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)