Archive for the ‘Poor Design Workshop’ Category.

Annoyingly Incomplete Research Breeds Annoyingly Alarmist Message

Annoyingly Incomplete Research Breeds Annoyingly Alarmist Message

I saw this article at

“Why You Should Take Your Shoes Off Before Entering Your Home, Backed By Science”

It opens with:

While it may be commonplace in most Asian countries, the cultural norm of taking your shoes off before entering your home has yet to catch on in Europe and America. In Asian cultures it’s easily understandable as to why people remove their shoes before coming into a home as their meals are typically eaten on mats on the floor, and they sleep on rolled out futons at night.

A new study has researchers suggesting that maybe we might want to be more aware of what exactly we’re bringing into our homes via our shoes.

Bacteria in the home — Research conducted at the University of Houston found that 40% of shoes were carrying around the Clostridium difficile, or “C.diff”, bacterium. Infections caused by C.diff are highly resistant to antibiotics, which can lead to difficult and lengthy recovery times for anyone who becomes infected. C.diff is also able to survive in most areas of the household, including toilets, tops and surfaces, and wherever floor dust is found. Ready to take off your shoes yet?

Kinda scary, right? I’m always going to take my shoes off at home so me and my baby don’t get sick!
The trouble is, the article intentionally sensationalized and misrepresented the results of the research.

I read the research paper. The data and conclusions of the research did not match what the article implied. To paraphrase, the research said, “C.diff can get you sick. 1/3 of all our samples in homes had that bug on them. 40% of shoe bottoms had it, 30% of bathroom surfaces, 30% of floor dust.  Wow, that’s a lot… we think… maybe.” And that’s where they left it.

So my takeaway is: don’t lick the bottoms of my shoes, the floor, or my toilet. Thanks for the tip, guys.

If they had compared  rates of contamination in the different areas of the house, they might have come to some great conclusions.  For example, maybe people that have shoe bugs are more likely to have bugs elsewhere in the house (IE, maybe people track the bugs in on their shoes) . Or maybe not. They’ve got the raw data, why didn’t they crunch the numbers?

They didn’t have a control group. They said that floor dust was contaminated, was tabletop dust contaminated too? Maybe if they had tested silverware, frozen pizzas, and kitchen tables they would have had the same 30% contamination rates. But we’ll never know because they did bad science. I know all about bad science, I did some just last month.

Frickin’ grad students and their research projects.

Frickin’ sensationalist websites and their fear mongering.


You can find the abstract (a short summary) of the research here. You can find the full paper via a library that has access to scholarly journals. I used my San Jose State University library access.

Acura Doesn’t Understand Percent Math?

I saw a fancy fold-out ad on the inside front cover of November 2013 Vanity Fair magazine. It’s an ad for the 2014 Acura MDX. It has problems.

The ad reads, “With 99.9993% of the body reimagined to be stronger, lighter and faster.”

First problem, it’s not a sentence it’s only a dependent clause. But let’s look past that.

Second and vastly more important problem: 99.9993%?? Do they have any idea how high a percentage that is? No they do not.

They are saying that 0.0007% of the body was not “reimagined”. If the body weighs 1,000 pounds, then the “unreimagined” portion of the body weighs 0.007 pounds, approximately one tenth of one ounce. That is the weight of a single sheet of paper! The only unreimagined part of the body is the magazine ad we’re looking at. Ooph!

Nothing inspires advancement like an advanced degree

I for one welcome our new semiliterate‎  MBA overlords.
I saw this billboard on BART.


The headline makes no sense whatsoever.

In case you’re wondering: advanced degrees don’t inspire advancement. One might argue that advanced degrees are advancement or that they help  the advancement of the person with the degree. But no one would ever say, “After getting my MBA, I was inspired to advance in my profession.”

Bank of America Evil Page Break

I just signed up for an Alaska Airlines Bank of America credit card. I looked over the literature I got about fees and only after a third look was I able to find the annual fee because of this evil page break:

That is uncool, Bank of America.

