Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category.

Are Toilet Seat Covers Effective?

Are toilet seat covers effective? Go ahead and google it, I’ll wait.

When used correctly, they don’t keep you dry nor do they keep any diseases away from you. Ok, so why do they exist? Who uses them? Really.

But they are in most public bathrooms. I don’t understand! Does the toilet seat cover industry have good lobbyists or something?

When I want a clean toilet seat, I wipe down the seat with the toilet paper. If it’s bad, I use another stall. Sometimes I use the soap and water with the toilet paper to clean and dry the seat. I mean, it’s right next to the toilet, and it’s in the name… “toilet paper.”

Sloppy Equifax

I wrote this letter to Equifax today:

 

I got an email from TrustedID Customer Service <no-reply@trustedid.com> today. In it there was a sure sign of a phishing attack, only it wasn’t.

It reads like so:
Subject: New Credit Monitoring Alert
We’ve noticed a change on your credit report, and we encourage you to log in to your account to view details at www.trustedid.com.
Notice that the text reads “www.trustedid.com” but the link behind it reads “http://click.e.equifax.com/?qs=b15633469f1…”
Don’t do that shit. There is arguably only one key bit of protected information on the internet, domain names. Customers should only ever click on matched text and links. If you get customers used to clicking mismatched text and links, you get them used to being scammed.
Please write back and tell me you’ll fix this type of error in your emails.
Thank you,

Lee Sonko

The Primaries Aren’t Elections

First, want something funny and completely related to the post below:

Now on to my rant…

The common narrative is that the Presidential Primaries are elections that determine for each party who will be put forward in the general election. This narrative is incorrect. Political parties are not governmental bodies and are not beholden to the election process. Case in point: Bernie Sanders was favored by Democratic party members but Hillary was put forth by the party. A lawsuit against the DNC was dismissed last week, partially because Bruce Spiva, representing the DNC, described how they could do whatever they want, regardless of what their members wanted. Here is a snippet from the Washington Post:

Bruce Spiva, representing the DNC, made the argument that would eventually carry the day… he explained how the DNC worked, Spiva made a hypothetical argument that the party wasn’t really bound by the votes cast in primaries or caucuses.

“The party has the freedom of association to decide how it’s gonna select its representatives to the convention and to the state party,” said Spiva. “Even to define what constitutes evenhandedness and impartiality really would already drag the court well into a political question and a question of how the party runs its own affairs. The party could have favored a candidate. I’ll put it that way.”

Now I remember why “politics” is a four letter word.

Caduceus vs. Rod of Asclepius

These two symbols have very different meanings! To refer to medicine, use the rod with one snake on the left, the Rod of Asclepius! To refer to commerce (or some other things, see below) use the winged staff with two snakes!

Rod of Asclepius, Medicine

The Rod of Asclepius (displayed to the left) is the symbol for the ancient Greek god Asclepius, known as a god of medicine. It is a rod with one snake. The symbol is used today as a symbol for the medical profession. You can commonly find this symbol on ambulances and… everywhere a medical symbol is needed.

Caduceus, Commerce

The Caduceus (displayed to the right) is the symbol for the ancient Greek god Hermes. It is a staff with two snakes and wings. Hermes is known for being a messenger of the gods, guide to the dead, and protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves. The Caduceus is generally used today as a symbol of commerce.

Why is there confusion in the U.S.?
In 1902 the US Army Medical Corp chose the Caduceus as their insignia. Most scholars regard this as a flat-out mistake. The US Army writes that the Caduceus represents “the non-combatant status of military medicine on the battlefield”. The Encyclopedia Britannica notes, “Among the ancient Greeks and Romans [the Caduceus] became the badge of heralds and ambassadors, signifying their inviolability.” So maybe the US Army was thinking the symbol would convey a sense of “… Hey, hey, hey, don’t kill me, I’m just a messenger delivering the wounded to the hospital!” or some such. That feels like a stretch to me.

More importantly, claiming to be a “medical messenger” is nonsensical for anyone except maybe a military ambulance. Military ambulances use the red cross and and civilian ambulances universally use the Star of Life, which prominently features, you guessed it, the Rod of Asclepius.

So what does it mean when a medical provider is using the Caduceus? Being the symbol of Hermes, it may imply the medical provider will kill you (guide to the dead!), sell your organs (protector of merchants!), feed your body to the dogs (shepherds!), hock your jewelry (gamblers!), and tell your mom they haven’t seen you in a week (liars and thieves!). So, not so much a reassuring symbol! If you are a medical provider, please be sure you are using the correct symbol!

