A String Of Bad Luck…

Have you ever had a long string of bad luck, completely out of your control?  A whole series of bad events, seemingly unconnected to anything you’ve done that suddenly all lands in your lap at roughly the same time?

A whole bunch of these bad things just happen, and there’s very little you could have done or said to avoid this fate.

That’s exactly what has happened to me over the past couple of weeks.  Both financially and emotionally, life was a bit of a disaster in the Tako household…


A Health Scare

First and foremost on our minds was a serious health scare in the family.  My father, Grandpa Tako, noticed an usual lump in a …err… unmentionable place.  Not the kind of place he was used to finding lumps.  Usually lumps are BAD, and the first guess of all the doctors was that he had cancer.

Yikes!  While cancer isn’t the death sentence it once was, it’s still a very serious disease that can be extremely costly to treat.  It was a sad day around the Tako household upon hearing this early prognosis.

Doctors (of course) like to be thorough, and they had Grandpa Tako go in for an ultrasound a few days later.  This round of testing proved to be a lot more positive than the initial diagnosis.  In the ultrasound it didn’t look like cancer (which is good), but now the doctors don’t have a clue what it is…

And, as I said earlier, lumps are usually not a good thing.  So, the next step is to schedule a biopsy.  All we can do right now is cross our fingers, hope for the best, and wait for the eventual prognosis.

Tech Disaster Round 1: A Fallen Soldier

The next disaster was a fallen soldier who had been faithfully serving our family for 13 years.  My old laptop, a Dell XPS 1330 finally bit the dust.

Let that just sink in for a moment — A laptop that had seen near daily use for 13 years.  This was a laptop that was new back in 2007.

dead xps

Most people change-out laptops every few years.  Maybe 5 or 6 years if they really take care of them.  Laptops (in today’s society) are kind of “disposable” goods, even though they really shouldn’t be.  Just like smartphones.

Ours was definitely getting on in years, and one day the motherboard finally decided to give up the ghost.  It wasn’t worth the cost of fixing anymore, so I’m finally laying it to rest.  Which is really sad, because this faithful servant was like an old friend.  I’m sad to see it go.

Now, to be clear, this was not my primary blogging laptop.  I actually moved on to a newer laptop as my daily driver several years back… but the old Dell laptop was used as a Kodi media server for our television.  It saw near-daily use by myself, Mrs. Tako, and the kids.

The end result
Kodi serving up media onto our TV.

If you’ve never used Kodi before, it’s a fantastic piece of media server software that’s incredibly customizable.  The kids were especially disappointed, because that’s how they streamed Saturday-morning cartoons from PBS, and watched their movie collection.  They’ve had to go without TV for a couple of weeks now!  (Oh the horror!)

Obviously this “no TV” business isn’t going to fly very long with the misses either, so I needed to find a solution that was:

a) Small

b) Cheap

c) Powerful enough to handle full 4k HDR h265 content, including streaming from the internet.

d) Easy enough for the kids and wife to use.

e) Able to play back our entire library of movies, and tv shows.

Eventually I settled on a Raspberry Pi 4B, a single board computer that typically costs around $35, and yet it’s powerful enough to suit our needs.  $35 might seem really cheap, but it comes as only a bare board:

raspberry pi 4b

Most people could probably just purchase a $50 4K FireStick and call it a day.  But personally I like the ability to customize everything to my heart’s content.  With taxes, shipping, a power supply, and a few extra bits and bobs, the total cost of our media-player Pi came to $64.26.

Here is the completed device, serving up videos to our tv:

Our new media server is about the size of two decks of cards stacked on top of one another.

Obviously I’m not happy about needing to spend extra money.  I would have rather used the old laptop, but technology doesn’t last forever.  Sometimes you just have to move-on.  Just like the horse and buggy that eventually gave way to the car, eventually technology moves on.


