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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Honestly, it really happened! (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Honestly, it really happened!
Survivor
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So I'm sitting here at my computer, looking blankly at the screen, when there a sort of "paf" and the screen jiggles. "Paf"? I look up and there is a cloud of grey-white smoke winding from the top of my monitor.

I'm sitting there staring at this improbable display when I smell something burning.

It occurs to me, only a couple of seconds after I would have been killed if this were an actual emergency, that I shouldn't continue to use that monitor until I ascertain why it is on fire. So I turn off the power to the monitor and make ready to take any other necessary measures.

My initial thought (from the smell) was that one of the capacitors must have blown, and further investigation revealed this to be the case. Of course I knew, in theory, that these capacitors were prone to such failure. But it looked like something out of bad Sci-Fi. Or, to put in in the characteristically ironic idiom of anime, "this isn't an anime, you know." I'll have to figure out how to get Antonio Bandaras to say that with a straight face when this shocking incident of my true life is portrayed in film.

I mean, it really looked like a stupid special effect designed to show a computer malfunction. Enough so that I dug out the capacitor as much to prove it wasn't an elaborate practical joke as to find out what I need to buy.


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Elan
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I was at work one day and walked past an old dot matrix printer to see flames shooting out from the top. I summoned the MIS manager and inquired, "Is it SUPPOSED to do this?"

Needless to say, I've been leery of electronic gadgetry since then. You just never know when it's going to go nova....


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trousercuit
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If you're not an electrician, Survivor, you really shouldn't open up your monitor. If you are though, carry on. I'd assume you know what to do with a few hundred thousand volts.
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trousercuit
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quote:
I was at work one day and walked past an old dot matrix printer to see flames shooting out from the top. I summoned the MIS manager and inquired, "Is it SUPPOSED to do this?"

Actually, it was. It's quite common for networked devices to revert to older protocols when current protocols aren't working. In this case, it went back to smoke signals.

In old version of the Unix line printer daemon (I don't know if it's still the case), there was actually an error code for "printer on fire." IIRC, it reported this when it received conflicting status codes from the printer. On some printer models, however, there was actually a not-insignificant chance that it had reported the error correctly.


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autumnmuse
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My friend had a theory that electricity is a myth. Really, things run on smoke. If you let the smoke out, they stop working. Makes sense to me .
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Jeraliey
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...or it just released all of its phlogiston....
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Leigh
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My old motherboard sizzled and I saw smoke. It was trusty and when it died it left me an empty space inside of me which is now filled by reading a lot of books while I can't write. That happened in late Febuary. I really need to buy a new computer

Poor Survivor, I know what it's like to find something you're using suddenly just die, or just begin to smoke for no unkown reason.

As for the sci-fi effect, that's freaky.


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Kolona
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One of my sons had the same experience with his computer. On a similar note, my hubby and I were once driving along and our dashboard started sparking, then shooting out flames. We got out in time to watch the whole car burn. Luckily, we didn't have to waste time trying to grab photo albums on our way out.
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MaryRobinette
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Thank heavens it was just the monitor and you didn't lose any data. Stories like this are the ones that make me go do the backup I've been procrastinating on.

My funniest "catching fire" story happened when I was working on "Elmo in Grouchland." They were using the remote control Elmo puppet, which looks just like Elmo but has servos in the head so you can do a full body shot without having a puppeteer attached. Some fake fur found its way into one of the servos and Elmo started twitching and smoke came pouring out the top of his head. It was comedy.


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Elan
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quote:
Elmo started twitching and smoke came pouring out the top of his head.

Too funny!! What a good image to give children to convince them: Don't be a grouch... look what getting hot with anger will do to you!!

Ahh, the children's TV shows we WISH would get aired...


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Spaceman
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quote:
If you're not an electrician, Survivor

I suspect he was wise enough to unplug it first. It doesn't take an electrician, just somebody who knows what they are doing. V=IR.


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Spaceman
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Oh, Mary: Now that multiple Gigabyte flash drives are getting reasonably priced, it's really easy to do backups of the whole writing directory.

The Elmo thing is funny, did you get film?


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Christine
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I'm going to have to have Elmo on fire in my next LH challenge.
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Elan
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quote:
I'm going to have to have Elmo on fire in my next LH challenge.

Is this leading to a story topic of "St. Elmo's Fire?"


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trousercuit
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Spaceman:

quote:
I suspect he was wise enough to unplug it first. It doesn't take an electrician, just somebody who knows what they are doing. V=IR.

That won't do it. Your CRT is a BIG, FAT, STINKING AMAZINGLY ELECTRIFIED capacitor. (Sorry about the caps, but nothing else really describes it.) It keeps a charge for months, literally.


