SEB Safety Tip: Do NOT set yourself on fire even if you see people on YouTube do it.

We’ve been over this before. Many. Many. MANY. Times. Before. Apparently I still have to say it again: Do not, no matter where you saw someone else do it or how cool they seemed when they did it or whether someone called you chicken if you didn’t do it, set yourself on fire. The Fire Challenge is a stupid thing to do and you will get burned. Just like this Michigan kid did:

Tabitha Cleary of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, told a reporter for CNN affiliate WDIV that her son, Jason Cleary, suffered second degree burns to his chin, chest and stomach after he was set on fire at a friend’s house.

“I just want everybody to know that these challenges, or whatever they’re watching on YouTube, is not worth your risking your life,” Cleary said. “My son got burned second degree, and it could have been way worse.”

Michigan boy suffers second degree burns in ‘fire challenge‘ — CNN.com

This kid was lucky. He’ll probably recover from this without too much lasting damage. Some of the other people I’ve written about previously ended up much worse off including one that had to be put into a drug induced coma because his injuries were so severe.

Don’t get me wrong, I had my own fascination with fire as an early teenager and had a couple of close eyebrow removing calls, but none of the stupid things I did with fire involved literally and intentionally setting myself on fire. My parents had to tell me not to do a lot of stupid things, but none of them was ever “do not douse yourself in flammable liquids and then strike a match to it.”

On a more general note, you should probably think twice before taking on any of the “challenges” you see on YouTube or social media. Unless it’s immediately obvious that there’s little danger of doing real damage to yourself. I’m thinking of things like the Ice Bucket Challenge that was a craze for awhile. You should at least do some research on what the risks of a particular challenge are and then, maybe, just watch the other idiots do it and not be an idiot yourself.

Oh, and even the Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t without risk. Lots of people got bonked on the noggin pretty damn hard when the people dumping the water on them lost their hold on what was clearly more of a picnic cooler and not a bucket.

Why not try a Take A Nap Challenge? Something nice and easy and beneficial? Just lay down on a couch and take a nap. Not a couch that’s on fire, just a normal couch. I feel like I shouldn’t have had to say that last part, but given some of the stupider people out there that keep setting themselves on fire I figured I should probably bring it up.

Tinkering with anti-spam measures on SEB.

I’ve been flooded with spam user registrations as of late and the WP plugin I had been using to stop them is apparently no longer being updated. So I replaced it with the Stop Spammers plugin from Bryan Hadaway and, hoo boy, does it have a lot of features to it. That means there could be some issues with legit registration attempts by real people.

So, this is just a quick post to say that if you’re a real person who isn’t trying to register an account or leave a comment for spammy purposes and you find that you can’t then drop me an email (over in the sidebar) and let me know and I’ll poke the system with a stick to see if I can’t figure out what needs to be tweaked.

My goal isn’t to stop people from signing up or leaving comments — I’d just turn off registrations and comments if that were the case — but to slow down the bots that are constantly bombarding my site. I’m not even sure what they are registering accounts for because there’s nothing in them to point to someplace else and they never try to leave comments with them and they don’t ever seem to login to those accounts beyond the one time. It seems like a stupid and pointless exercise. They’re not stopping, though, so I’m left with no choice put to put systems in place to cut down on how many get through.

Gendered molecules, fire breathing dinosaurs, and the Ark of the Covenant on “This Week from the Comments.”

It’s been a long time since someone last showed up and left a comment challenging my atheism on SEB, but someone going by the moniker “James” felt it was his time to shine. In the grand tradition of drive-by commenters, “James” picked a 14 year old entry not written by me that is tangentially related to religion — Defining “Culture War(s)” — upon which to unleash his indisputable logic.

OK, I’m building this up way too much. He sounds like an idiot. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced he isn’t trying to pull a Poe, but for the sake of this entry we are going to assume he is sincere and that his comment reflect his actual beliefs and state of scientific literacy. Let us begin.

Note: Not “James.” Probably not anyway.

So just a thought, God doesn’t exist so you think why then if government’s don’t believe and scientists don’t believe, why are they looking for the ark, why are important people and government scientists trying to find the ark of the covenant.?

They aren’t. Sure, some individuals may be looking for it, perhaps even some otherwise legit scientists, but there isn’t one government body out there that is seriously looking for the Ark of the Covenant. Nor are they hoping to find the Holy Grail, or the Spear of Longinus, or the Crown of Thorns, or any of the other supposed holy relics that mythology tells us about. If you have evidence showing otherwise, I’d be happy to take a look at it.

