1980 –

“Dr. Erickson, I think I want to work out of my home, because, after all, that’s where my stuff is. I put a lot of time into making it comfortable for me, so, yeah, I don’t think I want to go to an office. Besides, I’d have to get up and drive in rush hour traffic, and that pretty much sucks. Oh, and I don’t like mornings so I’m not going to work before 10. See, if I don’t drive to work, I can just get up at 9:55 and start work.”

Well, I wouldn’t have done that because I am afraid he would have had a heart attack on the spot.

If you’re really, really good with computers, it doesn’t matter if you are male, female, black, white, over fifty, an immigrant, overweight, shy, gay, once slept with the dean’s wife or a hundred other things. You’ll have work. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to sometimes deal with idiots, or get laid off or quit, get fired for sleeping with the dean’s wife or have to learn a new programming language or operating system because the one you knew is no longer in demand.

The other reverb10 prompt was to give a word that I hope will describe 2011.

Sex would be a good word but I am over fifty and married for a very long time, so, seriously, who am I kidding. I was going to go with computers again, because I like my life, but I guess that’s cheating, or redundant.

So, my word for 2011 is reboot.

A reboot every now and then is a good thing. Hopefully, your system starts up again, all your applications that you want are working the way you want them, your communication among the various parts of your computer are working again and you have recovered from any errors.

System working – communication – recovered from errors. That’s what I want for 2011. A reboot for my life.

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  1. Oh, that was simply fantastic. THANK YOU. You made my smile, shake my head in agreeance and laugh- all in one sitting! I can’t wait to read more! x, Shannon

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