Friday Notes (Apr 16, 2021)

It’s that time again — Friday Notes time — where the flotsam and jetsam that have washed up on the shores of my mind get their brief moment in the spotlight and then recede down the river of time to be lost in the ocean of the past. (If that isn’t a tortured metaphor, I don’t know what one is.)

There’s no theme this time, unless “random bits” is a theme. There’s a thing about very surprised wasp, an upside down beer can, a computer fix that’s worked out, a freedom from loathsome ads, and the light at the end of the tunnel. Also a relevant and favorite quote.

As I said, random bits.

First up: the computer fix. I’ve mentioned my dissatisfaction with this Dell XPS 15 laptop and its peripherals. To refresh your memory, the wireless keyboard eats batteries like a starving person, the wireless mouse is often unresponsive (and lately, for some reason, it sometimes ignores clicks), and the external monitor leaves a great deal to be desired.

Those are minor annoyances compared to the Wi-Fi hell this laptop has put me in. The 5 GHz wireless became completely unusable — connections dropped often and with great dispatch. I finally switched to the 2.4 GHz, and that worked better, but I still had massive issues with intermittent inability to connect.

It wasn’t the Wi-Fi itself, as far as I could tell, but something related to the DNS. I tried giving it explicit DNS IP addresses, but that didn’t change anything. Over time I became convinced it had something to do with the Killer Wi-Fi hardware or software. I’ve seen some complaints about it.

A month ago I configured my netprobe Python app to spend all day requesting the login page of my router every 60 seconds. The first thing I do when I wake up my laptop from its overnight slumber is kick off the netprobe app. It’s configured to go into a loop of 1200 requests, one per minute. That’s 20 hours of requests.

Since then my problem has essentially vanished! Given how pervasive and constant it was before, this looks like a good workaround for whatever is actually wrong. (The one time I forgot to launch the app I experienced the problem again.) It doesn’t fix anything, but at least I’m not in hell anymore.

In the month I’ve been doing this, there have been only three errors, one of which had to do with a brief outage of my DSL — all my devices lost the internet for several minutes. Of the other two errors, two subsequent requests failed because the request wasn’t answered before the timeout, and the other single error was for an “unreachable host.” That last one seems in line with the problem I’ve had. The double error might have been a router issue.

My sense is that the Wi-Fi goes into some kind of idle mode and doesn’t wake up from it. I don’t know whether to blame Dell or the Killer Wi-Fi, but I’m leaning towards the latter since the Dell XPS is supposedly a good machine.

I can say I definitely won’t buy Dell again, and I’ll be careful to find out exactly what kind of Wi-Fi they put in whatever machine I do buy.


Back in February we had a spell of very cold weather — minus 20 or so for quite a number of days — and then the temps went up into the 20s. That seemed to fool some of the wildlife into thinking spring had come early.

I saw my first robin hoping around in the snow during that “warm” spell. The squirrels are active all winter, but it’s rare to see a robin in February.

I walked out one day to take a walk and found a dead wasp just in front of my door (which is in a bit of an alcove — somewhat sheltered, but in fact a wind trap for leaves and other debris — it’s kind of annoying, actually).

I assume the wasp was fooled by the 40-degree change, too, and then very surprised to find itself in winter air. Insects need warm temps to survive. (When you see a butterfly hanging out slowly moving its wings, it’s trying to warm itself so it can fly.)

I moved the body onto the snow bank and took a photo. Later when things warmed up and the snow melted, it was gone. I have no idea if something ate it, it blew away, or it revived.

Maybe there’s a zombie wasp flying around somewhere. Wasps are bad enough, but zombie wasps? Oh, dear!


I’ve come to see Google more and more as The Enemy and have determined to stop using them as much as possible. (They’ve come so far from their motto: “Do No Evil” — how times have changed.)

I decided to pony up for the $9.99/mo for Apple News+ and delete the ad-engorged Google News app I’ve been using for years.

Best ten buck subscription ever. It’s incredible how nice it is to have a news feed with no ads. It’s like eating chocolate after eating shit.

The Apple News+ subscription also gives me access to a bunch of online magazines, Time, Life, Scientific American, and many others. No ads in those, either, other than the occasional self ad about subscribing to the magazine.

I hate ads with a passion, and I’m so happy to be free of them in at least one small corner of life.

I’ve also switched from Google Maps to Apple Maps, and as soon as I transfer all my locations I’ll delete that app, too. (I wish I could just export and import, but rivals be rivals.) I’m dumping Chrome, as well.

Now if only there was a way around YouTube. That also has become hideously ad-bloated, but there isn’t an alternative. (There might be a subscription, but no way no how will I ever give Google a dime. They’re The Enemy.)


At first I thought there had been an error at the can manufacturing company, possibly something related to COVID-19 messing with production. I saw articles about a can shortage.

But it was hard to imagine how it happened — no one noticed?

There was one bit of text that was right side up. It was an apparent URL:

As it hilariously turns out, the upside down artwork is intentional. Stone Brewing, makers of the classic Stone IPA, have a “leave no stone unturned” thing going on. Even the bottles have upside down artwork.

There’s a reason these guys are one of my favorites! Craft beer makers, in general, are pretty awesome. The beer container artwork, the beer names, and the tasty, tasty brews.