And since all intelligent life such as humans cows dogs fish ex… must have Male and female the reproduce how can a molecule split and form Male and female at the exact same time.

Molecules don’t have a gender. Molecules are a group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction. It is clear from this question that you don’t understand what molecules are or how they work so perhaps you should read up a bit more and reconsider the question you are asking.

And since the first dinosaur was discovered in 1819 how can the bi bible in the book of Job verse 42 to 45 describe them perfectly even breathing fire, wait scientists only discovered they could breathe fire in the 90s .

The first dinosaur fossil was identified in 1815 and determined to be some kind of “giant lizard” in 1824 by William Buckland and even then we didn’t know that it was a “dinosaur” as that name wasn’t coined until 1842 by Sir Richard Owen.

The Bible does not describe them perfectly nor does any dinosaur so far discovered breathe fire. Again, if you have evidence to the contrary that comes from a source other than a Creationist website, I’d be willing to look at it.

There is much more, like how can God be 3 in the same the father the son and the holy ghost let’s think for a second I have a human body something in me thinks and leaves the body also something guides me from within.

The Trinity is nonsense. I’m not sure what the hell you’re trying to offer as proof here other than more nonsense.

O I can’t prove this, let’s see my body is 43 and my mind or spirit doesn’t know time because it is eternal it thinks my body can preform like it was 18 try doing at 43 what you did at 18 the body says know but the spirit says go…

I’m 52 and I have no problems knowing that my body cannot perform like it did when it was 18. If you’re really 43 and are holding onto this much nonsense then I would suggest you seek out a good therapist; and by that I mean not a physical therapist.

 …with this small detail say everyone who believes in God is wrong what do we have to loose, but what if we are right what do you have to loose…

I was wondering how long it would take to get to Pascal’s wager and here we are. There are a whole host of problems and assumptions made by this argument that I won’t get into here (see the link above if you want to know them all), but one of the big ones is that it assumes God doesn’t care if your belief in him is the result of hedging your bets rather than a sincere belief he exists. If God is only interested in True Believers than someone who only believes because of the risk of Hell is probably not going to fare well. It also begs the question of how one makes oneself believe in something he doesn’t believe in “just in case.” Do you believe in Santa Claus on the off-chance he might exist? Think of all the presents you could be missing out on!

but if you choose not to believe it is really your choice, no one else will be faulted.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

1 thing that is proven we all are appointed to die once, I don’t know of anyone who has cheated death.. I think you must be very brave to not believe and take a chance of not knowing God, 100 years seems long,I couldn’t imagine a eternity….

There’s nothing brave about not believing in something that doesn’t exist. It isn’t brave to not believe in the boogey man or fire breathing dragons or Big Foot or unicorns and it’s not brave to not believe in God(s).

As for eternity, I didn’t exist for millions of years and it didn’t bother me one bit. I doubt it’ll bother me much after I’m gone.

September 11th.

Imagine No Religion

Oh hey, it’s September already.

It’s been almost a month since my last post so I suppose I should post something. It’s not like I haven’t been meaning to, just like I’ve been meaning to do a vlog or a live stream or something along those lines, but I’m getting lazy in my old age.

Speaking of old age, I turned 52 on the 25th of August. I meant to post something then too, but that obviously didn’t happen. I’d like to think I’d have some wisdom to impart by now, but I got nothing that isn’t something someone else has already said. I did buy myself a handful of RPG video games from Humble Bundle for my birthday with the thought that maybe they’d make for amusing live streaming content, but I really need to sit down and figure out a time and day to do it regularly if I’m going to build up any kind of an audience.

So this is just a short post to say that I’m still alive and still thinking of posting something if I ever get off my ass and think of something to post. After doing this for almost two decades you’d think I’d be better at it than I am.

It’s 2019 and grown-ass adults have to be told not to drink bleach. Apparently.

Every now and then I stop to ponder how we, collectively as a country, could have been stupid enough to elect Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. A job he was clearly unqualified for to anyone who had more than two brain cells to rub together. Surely there aren’t that many drooling idiots out there that are so susceptible to Russian propaganda as to make such a thing possible. I know the results of the election show that, yes, clearly this must be true, but my brain struggles to accept the obvious conclusion.

Holy shit, don’t actually do this.

