As a bit of variety for our readers, I’ve decided to throw together a periodic humor piece inspired by Simon Travaglia BOFH. It’s not exactly an angry rant… but it is Friday — you deserve a few laughs.

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It’s about 9:30 on Tuesday when I roll into the lab. We had a wicked bender last night at the little Irish pub in convenient stumbling distance from my couch, and so I’m pretty hung over (dark sunglasses and all). Disregarding my now fading headache (pounding 4 aspirins does make a difference), I plop down into my chair and try to log in to my account.

Only to find that I can’t log in at all.

Or for that matter ping the server, once I’ve rebooted into single user mode.

Not good.

I wander across the lab and give the server the ol’ three finger salute.


A hard reboot is equally as ineffective. Drat. I was actually intending on getting work done today — after I spent a little while getting caught up on friday’s BOFH.

After a quick stop by the hideously overpriced coffee shop down on the first floor for a half double-decaffeinated half-caff with a twist of lemon (which somehow came out as an Americano with a slice of orange… the bastards), I clear off a table in the lab by dumping the scattered papers into one pile in the corner. I’m sure the first year didn’t have any particular ordering scheme in mind for his paperwork. Within half and hour, I’ve completely field-stripped the server and have nearly busted out the multimeter when I see something a tad bit odd — a memory chip that’s clearly been cracked in half.

Say all you want about “thermal fatigue,” but memory chips don’t do THAT… which leaves me with one conclusion — somebody else did. But who?

Was it Amy, the theorist best described as an idiot savant — brilliant about theoretical physics and high-falutin’ mathematics, but utterly clueless about anything else in the world? No, it’s unlikely that she could figure out how to open the case, even if I showed here where the quick release was on the side panel.

What about Sasha, the surly Eastern European theorist? Also unlikely. She’s evidently just found Jesus and has been off partying with him all weekend. Not the sort of partying I’ve been doing, but if it makes her any less surly, I’m all for it!

What about Javier, the Puerto Rican experimentalist? No. Javier’s the only guy in the lab who works less than I do… and over a three day weekend, there’s no way Javier would’ve stumbled into the lab… unless he’d had enough booze to forget where his apartment was.

No, it could’ve been the first year… what was his name again? But he seemed to not realize that he was in grad school yet, and was probably boozing it up with Javier.

No, there’s only one other option — Li, the stereotypical workaholic Chinese grad student, who’s deathly scared of the commies revoking his visa. Now, I don’t like Li to begin with — workaholic foreigners are bad for us more laid-back American types. By having no life outside the lab (at least Li showers), they slowly convince professors that 16 hour work days are “normal” and suddenly your whole office is speaking Mandarin and you’re getting the pink slip for putting only 8 hours in a day. As I only put in about 4, this would be a big problem. Thankfully, Li isn’t all that good at science, so his overall productivity isn’t that high, but he’s still a threat. And if Li broke the server, I’m a threat… to him.

A trip by ECE stores has me billing a new memory chip to The Advisor’s grant. By lunch time the server is up and running, so I can check my email before I head down to Burrito Mucho Grande for my traditional Monday lunch (yes, it’s Tuesday, but three day weekends reset the lunch schedule). The internet was out all weekend because some idiot down in Central Computing gas-axed through the external line. You could almost see the light bulb above my head as I pour a bunch of dust in the card reader and headed to Burrito Mucho Grande. Whoever messed with the server did so because the internet was out… and thought it was a problem with the server… *my* server. And whoever that someone is will pay.

Upon my return (and after I pick up my next cup of coffee), the card reader is out — who would have known — so I head down to the office of the only secretary in the building with actual keys to the rooms (the university having moved to card readers to “save money” and not just because the chancellor’s cousin owned a card reader business in Skokie). She sighs and walks me back to the lab and is about to let me in when I trip, spilling my coffee and grabbing her swipe card (carelessly left inside her purse). I apologize profusely, she lets me in and I duplicate her card before leaving it by the potted plant outside the lab (so she can find it when she retraces her steps after realizing she “dropped” it).

The rest of the day passes fairly uneventfully as I restock the lab’s chemical supplies from central stores. The clerk wonders why I’ve ordered so much liquid nitrogen, but I tell her some cock and bull story about a new supercooling experiment until she lets me go my way. After 6pm when most of the building staff is gone, I head down to the secretary’s office and let myself in. Within a few minutes I’ve broken into her NT box and I’m loading up the cardkey log software. Thankfully it’s web-based and Miss Secretary has chosen the “remember this password” option in her browser, so within no time I’m looking over the access logs to the lab, which confirm my suspicions — Li was the only person in the lab this weekend. And now he needs to be taught a lesson.

I head back to the lab (who’s door I propped this afternoon) and rig up a tripwire with some fishing line tied to the valve on the liquid nitrogen canister. I pull the patch cable out of the server and quietly lock the door and walk down to the lobby, chatting with the janitor about the Uni basketball team when…


It looks like the server is down… and Li’s feeling worse. That’s what you get for messing with