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Matt Lust
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he's right

the mere term capacitor should suggest capacity and that capacity is to stock away excess amps so that the current is better regulted

Which as an aside is why in Appolo 13 they were worried about not overloading the system in "amps" not "volts" because technically its the amperage that'll kill you not so much the volts (though they do go hand in hand typically)


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Spaceman
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C = Q/V; P = IV; P = IQ/C. I'm not advocating that everyone stick their hands inside their monitor blindly, or stick their tongue on two leads of a component they don't understand. What I'm saying is that you don't need to be an electrician. An electrical engineer, a physicist, a chemist, a mathematician, or a technically competent lawyer can understand the monitor and respect the power that can result from a discharge of a capacitor, and without a union card.

[This message has been edited by Spaceman (edited May 08, 2006).]


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Elan
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My ex-husband was an electrician. He used to shake his head at my fear of electricity. "It's like water," he would say, referring to the current.

"Like hell," I would reply. "Water doesn't kill you when you touch it."

I'd suggest keeping a healthy distance away from your monitor, Survivor ... and a fire extinguisher handy.

[This message has been edited by Elan (edited May 09, 2006).]


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Survivor
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I already took it apart and pulled the capacitor, so there's no point in discussing whether it's safe or not.

CRT's do have enough capacitance at voltage to give the incautious a nasty jolt, even if you unplug them. But I was more worried about doing further damage to my monitor than about getting a little shock. I find the x-ray emission warning more frightening than the thought of taking a few dozen microfarads at 200 volts. Still, replacing a capacitor isn't going to compromise the radiation shielding. I hope.

But I had never seen a computer device go all cartoony on me before. It has just never happened. That totally freaked me out, like...if you drank some soda and a bunch of hot dancers jumped out of nowhere and burst into song. I was like, "okay, this has to be a hidden camera dealy." It was too surreal.

And for you people that need multi-gig flash drives to back up your writing...you go, girl!

Er, spaceman...person.

Yeah.


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Inkwell
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This reminds me of the time I was typing at 3 o'clock in the morning (don't ask why, the memory's too painful) and suddenly noticed a peculiar electrical whine from my microwave...and no, it wasn't on at the time. I'm not that detached from reality, albeit dangerously close.

It was kinda like that high-pitched noise you hear when you switch on your TV, until a program's sound drowns it out and you lose interest. Only this one kept building, and building. It sounded like a detonator spinning up in some 'gahhh...nuclear weapons in the hands of naughty people' film.

At about the same time I decided to duck and cover beneath my kitchen table, the whine terminated in an audible pop-fizzle, followed by scittering sounds like a mouse trapped in a coffee can. Then everything went silent. As I cautiously approached, plauged by thoughts of strategically placing aluminum foil over...uh...strategic places to shield myself from whatever my microwave was autonomously doing, all the lights went out. My computer (with a damn good story beginning that I hadn't saved yet, before the days of autorecover) and all other electronics also shut off.

The microwave had tripped the breaker. To this day, I don't know what happened...the electrician I called was also at a loss (he mumbled something about the magnetron going up). In any case, I didn't take a chance on the microwave being safe for future use. The thing went straight to the dump. I miss it...'twas a bloody nice microwave. Had the perfect popcorn setting, too. Any idea how hard it is to find a microwave with a properly programmed popcorn button?

*sigh*

So, yeah...technology. Can't live with it, can't live without it (though we all seem to attempt the balancing act, no?).


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous

[This message has been edited by Inkwell (edited May 08, 2006).]


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MaryRobinette
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quote:
Now that multiple Gigabyte flash drives are getting reasonably priced,

Spaceman, clearly you've never been shopping in Iceland. The phrase "reasonably priced" just doesn't exist here.

Survivor, I looooove the cartoony nature of your monitor's demise. I wish I could have seen the look on your face. Perhaps I shouldn't admit it, but the notion of anything throwing you is faintly appealing.


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Spaceman
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quote:
clearly you've never been shopping in Iceland

Details.

If you want, I can pick up a gig drive at Fry's Electronics and mail it to you.


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Survivor
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Actually, I've been told that I make a very disappointing victim for practical jokes, since if something genuinely suprises me, I forget to properly express suprise.

But, if it weren't for that little difficulty, I would have liked to have seen my face too


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Survivor
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And...er, on the subject of reasonably priced electronics, does anyone know where I could get a reasonably priced 22uF 250V capacitor? Because they don't sell those at Radio Shack. They do sell 1uF capacitors rated for 250V, but those are individually bigger than the thing that blew, and while I could solder together a stack of them to make up the difference, it doesn't strike me as a particularly good idea. I can get a new monitor for less than $70, and a flat screen for only $130 (when I found that out, I decided to do that even though I still want to fix my old one). So cost is an issue, I'm not spending $40 to create a giant cludge that I'll have to tape to the outside of the housing. Heck, I won't pay that much regardless of whether I end up having to tape a giant electrical hazard on the housing.