You see, about 2 years ago, new consumer protection laws went into effect, making it so that credit card companies were required to inform customers very clearly as to what fees they would be charged. This is the first I’ve seen of credit cards trying to chip away at that law.

GE Lighting Solutions Liars

Update: After this blog post General Electric removed the video from the web on 3-21-13! see the comments below.

I was browsing the GE LED lighting website and they were talking all about how when you buy GE lighting, you are buying into the GE Six Sigma  methodology and trust and confidence and people in labcoats and testing and history and blah di blah di blah… And then I saw this video (via) and got just a little pissed off. Starting at 1:15, compared compared an old street lamp system to a shiny new GE Evolve LED Roadway Lighting system with photos.

Can you see what’s wrong with this comparison?

Wow, that’s amazing! Look how bright the LEDs are compared to the old lights! You’re so right! I couldn’t see the sign before beca… wait a second. In the “after” picture I can see the tree in the foreground.. and where is the light in the foreground splashing on the road coming from? Wait. They just fixed a light in the foreground!

And wait a minute more. In the upper right corner of each photo, there’s a light on someone’s property… and in the “before” photo, that light is much dimmer!  GE tweaked the brightness and contrast in the photo to fake how their lighting compares!

Let’s see. I did my best at fixing the the brightness, contrast and color temperature of the “before” photo:

Yes, I am calling the people at GE Lighting Solutions liars.

local archive

I should note that the yellow cast of the “before” image is probably due to high pressure sodium lamps. It is hard to believe that it actually is as yellow as was depicted in the image, nevertheless, it should still be said that LEDs have better color rendition than high pressure sodium lamps.

How to Lie with Statistics: Philips AirFloss

The new Philips Sonicar AirFloss looks cool and they claim that it “removes up to 99% more plaque compared to regular brushing“, wow! 99%, that’s amazi…. wait a minute!

Let’s give that sentence another go.  “…up to 99% more…”So for instance, if you have 100 “plaques” in your mouth and brushing gets rid of just 20 of them, will AirFloss get rid of 99 of the plaques… leaving just 1 nasty plaque? No it does not. It gets rid of 99% more than brushing. In my example, about 19 more plaques than brushing alone for a total of 39… or in reasonable terms “almost twice as much”. Apparently that fine statistic wasn’t good enough for Phillips America. The fact that they chose to say “99% more” instead of “100% more” or “twice as much” demonstrates that they were trying to deceive. “99% more” is simply an unreasonable claim any way you slice it.  I am disappointed in Philips.

Now I’m not calling the Philips marketeers fucking liars, I’m just saying that trying to pull a fast one like that is deceptive, immoral and against the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines. ( listing)


SolarWorld Electic Rate Hike Lie

According to the CPUC, this SolarWorld billboard, which I saw at Civic Center station BART last night, is a lie created by lying liars.

The historical electric rate chart at the CPUC says that average electric rates have gone from 13.8 cents per kWh to 15.1 cents per kWh, that is a 9% increase. The sign indicates a 21% increase from 2006 to 2011.

Find the CPUC historical rate chart here. Local archive.

Honestly, I don’t have it in for SolarWorld. I just have it in for getting facts right. They could have made a compelling argument with the data at hand, but they chose to lie instead.

Poor Design Workshop: SolarWorld

Welcome to another edition of Poor Design Workshop!

I saw this poster in the BART yesterday.

It’s kind of a nice poster… until you actually read it.

It’s time to put the sun to work
Power from the sun
400 000 000 000 000 000 000
kilowatts per second
America’s largest solar manufacturer since 1975

First, “kilowatts per second” is a non sequitur here. (reference) Though granted there is often confusion about terms like this. Try to think of it this way: kilowatts is a rate, like “miles per hour”. You don’t say “He was driving at 55 miles per hour per second“… because, well, that’s stupid. Similarly, a 60 watt light bulb uses 60 watts, not 60 watts per second. With electricity,  1 Watt is equal to 1 Joule per second.It’s kind of OK for a layman to make this mistake, but not so much for America’s largest solar manufacturer since 1975.