(I had a Stone IPA as I began this post, and all I can say is that I don’t know how writers who drank a lot did it. Soooo many typos!)


Going through some ancient note strata I found something from the days of fax machines:

Due to budget cuts, the light at the end of the tunnel will be extinguished until further notice.

Funny how many quotes remain current no matter how old they are.

At least the light isn’t that of an oncoming train.


Speaking of relevant quotes, one of my favorites is due to the great Carl Sagan:

We’ve arranged a global civilization in which the most crucial elements — transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting, profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

It’s from his book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, which was published in 1995.

Sagan was right. It did blow up. It blowed up big time.

§ §

As a final note, I’ve found that all I need to re-enforce my raging misanthropy is to drive somewhere, because other drivers, OMG.

On yesterday’s morning walk I found that all I need to do is walk somewhere. In the first few minutes I saw two people who didn’t know how to pull out of their driveway, which, okay, whatever, sloppy and lame, but no harm done.

Then I get to my first streetlight crossing and see some fucking piece of shit asshole speed through a red light. Had I crossed from the other direction that dickwad would have come close to hitting me at high speed.

I wish I could say people zipping through a red at that light is rare, but I’ve seen it a lot. People suck, and I hate them.

Stay safe, 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

11 responses to “Friday Notes (Apr 16, 2021)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    In just under two hours I’ll get my second COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer)! No ill effects other than a sore arm for 24 hours (and an ache for another 24 hours). I’ve heard some have a stronger reaction to the second shot, so we’ll see. (If I’m never heard from again, someone send flowers!)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Wow, that went even faster than the first one. Parking was easier — didn’t have to go down as many levels or walk up as many stairs — and there were no lines. Pretty much walked right in, sat down, chatted with the nurse a bit (both our sisters are teachers), and then the 15 minute waiting period.

      Easy Peasy!

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Glad you found a solution to the WiFi problem. My laptop started a new thing a few weeks ago with the screen randomly blacking out. Swirling on the touchpad or hitting some of the keys brings it back. It seems to happen more often in the mornings, but is otherwise random. Microsoft is reportedly aware of the issue and investigating. Not a major inconvenience, but pretty annoying.

    I must be living in happy ignorance when it comes to Google. On a day to day basis, they don’t trouble me. Occasionally they do something that makes me hate them, but it seems like every major tech giant does that.

    Best of luck on any shot after effects. I had fever chills the second time around on the day afterward, but a single Advil at a couple points throughout the day took care of them. All good by the second morning.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      From your description it sounds like your laptop is going into screensaver mode with a black screen for the screensaver. That’s how I’ve always had mine set; times out after 12 minutes. Could your settings have changed? Microsoft just did an update last Tuesday and then apparently another one Wednesday.

      The thing about Google is they don’t really sell a product — most of their stuff is free — so their whole business plan is based on sucking up as much of your data as possible (in some very creative and sneaky ways) and then selling it and using it to ad-blast you. Other tech companies are selling a product, so they don’t have those same imperatives. Microsoft and Apple — Apple especially — have shown a lot of concern for the privacy of their users’ data.

      So far just a sore arm.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Interesting idea on the screensaver. Just checked my setting (which is buried in Windows 10) and it isn’t set at all. And it can happen even when I’m in the middle of typing. Of course, that doesn’t mean it isn’t the screensaver mechanism misfiring. But this appears to be something specific to Microsoft devices, which to me implies a device driver, firmware, or something low level. One of the Windows updates did go in yesterday, and I don’t believe it’s happened since then, but I’ve had been here before, so only time will tell.

        Definitely we are the product when it comes to Google (as well as for Facebook, Twitter, and similar services). This is clear if you ever deal with them as an advertising customer, where you’re suddenly able to get real customer service. Maybe I should be more bothered by that, but they usually manage to make it convenient for me to be the product.

        Hope you’re side effect free this morning.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ah, well, if it’s happening while you’re typing, that’s something else. You mentioned the touchpad or keys brought it back, which is what made me thing screensaver. There was yet another (third this week) update this morning, so it seems Microsoft issued two corrections to their Tuesday update. If it does happen again, you might try explicitly setting your screensaver in case that helps.

        Some (including myself) view Google’s business plan as fundamentally wrong, so the principle of the thing outweighs the convenience. Of course, Google relies on that seductive convenience, but there are other options to much of what they offer. I like the idea of freeing myself — as much as possible — from an advertising empire.

        Just a sore arm. Maybe a little fatigue. Nothing flu-like.

  • rung2diotimasladder

    I had the second dose of Pfizer yesterday and pretty much the same experience. Sore arm starting that night and today some fatigue, although the fatigue is likely due to my husband’s new CPAP machine, which is at times like sleeping next to Darth Vader vacuuming.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I was a bit out of it for a week with back issues and fatigue, although ramping up my walking program the week before might have had something to do with it. It’s been two weeks since my second shot, so the vaccine should have taken full effect by now.

      I don’t think I could fall asleep with something on my face like that!

  • Wyrd Smythe

    My Wi-Fi “fix” continues to do the trick! It’s been flawless lately. I’m no longer plagued by being unable to connect. It’s actually done wonders for my mood!

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