I may be willing to work with equipment that has been repaired by...unconventional methods (even microwaves ), but there are limits to doing it yourself. Mostly involving the silly prices they charge for do-it-yourself materials. I really am a cheapskate that way.


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Inkwell
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Agreed. I've been fixing things in a haphazard fashion since my Teddy Ruxpin went rabid on Grubby. Needless to say, he didn't last long after the quick-fix (which involved a lot of childish fumbling with wires and several good whacks with a scaled-down hammer), though I did manage to finish that last story cartridge. Hey, I heard they're bringing Teddy back for a new generation!

*crickets*

Never mind.


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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quidscribis
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Yep, I've had two monitors go up in flames. The first was back in about 1990 or 1991 at work and we noticed it when we went in first thing in the morning, and due to the fumes coming out of the thing being carcinogenic and all, had to evacuate the office. Oh darn.

The second time was about, oh, six or seven years ago. That one was mine and under warranty still, so I called the manufacturer's help line and was immediately told that yes, sometimes they emit smoke, but never actual flames. Uh, no, I saw actual yellow, orange, and red flamage. Not just smoke. They didn't believe me. Until I delivered the monitor, they took it apart, and found all the scorch marks.

Yeah, don't even want to hear about a third time... *plugs ears* *hums loudly*


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Susannaj4
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This thread is hilarious. We(programmers, back in the day) were told that monitors were like little bombs. Don't put your foot through it. No matter how mad you get, aim for the CPU.

My hubby likes the scene is Office Space when they take was it the copier? to a field and beat it to 'death'?

Electronics fail--all the time. We have been through probably twenty PC's in 9 years. Makes ya wonder, huh?

Oh, and as long as you unplug it and take off any jewelry, you are grounded by placing one hand on the box, or by the rubber on the soles of your shoes. Just make sure you are grounded.


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pooka
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I believe we have an extra monitor that you can pick up next time we are in the same place. Or do you need it sooner than that? I also need to get a lot of money into your bank account one of these days. P.S. your predicament reminded me of a StrongBad email.

[This message has been edited by pooka (edited May 09, 2006).]


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Survivor
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Well, I'm online now. It's not like I'm so omniscient that I can browse pages without a monitor. And like I said, I already decided to get a new one.

About being grounded...that doesn't work for playing with a high voltage/capacitance device, and is actually very dangerous. See, by grounding with one hand and poking with the other, you create a path that goes right through where? Your heart. What would otherwise just be a nasty jolt becomes a potentially fibrillation inducing impulse.

Grounding is for working with delicate low voltage systems, so that you don't damage them with small electrical discharges. If there is a risk of the electronics hurting you, then you don't want to be grounded. Particularly through your hand. You can attach a grounding wire to whatever tool you use for prodding, and there will be almost no risk to you even if you blow the circuit. But do not try grounding high voltages through your own flesh, it will hurt you.

I guess that I've just been unusually blessed in my history with computers. Sure, I've seen all kinds of other things catch fire/melt down/go haywire, but I've always had pretty well behaved computers. Including the monitor portion.


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Pyre Dynasty
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Is the amazing exploding Elmo on the DVD? If it is I'm going out right now.

Inkwell: I had nearly the same experience, except it was in the middle of the day and it didn't trip the breaker it exploded. My microwave had the best popcorn setting in the world and it started to whine and boom. The scary thing was the next day there was a similar whine as I was driving and my altrinator fell off. I blame it on solar flares.


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Susannaj4
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I meant for the CPU.
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Survivor
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Yeah. But I wanted to make sure that nobody thought that the same advice applied to playing with the inside of the monitor. Except the thing about using a grounded tool, that works for both. By the way, are you harking back to the days when the CPU would be distributed across several different boards? Hah hah, I probably shouldn't be asking questions like that, eh?

I've had pretty good luck with microwaves too, I guess.


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MaryRobinette
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quote:
If you want, I can pick up a gig drive at Fry's Electronics and mail it to you.

Thanks, Spaceman, but I've got a friend coming out next week and I'm going to ask him to bring me one. If it's mailed I have to pay customs.

And now, Pyre Dynasty, exploding Elmo is not on DVD. I only wish it were.


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Elan
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Wouldn't it be fun to see a bootleg version of muppetland... behind the scenes stuff no one ever sees... muppets run amok.

I know more than one person who would cough up money for that...


