BB #70: January Bubbles

It’s been a while since the last Brain Bubbles post. There remains something undefined in my mind about the Brain Bubbles category, and it’s lately been a way of posting about a bunch of topics too short to be worthy of a post. (I just can’t seem to get into short-form blogging.)

This post is no exception, and I’ll warn you some rants lie ahead — I’m still annoyed by various spammers, but more and more I’m fed up with certain kinds of clickbait I see in my newsfeed. I’ve blocked a few platforms for being sick of their crap.

On a more positive note, I finally bought a humidifier.

When the outside air temps drop enough below freezing, say +20° or lower (especially lower), it freezes the moisture out of the air. In the dead of winter, the air is bone dry.

Our houses, of course, are not hermetically sealed (that would actually be a bad thing), so the inside air is just as dry. Worse, warm air can contain more water than cold air, so the heated dry air inside has an even lower relative humidity.

The dryness is bad enough. It’s the static shocks that annoy me most. Winter is the Season of the Spark around here.

Sometimes I carry a small screwdriver or other metal tool in my pocket. I use that to touch a metal object to ground the charge I collect just walking around in stocking feet. (Despite wearing all cotton.)

Sometimes I can draw a spark that’s over a quarter of an inch long!

(Using a metal tool means I may feel the muscle jolt of the shock, but don’t feel the hot plasma of the spark itself. It’s that hot plasma that puts the sting into a static shock.)

The main issue with all this is possible damage to electronics gear. In general, such gear is designed, at least somewhat, with static in mind, but when dealing with the tens of thousands of volts involved, there are no guarantees. Even the electric field that the discharge generates can affect electronics.

So every winter it occurs to me that I really ought to buy a humidifier. And every winter, having no clue about humidifiers leads to putting it off, winter passes, and it becomes a moot point. (Our summers compensate for the dry winters by being very muggy. No need for a humidifier then.)

This year I decided “enough” procrastinating, just go to Amazon and buy something. Which I did, and I kinda love it.

It’s an ultrasonic model that uses an ultrasound transducer to blast water into vapor. There’s no warmup time, it’s instant on. Turn the switch and cool water mist starts pouring out.

There’s a control for adjusting the “volume” (so to speak) of the transducer. At max, the thing looks like a little volcano, just blasting away.

There’s a small  fan in it (and an LED night light!), but it’s very quiet. (With my damaged ears, I can’t hear any noise from it at all.)

Amazing device, and it puts a fair amount of water in the air. It’s a small model good for a room, so it hasn’t reduced the shocks to zero, but it has reduced them considerably. I might buy a second one for better coverage.

I did get a kick out of one line from their documentation. It’s from the Quick Start guide, the sixth and final item on a list of things not to do. The first five all make perfect sense (3. DO NOT add essential oils…).

But that last one: 6. To prevent dry burn, all the humidifying base will occur the phenomenon of accumulated water. Please feel free to use it.

What? Use it how? And shades of “All your base…”

§ §

I really hate that most of the snail mail I get is spam, and that pretty much all the phone calls I get, likewise. (I never answer my phone anymore, because it’s never actually for me.)

And while WordPress is excellent at siphoning off spam comments, I do see them in my Spam folder. (I guess some just ignore them, but I’m not prone to ignoring stuff.)

What kind of cracks me up is that I’ve been seeing the same seemingly earnest “comments” since I started blogging in 2011. When the umpteenth person makes nearly the exact same comment, often from “different” people at the same time…

It’s just all so incredibly stupid, is the thing. How is anyone fooled? How can these be productive endeavors at all? (But then I realize just how stupid some people are, so I guess it must sometimes work.)

I just wish spam was a social scourge we devoted some time to eliminating.


But kind of along those lines, I’m getting seriously fed up with obvious clickbait headlines in my news feed. Here are some samples:

If you have these popular potato chips chuck the bag immediately!

If you have this vegetable in your refrigerator throw it away immediately!

If you take this common medication contact your doctor immediately!

This fucked up shit makes me want to hurt people. Long headlines that tease and terrify. Of course they don’t mention what potato chip brand or what vegetable or what medication. Then readers wouldn’t have to click in and be subjected to your damn ads.