Tech Disaster Round 2

Fast forward a couple of weeks after the first laptop disaster, and now my new-ish Gigabyte Aero 15x laptop starts crashing.  The first couple of crashes, I just chalked things up to it being a “Windows” problem.  But the crashes started to become more and more frequent.  Uh oh!  I was starting to suspect something was actually wrong.

At first the crashes were days apart, but eventually that turned into hours, and then minutes of up-time.  Something was obviously going bad… but this was a relatively new PC.  I cracked open the laptop to take a look:

laptop open

On the surface, everything look fine.  Turns out, the SSD drive must have failed… and this machine is only a few years old.  It’s one of those fancy new NVMe SSD drives.

ssd failure

So much for the fabled reliability of “new technology”.  Unfortunately the laptop is just out of warranty by a few months, so I can’t just send it back to the manufacturer.  After much googling and diagnosing, I decided to try and order a new SSD drive from Amazon – A 1tb Samsung 970 Evo Plus, which retails for $180.

This new drive hasn’t shown up yet, but it should arrive in a few days.  With luck, the new drive will fix my problems, but I don’t have a lot of hope.  It’s been a very discouraging couple of days.

As a consolation prize, it’s nice that SSD drives are getting pretty cheap, but I’m still upset about something this new failing so quickly.


Getting Through It

Obviously it’s been a rough couple of weeks for my sanity AND my pocketbook.  Most of my thoughts have been consumed by these issues, and it’s tough NOT to think about them.  I’m out hundreds of dollars in just a couple of weeks on silly technology that shouldn’t be failing.

That said, the experience has been a good reminder of some very important life lessons…

The biggest of which is that sometimes things just fail, and there’s nothing we can really do about it.  Thing break — Laptops, human bodies, appliances, cars, and so forth.  It’s like a law of nature, and sometimes life gives you a whole bunch of these lemons all at once.  You just have to work through it.

How am I working through it?

* Backups  — Obviously with two laptop failures over the past two weeks, I’m still able to write this post.  That’s because I believe in the importance of having backups.  Not just backing up data, but having backup hardware in the event of something going wrong… which it did.  Twice.  Thankfully backup hardware doesn’t have to be expensive.  The computer I’m using right now (which I built for my son) cost about $300.

* Exercise lots and stay healthy – Obviously staying healthy and fit goes a long ways toward fending off all kinds of disease, but there’s other benefits.  You also feel a heck of a lot better mentally when you’re healthy, and that sure as heck helps when tackling difficult life issues.

* Try to keeping a positive attitude – Keeping a positive attitude is tough when it feels like the world is taking a giant stinky dump on you, but I can guarantee having a bad attitude won’t solve any problems.  Trust me, I’ve tried it.  Being a grumpy sour-puss never solved a single of my problems.  Ever!

Now obviously this is a personal finance blog with a focus on building wealth.  Worrying about money is something I normally do.  Except I’m trying not to stress about it now.  Why?  Technology is a HUGE part of life these days.  You can’t escape it.  If I want to take part in the modern world, I have to pay-up.

The same goes for Grandpa Tako.  If it turns out he has cancer, we’ll do our best to get him healthy again.  If he needs help with the medical bills, we’ll help out.  It might not be cheap, but I’d absolutely hate myself if he died because I was too cheap to help out with a few bills.

Sometimes you just have to “pay to stay in the game”.

What about you?  Have you ever had a string of bad luck where all kinds of rotten stuff happens all at once?


[Image Credit: Flickr]

20 thoughts on “A String Of Bad Luck…

  • August 2, 2020 at 5:44 AM

    Yeah, hopefully everyone that FIREs knows you need some fat to pay for the wear and tear (sometimes it’s new so I think that’s tear? or is it tears?)

    Sorry for this, at least the tech is just something that is replaceable. Hope your grandpa stays well!

  • August 2, 2020 at 7:56 AM

    Sorry to hear about your father – well wishes that it turns out to nothing serious. Glad to hear that it’s not cancerous though… that’s got to be a huge relief for everyone.