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Inkwell
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I'd cough up my left lung for that...the fact that I'm a longtime Muppet fan notwithstanding.

Seeing Oscar's cynicism unrestrained would be worth the effort by itself.

And what the heck is up with taking away Cookie Monster's cookies? I heard this disturbing rumor from my little cousin last week, and have been waiting for an opportunity to rant about it.


Inkwell
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"The difference between a writer and someone who says they want to write is merely the width of a postage stamp."
-Anonymous


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pooka
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The new motto is "Cookies are a sometimes food". The first time I heard that I took it to mean there are cookies that are not food rather than cookies are to be eating infrequently. (in the spirit of keeping this a discussion about language and writing )

Ever since my high school physics teacher was showing us the power of a capacitor and he accidentally arc-welded his screwdriver to the contacts, I have been hesitant to go near them. He had so many awesome real-life encounters with physics, particularly as a boy growing up in Southern Utah. The wood-propeller driven truck, for instance. They mounted a motor on the truck bed and attached a propeller made of 2x4s. Then they fired it up, and almost immediately lost a blade of the propeller. The out of balance load vibrated the truck so bad the springs broke.

The capacitors in CRTs are one reason TVs are the #1 appliance to blame for house fires.


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Elan
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I remember my college physics professor teaching us about the LGM theory... the Little Green Men that live inside electronic devices and are actually the source of making them work. This is, he explained, why a device that quit working suddenly starts working again when you give it a hard thump. It wakes the LGM up.
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hoptoad
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I like the idea of a Big Brother — Muppet Edition

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Survivor
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Is the psychology of little boys one of the other reasons?
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pooka
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While we're at it with the seeming non-sequiturs, could you explain the last line of this partially clips to me? http://www.partiallyclips.com/pclipslite.php?id=1423

The last line is supposed to be really funny.


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Survivor
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Only in a meta-humor sense. It's unnecessary and reduces the impact of the penultimate line, where the guy blandly reiterates his dedication to his own culture, however short-lived and basically silly it is.

I do realize that the intervention of two unrelated posts would make my response seem like a non sequitur, but that's life.

The problem is that when you have to explain the punchline, the joke isn't quite as funny. By extension, when you try to explain the punchline because you're not sure that everyone gets it, that also saps some of the humor, it makes the joke seem stilted and contrived.

The "It's...played" line does that. It's explaining the punchline. But that's a problem for all humorists who deal with edgy humor in a medium where they cannot immediately judge the audiences reaction. They end up wondering if the audience will get it, and end up putting in a line to sort of explain, which is obviously not as funny and thus makes it harder to get


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pooka
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Oh, the psychology of little boys. You know, in Utah they factor the presence of preschool boys into your house insurance. But my agent in Maryland says she never heard of such a thing. I heard the TV thing in Utah, in the rest of the country it's probably cigarettes.

I'd go for a Muppet version of Lost if it meant seeing Telly monster's legs crushed by a steel door. I tell you, people try to get me to watch these shows and I finally do and such horrible things happen on them. But seeing the guys legs get crushed was not as bad as that guy who brought "Bullet ball" to American Inventor.

Since we're talking about TV... I guess.


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Survivor
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Ouch. I saw that episode, and it was the last time I watched that show. I take it that his story was atypical, but...man. Much worse than seeing a fictional presentation of a guy's legs getting crushed.
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pooka
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It was right after I broke my ribs and I was kind of drugged out on the couch and they put on the show. There was something slightly Orwellian about my inability to escape.
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Spaceman
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Left your remote on top of the TV, eh?
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Susannaj4
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remember my college physics professor teaching us about the LGM theory... the Little Green Men that live inside electronic devices and are actually the source of making them work. This is, he explained, why a device that quit working suddenly starts working again when you give it a hard thump. It wakes the LGM up.

Is that like Jahooti turning the light on and off in the fridge?


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Survivor
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If Jahooti is a bunch of little green men. Is it?
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trousercuit
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Actually, it's the Magooties, not the Jahooties. That it's the Jahooties doing it is a vicious rumor, and they want you to stop.

I'll let you know if I get any more mind-to-mind communcations on this.


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pooka
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I guess I need to get a new Jahooty for my fridge. The one in the oven quit too. Also, the one in the dishwasher was keeping the soap door open ALL THE FLIPPIN TIME.

So we got a new dishwasher with one control for cycles and a separate start/stop button (apart from the door latch). I don't like the looks of it.


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Robert Nowall
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The one that runs my car cooling fan quit about three years ago. I only found out about it Friday, and got it fixed Saturday.

Be thankful they haven't unionized yet...suppose a bunch of 'em went out in a sympathy strike?


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