Well, fuck you, I refuse to read your shit, and it sometimes leads to me filtering out your platform from my feed, so you lose, assholes. (If only everyone would get on board with this, we might actually change things.)

Less enraging to me are headlines like this:

Firefly: Why Joss Whedon’s beloved sci-fi classic was cancelled.

Seriously? Ancient history, and anyone who cares already knows. Talk about an utterly pointless article. We need a new acronym: TP:DR — Too Pointless;  Didn’t Read.

The Star Trek episode Gene Roddenberry hated.

Wow, even more ancient history. TP;DR Why would anyone care what a long dead man thought about a TV show that aired over 50 years ago? Are your minds really so utterly empty that this is interesting?

I am truly astonished at the degree to which some people live in the past. I guess some really need their security blanket.

You need to watch the most underrated gritty dystopian movie on Netflix ASAP!

You need to watch the best SF thriller on Hulu before it leaves this week!

These typically come from one source, INVERSE, and, realizing I’ve never seen anything of value from them, I think they, too, are headed for the filter.

I really hate being told what I need to do. Let me be very clear about this: Go. Fuck. Yourself.

The worst thing is, the recommendations are often really lame. The last one, “best SF thriller” referred to Nolan’s The Prestige, which, yes, is a pretty good film, but “best SF thriller” — no, that’s just bullshit. (I’m not sure I’d even classify the film as a thriller.)

Screen Rant is another platform that I’m tempted to filter for never presenting any interesting. Except every once in a while, which is why they’ve escaped the filter. (I unsubscribed from their YT channel years ago.)

Every once in a while they’ll do a thoughtful piece I appreciate, but I’ve clicked into a lot more articles that gave me zip and made me regret wasting the time.


As with the spammers, the problem seems to be an over-crowded field.

So many platforms cranking out content daily — of course most of it is utter pointless crap. The signal-to-noise ratio has gotten way out of wack.

There’s just too much of everything. We need a new approach.

In particular, I wish we could have some accountability for the nonsense. Why can’t we make robo-calls and spam highly illegal with severe punishments? Who wouldn’t benefit from that? (The spammers, obviously, but they deserve only to perish from this Earth.)

What is the matter with us? Why do we put up with it?

§ §

Back in college, a friend of mine had a great idea about bad drivers. She thought there ought to be standard equipment in cars where you could push a button in your car, and a little arm would come out of the car in front of you and tap that driver on the shoulder.

It was a way to say, “Pay attention! Drive better!”

I wish for some mechanism that would allow us to make ourselves known to spammers. A way to crawl down the line and slap their faces. “Cut this shit out, asshole!” A way for there to be some accountability for making the world a shittier place.

Stay humid, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

13 responses to “BB #70: January Bubbles

  • Wyrd Smythe

    A recent topic that didn’t fit with the tone of the post:

    Remember all the excitement about the supposed observation of phosphine on Venus? It was a huge deal because phosphine, as far as we know, is mainly produced by biological processes. So it seemed like there might be some kind of life on Venus.

    Sane minds should have been very skeptical, and it now appears what was really observed was ordinary sulfur dioxide.

    Told you so.

    There is no life on the hellscape of Venus, and Mars is a dead dry world of only scientific interest. Once again, stop believing in science fiction. (I’m beginning to wonder if the Anno Stella Bella era is, in fact, one of humanity’s mistakes. Culture seems to have become besotted with fantasy. We’ve just gone from angels and demons to aliens and living on Mars. [sigh])

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I haven’t posted about consciousness in a long time, so for lack of anywhere else to stash something I want to memorize:

    I recently started following Jordan Harrod’s YouTube channel. Harrod is “a graduate student at Harvard and MIT researching brain-machine interfaces and machine learning for medicine.” Her channel is about machine learning and AI. Very interesting and highly eductional channel. I recommend it to anyone with an interest.

    In one of her videos she comments about the challenge of trying to replicate the brain (which we don’t fully understand) with machine learning (which we also don’t fully understand). The point being that we’re a very long way away from replicating human consciousness.

    That particular video was fascinating. It was about attempts to use AI networks to replicate the function of a single neuron, and it’s surprising how much machinery was required (seven hidden layers).