And then I come across a warning from the FDA telling these same people that, no, drinking bleach will not cure your AIDS/Cancer/Autism/Hepatitis/Flu and that they should stop drinking it and/or, even worse, making their kids drink it. You might think I’m kidding, but I am not:

Since 2010, the FDA has warned consumers about the dangers of Miracle or Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide (CD) Protocol, Water Purification Solution (WPS) and other similar products. Miracle Mineral Solution has not been approved by the FDA for any use, but these products continue to be promoted on social media as a remedy for treating autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and flu, among other conditions. However, the solution, when mixed, develops into a dangerous bleach which has caused serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.

“The FDA’s drug approval process ensures that patients receive safe and effective drug products. Miracle Mineral Solution and similar products are not FDA-approved, and ingesting these products is the same as drinking bleach. Consumers should not use these products, and parents should not give these products to their children for any reason,” said FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. “The FDA will continue to track those selling this dangerous product and take appropriate enforcement actions against those who attempt to evade FDA regulations and market unapproved and potentially dangerous products to the American public. Our top priority is to protect the public from products that place their health at risk, and we will send a strong and clear message that these products have the potential to cause serious harm.”

Source: FDA warns consumers about the dangerous and potentially life threatening side effects of Miracle Mineral Solution — U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Note that first sentence: “Since 2010.” Meaning people have been drinking bleach in hopes of curing various issues that largely do not have a cure for almost a fucking decade. I think this explains a lot about the current political environment in America today. It’s not the Russian propaganda all over Facebook and Twitter that is the problem, it’s the fact that enough people are drinking bleach as a miracle cure that the fucking FDA has had to repeatedly tell them to stop. Apparently to no avail.

Where the fuck did people get the idea that drinking bleach was somehow a miracle cure? From a religious nut, of course. A former Scientologist dude named “Jim Humble” (of course) founded and then declared himself the archbishop of The Genesis II Church of Health & Healing. Except it’s really not a religion as you don’t have to have any particular beliefs to join it — not even the ones espoused by the founder(s) — you just have to be able to cough up $35 and, voila, you’re a “church member” complete with an ID card spelling out all the advantages membership brings. Stuff like:

1. Protection against vaccinations, unwanted x-rays, scans, or health insurance mandated by human authority. We are a church and it is against our church’s beliefs. People have already used their membership cards to keep from being vaccinated, and from going through scans.

2. The ability to purchase health products of all kinds in any quantity including but not limited to food, plants, vitamins minerals, herbs and all remedies in any quantity necessary for yourself or your family. This protection will be more understood when the church has its own health food stores right in the church building. The belief includes the right to maintain these products in your own home.

3. The membership includes a picture membership card with these rights written on the back and a notice that anyone violating these rights will be prosecuted by the Church.

Wow! Not even Jesus promises the ability to purchase health products of all kinds in any quantity! Though the definition of “health products” is being very loosely applied here as one of the big things that Mr. Humble promotes is his Miracle Mineral Supplement which Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about:

I want to tell you about a breakthrough that can save your life, or the life of a loved one. In 1996, while on a gold mining expedition in South America, I discovered that chlorine dioxide quickly eradicates malaria. Since that time, it has proven to restore partial or full health to hundreds of thousands of people suffering from a wide range of disease, including cancer, diabetes, hepatitis A, B, C, Lyme disease, MRSA, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, malaria, autism, infections of all kinds, arthritis, high cholesterol, acid reflux, kidney or liver diseases, aches and pains, allergies, urinary tract infections, digestive problems, high blood pressure, obesity, parasites, tumors and cysts, depression, sinus problems, eye disease, ear infections, dengue fever, skin problems, dental issues, problems with prostate (high PSA), erectile dysfunction and the list goes on. This is by far not a comprehensive list. I know it sounds too good to be true, but according to feedback I have received over the last 20 years, I think it’s safe to say MMS has the potential to overcome most diseases known to mankind.

Repeat after me “anecdotes are not data.” He’s right about one thing though, it does sound too good to be true. Because it isn’t true.

Jim gives away the recipe to this miracle on his website for free which has lead to a shit load of unscrupulous people setting up websites and selling it on the Internet. Fortunately, the FDA is cracking down and prosecuting the folks peddling it. Which is good because drinking it can cause vomiting and severe diarrhea — which a lot of these websites will claim proves it’s working — and can cause much bigger problems like dangerously low blood pressure, damage to the digestive tract, acute liver failure, and kidney damage. Poison control centers across this country have seen almost 17,000 cases of idiots drinking chlorine dioxide — industrial fucking bleach — since 2014.

