Friday the thirteenth

I will start off by saying that I am definitely not a superstitious person. I believe that everything that we experience has a rational explanation and coincidences happen. However, the events of last Friday almost make me question my perspective.

I am not talking about the terrible events in Paris. My heart goes out to the friends and families of the victims and I am delighted to see that, for the most part, the intended result of the atrocity failed. It was supposed to turn everyone against the Syrian refugees, but, instead, the result seems to have been to bring the UK and other European countries closer to France than ever, which is wonderful. I even heard a number of our MPs speaking messages of support in French – the sentiments were excellent, but the accents were terrible.

The overall goal of terrorists is to change the behavior of their target group – to make us change the way we lead our lives. I am determined not to submit to that demand in general. And in particular, I am fine with talking about the relatively trivial [but I hope somewhat interesting] bad events in my own life on that day …

The day started off quite normally. I went for a swim first thing and then proceeded with various tasks through the day. It was only late afternoon, as it was just beginning to get dark, that I became aware of the first problem. I was answering the door to a delivery man and switched on the kitchen lights. Instead of the 13 down-lighters filling the room with light, all I got was a few flashes of light and a crackling sound from across the room, then darkness. I turned the switch off, then on again. Same result. As I said, it was getting dark, so I figured that I should try to sort the problem a.s.a.p.

BE5B6FA7-6936-45FF-8E77-B1ED7D6F8000The lights were originally halogen bulbs, but, some time ago, I replaced them all with LED bulbs, thus drastically reducing power consumption and eliminating the fire hazard. I have learned that LED bulbs, whilst generally reliable, do have some odd failure modes. So, I initially thought that one of the lights must be the cause of the problem. I removed each bulb in turn, testing as I went along. The problem persisted right up to the last bulb. So, I started to reinsert each one. The first bulb worked fine. So did the second. But testing after the third showed the problem again. I removed the third bulb again and the problem was still there. This was frustrating, as I was getting inconsistent results to my testing. I put all the bulbs back while I considered the problem. Then the penny dropped. There are two light switches in the kitchen. Using the one by the door caused the problem; using the one by the coffee machine and the lights were fine. I figured that there was a connection problem with one of the two wires between the switches. I taped over the switch by the door so that nobody would use it. Then I contacted the electrician – I know a good guy who would not rip me off. He came along a few days later and discovered that it was actually the switch [by the coffee machine] at fault. One of the contacts was arcing badly.

The other bit of “bad luck” [which also had elements of good luck] occurred a few hours later. We were just about to start our evening meal, when we heard a clattering noise outside. My wife went out of one door, as she thought that it was some garden furniture blowing around [we have had some strong winds lately]. I went out of another door and found that it was something more serious. The details were not apparent until the following day, but I found that we had some roof damage. In the morning, we figured out that a ridge tile, right at the top of the [tall] house had come loose and fallen off. It crashed into the next roof level and broke another couple of tiles and all the pieces ended up on the driveway. This is annoying, as it will be awkward and costly to get fixed. However, we were also rather lucky, as it could have been much worse. When the ridge tile fell on to the roof it missed a Velux window by about 6 inches. That would have been an expense replacement. Also, all the debris ended up on the driveway in the space between our two cars; nothing hit either of them.

So, all in all, in my little world, Friday the Thirteenth did seem a rather unlucky day. However, there could be worse to come. In 2017 there will be 7 Friday the Thirteenths and this will not happen again for 666 years. Scary eh? I have not checked these facts. I read them on the Internet, so it must be true

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at