    As far as your media center laptop goes, I find it impressive that you got 13 years out of it. I ran mine for about 10 years after replacing some parts over the years. We were using Kodi as well for a number of those years and loved it but eventually I tried out Plex. If you haven’t toyed with that, it makes Kodi almost seem ancient. Plex is amazing and lets you do some great stuff on mobile devices as well. If you ever want to try it, they do have a Linux version that you should be able to put on the Raspberry Pi. It’ll have some limitations just because the computer isn’t very powerful but it should still run pretty well on it… just a thought.

    • August 4, 2020 at 1:24 AM

      The Pi 4 is actually really darn powerful for it’s size. It’s quite impressive to think that a computer that size can do what it does. I’ve seen *current* PC’s choke on some of things the Pi handles with ease.

      And yes, I’ve used plex, but prefer kodi for the large addon community. Back in the day they were based off the same project (xbmc), but have since forked. Plex went the commercial route, and Kodi went the open source community route.

      Both are great pieces of software!

  • August 2, 2020 at 8:00 AM

    Wow, that 13 year old laptop really served you well though. My Toshiba laptop is 9 years old, and like you I use it every day. If I can get another 4 years out of it I’ll be delighted. Actually all of my devices are getting geriatric, my main PC (a Gateway) is also 9 years old, and my Samsung Android tablet which I love is 8 years old. All of them have been excellent and performed well, and like you said most people would have long replaced them because they got too slow. But that’s America and “throw away” culture for ya, and that’s why most Americans are in debt and will never reach financial independence.

    I love the new media server and thanks for the reminder to download and try Kodi, I’ve been meaning to check it out and have heard great things. Best of luck with your new SSD hard drive, hope it works!

    • August 4, 2020 at 1:25 AM

      Thanks Dave! I could use some luck right about now! It seemed like every time I turned around these past couple of weeks there was bad news, or something broke. 😉

  • August 2, 2020 at 9:07 AM

    Earlier this year (January to March) my car decided to deal with me… First, a huge bolt punctured my tyre…. I got home, put the spare in but dragged my feet on the replacement, …. 2 weeks later a friend borrowed it and promptly drove it over a slightly raised roundabout ruining another tyre and denting its rim….

    I borrowed a spare tyre from another friend and went to the location at 3am, swapped it out, brought the car home, then got replacement tyres the next day…

    3 weeks later, I was driving along the motorway at about 100km/h when I felt the need to move over into the slow lane. no sooner did I do that than my front right tyre blew out at 80km/h..

    “Of course it did” I thought to myself… Ah well I’ve been having plenty of practice changing tyres… I maneuvered onto the shoulder and had the tyre changed in 15 minutes…

    Went back to the car shop and had that one replaced too…

    Less than 2 weeks later, I got home from work, parked and heard a hissing sound from behind the vehicle….. A quick look showed that another tyre had been punctured.. this time by a sharp piece of gravel..

    At this point, I felt it would be a waste of money to buy a new tyre.. so I just had this one repaired….

    A few weeks later, my car refused to start… Apparently the battery was gone… No warnings, no difficult or delayed starts, nothing. It just failed..

    Of course, that needed replacement too..

    Then Covid hit, and things mysteriously stopped going wrong until last week when my desktop Hdd failed out of the blue..

    Itz been an interesting year.

    • August 2, 2020 at 5:20 PM

      Hope your father will get some positive results.

      I’m surprised that laptop lasted that long! That’s pretty amazing. Did you have to do a lot of tweaking to make sure everything could run smoothly?

    • August 4, 2020 at 1:26 AM

      Wow, you definitely know what I’m talking about then! That’s about the worst luck with tires I’ve ever heard of!