My cynical side says that this is the definition of a self-correcting problem. If enough idiots drink enough bleach then it’ll go away on its own. The issue is not only are they not drinking enough bleach, but they’re inflicting it on others who don’t have the ability to say no. I draw the line at people trying to sell it as a legit medicinal product and at you deciding to shove it down your kids’ throat because you can’t handle the fact that he/she is autistic.

However, It’s a free country and if you want to chug some industrial bleach in hopes it’ll cure your gout then more power to you. The recipe, as I said, is freely available on Jim (I’m so) Humble’s website. You’re an idiot, but you’re an idiot with the right to do stupid things to yourself if you really want to. That said, I would highly recommend that you consider the following bit of text at the bottom of the page that has the MMS recipe on it:

Disclaimer: The protocols described on this site are official sacraments of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. The reader accepts 100% responsibility for any and all use made of any information herein.

I don’t know about you, but any church that has to cover its ass with a disclaimer for its “miracle cure” is one I wouldn’t have much faith in. Bottoms up!

No, the Social Security Administration won’t call you about “suspicious activity.”

So my wife rings me up at work this morning to tell me about a strange phone call she’d just gotten. An automated voice claiming to be from the Social Security Administration was contacting her about suspicious activity involving her SSN that will result in an immediate suspension of her number if she doesn’t take steps to clear her name. The longer she listened to it the more she thought to herself, “This is bullshit,” and she hung up on the call.

She called me because there was just enough of a nagging doubt that she wanted to make sure she did the right thing. She did. It’s a scam that’s been growing since at least 2017. Here’s a recording of one of these calls:

Gotta admit that I can see how some folks would panic if they got a phone call like that one. It sounds legit enough and it doesn’t help that the scammers are spoofing the real phone number of the SSA (1-800-772-1213) on your Caller ID.

There are two basic types of these calls. One is to try and get you to “verify” your SSN by entering it into the phone so they can attempt Identity Theft. With the other type they try to get you to pay a fee by going out and buying gift cards and then reading off the codes to those cards to the scammer on the phone. This is basically the same scam as the IRS imposter scam that was making the rounds for a few years.

According to the FTC website:

In 2017, we heard from 3,200 people about SSA imposter scams, and those people reported losing nearly $210,000. So far THIS year: more than 35,000 people have reported the scam, and they tell us they’ve lost $10 million.

Source: This is what a Social Security scam sounds like – Federal Trade Commission

The page I’m quoting from was last updated in December of 2018 and it’s only gotten worse since then. From April 2018 to March 2019 the reported losses grew to $19 million.

Here’s the bit that I don’t get: How is it that folks are not recognizing this is a scam as soon as they’re told to go out and buy gift cards and then read the numbers off to the guy on the phone? How is that not a smack over the head that this is not a legit call?

I mean, I can understand falling for the request to verify your SSN because there are lots of occasions (banks, etc.) where you might be asked to do that, but who out there is so dumb to think that a government agency accepts payment by gift cards only or, worse, Bitcoin?

In an updated article about this from this past April, the FTC said:

Click to embiggen.

As the graphic shows, people reported the IRS scam (in blue) in huge numbers for many years, but the new SSA scam (in orange) is trending in the same direction – with a vengeance. People filed over 76,000 reports about Social Security imposters in the past 12 months, with reported losses of $19 million.1 Compare that to the $17 million in reported losses to the IRS scam in its peak year.2 About 36,000 reports and $6.7 million in reported losses are from the past two months alone.

Just 3.4% of people who report the Social Security scam tell us they lost money.3 Most people we hear from are just worried because they believe a scammer has their Social Security number. But when people do lose money, they lose a lot: the median individual reported loss last year was $1,500, four times higher than the median individual loss for all frauds.4 All age groups are reporting this scam in high numbers, with older and younger adults filing loss reports at similar rates.5

People report sending money in unconventional ways. Most often, people say they gave the scammer the PIN numbers on the back of gift cards. Virtual currencies like Bitcoin come in a distant second to gift cards: people say they withdrew money and fed cash into Bitcoin ATMs. With both methods, the scammer gets quick cash while staying anonymous, and the money people thought they were keeping safe is simply gone.