Ok, let’s just sweep the “per second” thing under the rug and look at that big number with all the pretty zeros. “400,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilowatts” = 4.0 x 1023 watts. Let’s assume they meant to say that the earth is being hit by 4.0 x 1023 watts of energy from the sun. The trouble is, if that were true, our planet would boil off into the vast nothingness of space in minutes. In actuality, the earth catches 1.8 x 1017 watts (reference) from the sun. Their number is off by 6 orders of magnitude… a million times!!!

Ok, maybe that big number isn’t supposed to represent how much power that hits the earth, maybe they were talking about how much power the sun generates in its totality. Yeah, maybe instead of my small minded approach of erecting earth-bound solar panels, they are talking about enveloping the sun in solar panels or maybe putting it in a big bucket of water to make steam and drive a turbine. Uh huh. Ok, let’s do the numbers… Oop! Wrong again! The sun generates 3.7 x 1026 watts (reference, and), which is only 3 orders of magnitude different from their 4.0 x 1023 quote, but still waaaay off. Now  our planet is cast into an eternally bleak cold night freeze. Did you see the 2007 intense science fiction thriller Sunshine? It was pretty awesome, riveting and haunting; my mind still conjures up images from the movie; it is definitely worth seeing and it is just like the dark world the SolarWorld people apparently live in.

All this goodness from “America’s largest solar manufacturer since 1975”. Nice.

iPhone 4.0 update is slow. Do not upgrade

I just got off the phone with Apple support who said, “You installed the 4.0.1 upgrade for your iPhone 3G? Ha! Sucker! You are so screwed and there is no unscrewing that pooch!”

After the upgrade, my iPhone does everything much slower. The rep told me, “yes, it’s much slower… It was an optional update so we’re not responsible… If you try to downgrade, you’ll brick your phone.” I embellished that first quote but the second one is pretty much word for word.

If you have an iPhone 3G like me, DO NOT get the 4.0 update. It offers no improvements, only a huge performance hit. For example, it now take 8-14 seconds to start my calendar app, making it MUCH less useful than the previous 4 second startup time.

I will call Apple a few more times and if it keeps looking like Apple really has pulled the trigger on a planned obsolescence program for this 1.5 year old device, I will dump Apple for another platform. Eff you right back Steve Jobs.

The Droid Phone Marketing Freaks Me Out

It’s a single evil red eye scanning, absorbing and p0wning your world.

It’s the new Verizon Droid!

droid evil eye

evil verizon droid

It’s like a little Terminator in your pocket, right next to your junk.

Terminator droid

It’s a bit of Sauron in your pants!

barad-dur sauron droid

It’s the little man that will suffocate you in outer space.

hal9000 droid

The TV ad (which can be seen on their web site by clicking “Stealth” on the Droid wheel-o-doom) sells the phone as being the protagonist in a horror movie. Remember The Andromeda Strain? The Blob from 1988? War of the Worlds?  This is how they all start.

local version:

cruel rein droid 4100825307_c9e2822bc0_bTheir billboards even TELL YOU they are going to kill us all. “Here ends the cruel rein of adorable phones” and “A muscle made of microchips”(that will crush human skulls beneath their robotic claw-feet…) (photo via) and “A bare knuckled bucket of does”(that will punch you in the face and steal your world) (photo via)

droid knuckles 4075337447_c8ecef1157_b (1)And if they didn’t scare you enough, the web site for the Droid has this sound track right out of… oh I don’t know, every fricking horror movie ever made. It’s the sounds you hear in Half-Life 2 when you’re in the room just before the room that the squid-headed zombified people are going to attack you in.

My aunt tried a Droid at a Verizon store today and she really liked it. She told me how they have reeducation classes to show you how the phones work.

And remember, “Android Does” is an anagram for both “Donor is dead” and “Dread id soon”!