Frank Zappa once, maybe more than once, observed that "there is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life." The sheer ubiquity of stupidity guarantees that all of us will exhibit some of it from time to time, and I am certainly no exception: however, some people clearly abuse the privilege. They're not hard to find, either: any item at Fark.com with the DUMBASS tag, or any winner (or runner-up) for a Darwin Award, can be safely assumed to be a person whose stupidity is assured.
Most of us, fortunately, aren't quite so bad off. But there are troubling signs out there, and if you exhibit any of these, perhaps you should be concerned:
- If you think that you'll make any money from an email stock tout.
The overwhelming majority of these are so-called "pump and dump" schemes, in which some stock of miniscule worth is hyped in an effort to get the price up to way beyond any reasonable value, whereupon the people who hold most of it sell it off and leave the buyers with as close to nothing as possible. I used to track some of these things, and almost invariably the prices would sink shortly after the initial push. Of course, if you think you can get rich overnight by any means but let's not go there.
- If you think you'll save a lot of money by buying a hybrid vehicle.
There are good and sensible reasons for buying hybrids, and I'll even accept "I want to look like I care about the environment" as sort of sensible it's no less sincere than the motivations of the panicky middle-aged fellow who suddenly decides he needs a sports car, fercrissake but putting money in your pocketbook isn't one of them. With the $2500 to $5000 premium charged for hybrids over conventional cars, and with tax credits being phased out as more of them are sold, and given the unusual maintenance needs of hybrids you keep it long enough and eventually you'll be faced with a battery replacement, which will cost somewhere in the middle four figures you might squeeze out a few dollars to the good, a few more if gas prices really soar, but you're never going to be rolling in it.
- If you're still using HTML-based email.
There is simply no excuse for this, and email clients which encourage this sort of thing, by offering "stationery" and other atrocities, are irresponsible in the extreme. And it's not merely a question of aesthetics: phishing scams and such rely on HTML to make you think you're getting legitimate messages. When we get HTML email at 42nd and Treadmill, we automatically assume that the sender is a clueless feeb, and we're almost always correct.
There was one episode of Cheers in which Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley) realized she'd been sucked in by something or other, and wailed: "I am too stupid to live!" Don't let this happen to you.
14 August 2006