So let’s break a few things down:

  • No, your SSN is not about to be suspended, your bank accounts are not about to be seized, and you are not about to have an arrest warrant put out on you. This is bullshit, plain and simple.
  • The Social Security Administration will never contact you and tell you to wire them money, send cash, or (for crying out loud) give them gift cards or they’ll suspend your benefits. Never. Doesn’t happen.
  • You should never give out your SSN and/or personally identifying info to someone who has called you out of the blue even if you think it’s legit and the Called ID is the real number for whomever is calling. Hang up and call a number you know is associated with whatever you’re dealing with to make sure the request is legit first.
  • If you did do the above then go to https://www.identitytheft.gov/SSA to learn what steps you can take to protect yourself from Identity Theft.
  • Lastly, report government imposter scams to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. To learn more, visit ftc.gov/imposters.

As always, be vigilant. There are a lot of unscrupulous people in this world working hard to scam you out of your money. If something smells like bullshit to you then it’s probably bullshit and you should do some digging before handing over any info or money. Most importantly, remain calm. These assholes are relying on you freaking out to make it easier to get you to do something stupid. Don’t be stupid. Don’t freak out.

Vorticity 2 by Mike Olbinski

I love a good summer storm and the physics involved is always fascinating to me, but nothing quite brings home the sheer immensity and power of a storm like time lapse photography. Mike Olbinski spent two years putting together this compilation of storms he filmed into one incredible YouTube video in 4K.

I made the tough decision last year to save everything I shot that spring and combine it with whatever storms I captured in 2019 and make the best possible time-lapse film I could. It was incredibly difficult to sit on that collection of footage for over a year, but I’m glad I did. When you’ve done a few of these, at some point you gotta work even harder to top yourself and I did my best to make that happen. Even though I’ve lost all perspective at this point having watched this a million times during editing, I do feel it has some of the best footage I’ve ever compiled into one of these films. I had such a high bar set and many, many clips did not make the cut.

You really need to watch this full screen to appreciate it fully. Better yet, if you have a streaming device hooked to a big screen TV that will playback YouTube then watch it on that. This took my breath away. Best of all, it’s one of two:

You can read more about what he uses to capture these stunning events and see other clips at his YouTube channel.

That trailer for the “Cats” movie is… unnerving.

What unholy hellspawn gave birth to this abomination?

Seriously, who the hell saw the final result from the CGI tests and said, “This! This is what we want! Something that looks like a mad scientist’s fever dream of human/cat hybrids gone horribly wrong.”

To be fair, I’m not a fan of the Broadway musical of the same name. I’m familiar with the songs because people I know and love really like the musical and own the soundtracks and have played them many times over the years in my presence, but all I’ve seen of the stage play is the clips they use in the advertisements when it’s in town. I thought the play’s costumes were a little funky, but they worked.

This? This lands solidly in the uncanny valley which is weird because those are real humans prancing about that look like someone forcibly inserted an animatronic tail in their assholes while injecting them with the world’s worst hair growth formula. They look vaguely cat-ish with realistic ears, but they have human eyes and teeth. And I thought the CGI hedgehog in the upcoming Sonic movie looked disturbing. This takes it to a whole other level. The oddest part is that they somehow seem even more naked than if they were actually naked.

I suppose if you’re a fan of the Broadway show this will do nothing to dissuade you from seeing the movie, but at the same time this does nothing to lure non-fans into the theater.

What has been seen cannot be unseen so my only relief was to share my pain.

CBS News coverage of the Apollo 11 launch in 1969.

Fifty years ago on July 16th, 1969 American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins took flight to the moon in a Saturn V rocket. I was just under two years old at the time so I don’t have any recollection of this historic event.

Fortunately for me, CBS News did a live stream of four and a half hours of coverage of the event — including the commercials aired at the time — and that live stream is still available to watch on YouTube. Or you can watch it right here:

Courtesy of CBS News YouTube Channel.

I have to admit that I find this interesting not just for the historic event itself, but for the slice of America that it preserves. Between the commercials, which are surprisingly calm and dulcet compared to many commercials today, and the newscast it really puts into perspective how much has changed in 50 years. Some of it good and some of it bad. What’s also amazing is just how much of an emotional experience it still is to watch the launch even after 50 years of routine space flight with the shuttles and the space stations.

You may not want to sit through the full four and a half hours, but it’s worth watching at least some of this video. Especially if, like me, you aren’t old enough to remember it first hand. It really is incredible that we pulled this off using onboard computers with way less computing power than what your phone you carry around with you is capable of.