An AlogoRithm from Hell

Back in the day, the go-to guy for science at Bisbee High School was H.B. “Fuzzy” Warren. I have no idea what the initials stood for—those were never revealed. Ditto for his nickname. If Fuzzy was fuzzy once, he certainly wasn’t fuzzy by the time I walked into his physics class as a junior. I managed to pass, but that class marked the beginning of the end of my formal science education. Less than two years later in 1962, Bill was working for Motorola and learning how to do computer programming. Not me, I was off on a path for becoming a science-free English major. Eventually computers escaped the labs and spread to the rest of the world, bringing with them a whole new world as well as a whole new world of problems, including the word algorithm.

I’ve always had problems spelling algorithm. For starters, I always used to leave out the R, but now I have a handy-dandy way of remembering to use the R. All I have to do is think about that guy who allegedly claimed he had invented the Internet. Then there’s the rithm part. That’s challenging, too. I always think there should be a Y in it as in “rhythm and blues.” So far I haven’t found a mental elastic band to put around my head to remind me that the word contains an I not a Y!

Unfortunately, my life is now being adversely affected by two separate algorithms, not just one!

Last week on TV we saw a show where a fictional character ends up being mislabeled as someone else by faulty facial recognition software, aka an algorithm. As a result, the innocent guy is gunned down by cops who think he’s someone else. It was only a story after all, but boy did I get it.

For the past several months, I’ve been plagued by an unending stream of Facebook notifications for someone named Joanna. Many of those notices have to do with Joanna’s vaccine status, suggesting places where she could go to get a booster shot. (Hey, Facebook, my vaccination status is between me and my Maker and between me and my husband, but certainly not between me and a bunch of total strangers on Facebook! It’s none of their business!)

But back to my problem with Joanna. The first time it happened, I thought, “Wait a minute. Joanna is a fictional character. She doesn’t exist in the real world, and she doesn’t need to be vaccinated.” Then I hit the delete button which I’ve been doing on a regular basis ever since. Delete, delete, delete! A lot of the Joanna notifications have to do with Nelly’s Taqueria which I assumed was located somewhere in the backwoods of Texas. Nope, I just checked. It’s somewhere in the wilds of New York in a town called Hicksville. If that isn’t the wilds, I don’t know what is!

Eventually I decided there was a real Joanna somewhere, but I didn’t worry about her all that much until last week. On Friday when I tried to respond to a comment on my blog on Facebook, my reply was labeled as being from “the Joannas.” There’s really no way to fix it. It’s not like I can write to Facebook and say, “Look you guys, you’ve got me mixed up with somebody else.” I’m pretty sure they won’t pay any attention. So if you put a comment on Facebook and get a reply that says it’s from “the Joannas’ you can be pretty sure it comes from me rather than from a correspondent named Joanna who may or may not be a fictional character. Got it?

Then my AlogoRithm problem set in—a different one this time—simultaneously attacking both my Apple Watch and my iPhone. Those versions of my step-counting app on those got their noses out of joint and stopped speaking to one another. Steps that counted on the watch wouldn’t necessarily count on the phone. Bill’s device trouble shooting mantra goes like this: IF IT DOESN’T WORK, REBOOT! So I tried that twice, once on the watch and once on the phone. No go!

Last night, before charging the watch, I happened to check my pedometer app. It said I had ZERO steps. (By the way, after the word App, I hit the wrong key and my screen went blithely off to the App Store. No, no, no, I did NOT want to go there!) I looked from the watch to the phone which said I had 11,583. Then I happened to check my app settings on the phone. They had me on “Wheelchair” mode. They also had me listed as an eight-foot-one-inch male! No wonder my steps were screwed up. I fixed the settings.

This morning things were back to normal. My Apple Watch steps and my iPhone steps are in sync. YAY!

I just wish Joanna was that easily fixed because I just got a whole new batch of notifications for her from someone named Klark. As long as they’re coming to me, I doubt they’re getting through to her.

Sorry about that, Joanna, you might try letting Facebook know.