  • August 2, 2020 at 9:35 PM

    Hoping for the best for Grandpa Tako. That is not the sort of scare to take lightly. Scary stuff indeed…

    So far as the tech, well, it’s nothing in comparison of course. Just a bit of money, maybe a little time. As you said, glad to have backups!

    Specifically regarding that little XPS 1330. Coincidentally, that’s the exact same laptop and model I took with me to the Peace Corps in Nicaragua. The little engine that could, indeed. Tough, great machine — though I did retire mine before you (forcefully) did!

    • August 4, 2020 at 1:29 AM

      Indeed, the XPS 1330 was an amazingly solid machine! I would have liked to keep it running, but when I can purchase a $35 computer that’s faster and uses less power, it’s no longer worth it to do a repair on the XPS 1330.

      Well, at least I feel like I got my money’s worth out of it!

  • August 3, 2020 at 7:21 AM

    Best wishes with the health scare. Hopefully, it’s benign. Health is the most important thing.

    Cool rasberry pi. We got a smart TV last Christmas. It has Roku built in. I’m very happy with that.

    • August 4, 2020 at 1:29 AM

      Thanks Joe. Hopefully everything turns out OK. My fingers are crossed.

  • August 3, 2020 at 7:34 AM


    I hope health wise things turn into some good news for Grandpa Tako.

    I can sure identify with a run of bad luck.

    Just had a string of tech problems that took a ton of time and effort to solve as well.

    Work is crazy with problems and there is never a relief in sight.

    A ton of repairs for the house as well.

    Also broke a tooth last week. I think it will cost over $5,000 for an implant.

    However it is nice to now I can afford all the repairs and the implant.

    Sometimes I wonder when does luck run the other way?

    The frugal and Fire stuff really pays off, thankfully.

    All the best.

    • August 4, 2020 at 1:30 AM

      Thanks Mike. Seems like you’re having your own run-in with a string of bad luck.

      I hope it improves for you soon! 🙂

  • August 3, 2020 at 10:20 AM

    Sending my wishes to grandpa Tako. I definitely know what you mean with this string of bad luck. My divorce period a while back seemed to have been one. Things breaking down, problems at work and of course, the divorce itself.

    We just have to move forward I guess. Things happen and we just have to do our best to deal with it.

    • August 4, 2020 at 1:31 AM

      Thanks Backpack Finance! Truly, some days you just have to soldier forward.

  • August 3, 2020 at 3:20 PM

    Well wishes to your father. I see patients with lumps all the time and I’m hoping its good news.

    Your misfortune with technology made me think about some choices I made. I’m fortunate to be writing this reply on a 10-year-old Mac, so far, so good. I guess spending some money upfront has paid off! I completely agree with backups. They can really save you.

    Repurposing hardware in underappreciated. My old iphone works great for podcasts (and is smaller than my newer phone). It’s like having an old school ipod in my pocket.

    Appreciating a 13-year-old laptop is truly a positive attitude!

    • August 4, 2020 at 1:34 AM

      I really do appreciate technology that lasts and is durable. The XPS 1330 was an amazingly good machine, and although it wasn’t cheap when I first purchased it, I think I eventually got my money’s worth.

      It’s amazing how much technology has advanced in 13 years, but I’ll still miss that old XPS 1330.

  • August 7, 2020 at 11:59 AM

    Wow. I thought I was doing good with my laptop being 7 years old now. 13 years is awesome. I just replaced the SSD drive on my 7 year old laptop because I was running out of room. The best part is the new drive is so much faster than the old SSD drive. Feels like the computer is new again. I’m not sure if you will see as much improvement with your drive only being a couple of years old, but that is the plus side. I switched to a Macbook Air because I always had bad luck with my PC laptops. The toshiba I had stopped working 3 months after the 1 year warranty and the service technician official diagnosis on the paperwork was “burnt up………. like a fireball”. The HP battery died after 3 years and would only work plugged in and it was getting really slow. The ASUS developed some kind of bios issue after a couple of years.


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