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So reinstalling the whole OS was higher up the troubleshooting chain than just trying it out from your wife's computer? Err..

I think you are suggesting a non-causal solution. What exactly is this "it" you think I should have tired on my wife's computer? The character never appears in my normal mac usage. So despite the fact that I use her computer all the time, I never noticed it happening (though I'm sure it did) from her computer.

Yep. You encountered a totally insidious, elusive bug. Even if you had tried it from your wife's computer, it probably wouldn't've shown up then.

At the time, all you had to go on was that there was a probable misconfiguration somewhere in the deep, dark innards of MacOS, and the best way to handle that particular problem is to nuke it from orbit.

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