    Here’s that video:

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Ugh, this Dell laptop is such a piece of crap. The 5 ghz radio became completely useless, wouldn’t hold the connection for more than a few minutes.

    Then I tried the 2.4 ghz band, and that’s been working. Except it regularly (and seeming with greater frequency lately) just loses DNS. Can’t even find an explicit local IP address (to my router).

    I hate this fucking Dell soooooooooooooo much. I’ll never give them another dime. If they were the last computer company on Earth, I’d have no choice but to take up knitting.

    It’s also being weird about mouse clicks. I’ve always hated this wireless mouse (and friends tell me they don’t have trouble with theirs, so once again it’s Dell shit that sucks).

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Dry air tears up my sinuses, so I’ve been using a humidifier at night during the winter for years. The biggest issue I’ve had is I’ve never had one last more than a year. The first year, I just stopped using it, and discovered that it was unusable the next winter. The next year, with another one, I very carefully cleaned and stored it. It worked a little better the next year, but it was clearly struggling. Since then, I’ve just given up and buy a new one each year, usually whichever one Consumer Reports gives a Best Buy recommendation on.

    Inverse is the worst. They constantly come up as a recommendation in Google News, even though I haven’t clicked one of their links in almost a year. I know there’s somewhere to block specific sites. I need to dig that up and filter them out.

    I have to admit I basically ignore the WP spam folder. I used to stress about it. Now, the only time I look is when someone asks about a comment they posted. Which is bad, because their engine doesn’t seem to work as well as it used to. I just checked and found a legit comment on a recent post. Ugh.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’m surprised you would even need a humidifier in Louisiana. Is it because the A/C dries out the air, or does it really get that dry in the winter? Do you get the ultrasonic kind? Interesting technology. It’s weird to see “steam” streaming from the nozzle, but it’s not hot, it’s a cool mist.

      Our summers are very humid, so it’ll get no use for months. I wonder if it’ll work next winter?

      I suppose spammers are getting smarter about getting around spam filters, at least some of them. I have a sense there must be a “Kiddie Home Spammer Kit” of some kind these wannbe thieves buy, and it seems pretty clear some of them don’t really know what they’re doing.

      I find my email spam more annoying. There seems a more aggressive trickery thieving aspect to it somehow. Or maybe it’s just that it’s in my personal email. But the number of idiots who think I’ll open their attachment is depressing. Such obvious phishing. And I’m getting really annoyed by all the different eddresses that tell me my McAfee (or Norton) is expired. “Click Here Now To Be Protected!”

      Heh, yeah, right, sure.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        This is the humidifier I’m using right now:
        It’s a warm mist. It does make consistent but low gurgling noise, but I actually kind of like that about it. I have trouble sleeping if it’s too quiet. (The fan takes care of that in the warm months.)

        Definitely humidity usually isn’t an issue in Louisiana. For me it all comes from the heater running. It seems to dry the air out. I thought it was the specific heater I had, but it was replaced about four years ago and didn’t make much of a difference in that regard. It is gas heating, so that might have something to do with it.

        I actually don’t see much of that kind of spam in my email, but again, I rarely visit the spam folder. (Which probably means I’m missing some legit stuff.) Although Google’s filters seem pretty good. But I’m fairly protective of my private email account, rarely giving it out for newsletters and such.

        Just perused the spam folder in email. The first message is some kind of Equifax scam. There’s a message from Pornhub (or at least claiming to be). Another wanting to wire me $3000 if I just give them some info. Lots of phishing attempts to get me to “confirm” my account. Ick. Nothing even rising to the level of legitimate marketing. Don’t think I’ll spend much time in this folder. The Junk folder in my work email isn’t quite as seedy, but still not anything I want to look at on a regular basis.

        I agree that most of the comment spam is just stupid. What gets me is they tend to zero in on a small number of old posts and just hammer them. I sometimes wonder if they’re not spidering in from another site that’s linked to them. Most of it isn’t even trying to sell or scam anything, just random gibberish.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        One gallon tank; big! Here’s the one I bought. They seem comparably priced and reasonable enough that if it does only last the one winter I won’t feel utterly cheated. I’m kind of fascinated by the use of ultrasound and cool mist on the model I got. No warmup time, it just goes!

        Heating air raises its capacity to hold water, so heated air has a lower relative humidity, even if it contains the same amount of water as cooler outside air. The water simply isn’t available, so warm air definitely dries one out.

        My email spam filter is pretty good, although every once in a while it decides that someone it knows is in my address books and with whom I email all the time is a spammer and puts their email in the Junk folder. So I definitely keep an eye on it, plus I’m just curious who’s trying to break in and steal my stuff. I’ve always been interested in crime and what motivates people, and that spam is an (occasionally) interesting look into things.

        I think the goal with comment spam is to have you click the link. Some of them sound so earnest (some of them so flattering), but when I’ve seen the same wording in those comments for years… Kiddie Home Spammer Kit. Whadda world.

        This stuff does cost us billions in network and resource use, and when they do manage snag someone the results can be bad for that person or for anyone on the server that person has access to. As I understand it, spam is deliberately stupid because they don’t want to waste time on smart experienced people. Only those dumb enough, or inexperienced enough, to fall for the lies.

        Although I still think some spam is stupid because spammers are stupid. Thieves usually are on one level or another.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I use the gallon one in my bedroom and it runs all night, which actually uses up most of that tank. I once bought a larger one, but it was more trouble than it was worth.

        Back before my university had a security group, and when I had sysadmin duties, I used to have to occasionally respond to police requests for data. I was always astounded at how stupid some of the criminals were. The ones that stick in my mind were students paying their university bill with stolen credit cards, or a fake ID ring with photos of the people they made IDs for left stored in their university mail accounts, along with discussion of where the incriminating evidence might be after they were busted.

        Of course, that might be a selection effect. Maybe the clever ones didn’t leave evidence lying around. Although some did take precautions, but just didn’t understand what leaves a digital trail.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ha, yeah, I suppose the ones we know about, the ones that actually get caught, are the dumb ones.

  • Brian

    The static thing is fascinating; some people are clearly more prone to that than others. Thankfully I’m not, being a computer technician by trade – I handle motherboards and RAM with little worry other than being careful where I put my hands).
    It makes me think back to when a lot of cars had those ‘grounding rods’ attached underneath; I hardly ever see that now, I wonder what has significantly changed in cars to negate the need for those, perhaps having more sensitive electronics on board means they actually absorb the static away, or maybe it’s something like tyre construction.
    Firefly is a great reason for not letting yourself get too attached to any sci-fi series.
    As for dehumidifiers not lasting. If their use is going to be seasonal, sell it as ‘hardly used’ at the end of the season and buy a fresh new one next season. Then again, it might not be the ideal time to sell one! I once bought a portable air conditioning unit ‘out of season’, used it one season, and sold it ‘in season’ and made some money out of it.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      There is, I believe, a regional nature to static. I never got shocks like I do here when I lived in Los Angeles. That was too close to the ocean and too moderate in climate. It’s also not a problem in the humid summers here, but when it’s -20 out, the air does get bone dry!

      I remember trucks sometimes had chains that dangled down and were meant to ground static charge. I don’t recall seeing those anymore, either. Tires are conductive. Maybe there’s a better connection there? Or maybe they realized they didn’t need them.

      The humidifier I bought was only 35 USD, so I’m not sure how much resale value a used one would have. My water has a fairly high mineral content, and I’ve noticed scale is already forming in parts of the unit. I certainly wouldn’t want to buy a unit like that. Not when I could get a new one for $35.

      Firefly was a tragedy, but I do sometimes wonder if it would have sustained. Maybe part of what makes it so great is that it was just the one season. I liked the movie okay, but there is something pure about that one season that stands alone.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Or this headline in BGR: “Anyone who has this dangerous space heater should stop using it immediately” The image for the article is of a house completely engulfed in flames.

    WTF is wrong with people??

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Or the way that every article I’ve seen about the recent research results with Einsteinium uses a photo of an atomic bomb explosion for the article’s image. (Of course Einsteinium has absolutely zero to do with atomic explosions.)

    It’s just so damn dumb. Science journalism tends to be a complete joke.

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