 

There are many articles where historians and professionals delve into this issue. Almost all of them say the US Medical Corps are definitely using the wrong symbol. Here’s a few to get you started:

 

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Here is the full text from the US Army Medical Department Office of Medical History Frequently Asked Questions page, retrieved 10-31-20.

Why does the Army Medical Department use the Caduceus, which represents the Greek god Hermes and the Roman god Mercury, instead of the Staff of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing?
The Army Medical Department uses both the Caduceus (Mercury’s/Hermes’ Staff) and the Staff of Asclepius as symbols for the Army Medical Department (AMEDD). The Staff of Asclepius, or Aesculapius, symbolizes the medical mission of the AMEDD, and is included on the AMEDD Regimental Crest (the staff with one snake entwined around it). The Caduceus, two snakes around a winged staff, symbolizes the non-combatant role of the AMEDD. The Caduceus was first used on enlisted men’s uniforms in 1851, over a decade before the establishment of the Red Cross as a symbol of non-combatants. In 1902 the Caduceus was chosen to replace the Maltese Cross insignia on Medical Corps officers’ collars. In 1907, the Army Nurse Corps – the only other officer corps in the AMEDD at that time – began wearing a Caduceus with the letters ANC superimposed over it. Since that time, all new officer corps have been represented by a Caduceus specific to their corps, worn on the collars of their officers. After the First World War, many medical professionals left the army and returned to civilian practice. When they did, they took with them the Caducei they had worn proudly as members of the Army Medical Department. Over time, the Caduceus became associated with medicine in America, even in medical practices that had no association with the Army. Originally, though, the Caduceus did not stand for medicine, but represented the non-combatant status of military medicine on the battlefield.

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Also notable iconography:

The Bowl of Hygieia is an important symbol of pharmacy and medicine. It is associated with Hygieia, the god of health. And, yes, the symbol looks similar to Asclepius’s rod!

 

Another Plea for Legible Flight Reservations

Another Plea for Legible Flight Reservations
Grrrr!
We’ve been at this whole commercial flight thing for about a hundred years. You would think that the airlines would be able to create a simple, clear flight plan for me. EVERY trip I have made for the last 20 years I have had to translate their gobbly-gook flight reservation into something legible. The relevant data is always the same. Could someone in the airline industry please recognize this? Give me a calendar item that I can copy and paste into my life!

Here is what I put in my calendar. Short. Readable. Useful.

Flight Ref: XXXX

Monday November 21st
depart SFO at 10:35am on AA flight 556
  arrive Chicago ORD at 4:55pm
depart Chicago ORD 8:30pm on AA flight 4308
  arrive Nashville 10:00pm

Friday November 25th
depart Nashville 4:30pm on AA flight 661
  arrive Dallas DFW at 6:40pm
depart Dallas DFW at 9:20pm on AA flight 1575
  arrive SFO at 11:05pm

and here is what American Airlines sent me. It is freaking impossible to read. Sure it contains all the relevant data but I challenge you to understand my flight info in less than 5 minutes!

It doesn’t need to be like this. Make it simple. Make it say what it needs to say. Then put the nitty gritty details at the bottom or something. Bonus points awarded if they put a “Add to Google Calendar” icon next to the reservation so I don’t even have to copy-paste. But hey…

I originally mentioned this in 2011 and it burns my buns every time I fly that flight reservations are still universally impossible to read. I use parts of this blog post as a template before I fly.

Wisdom Teeth

Short form: 2/3 of wisdom teeth removals are unnecessary and dentists don’t really want you to know.tooth

In about 1999 I had a wisdom tooth removed because the gum had gotten infected, inflamed, and painful. The dentist suggested I get all of my wisdom teeth out “because it would be better in the long run.” I declined, just getting the one tooth removed.

In about 2003 I had a new dentist after moving. I remember the intake form had this on it:

Do you still have your wisdom teeth?
Yes      No
If so, why?

The answer I wrote was “because I use my teeth to chew my food“. Of course, the intake form question lead to a discussion with the dentist. I had this crazy belief that nature wouldn’t create a system where every human was better off if they had four serious dental surgeries as a matter of course.

I was incensed. This question, delivered by a board certified professional dentist practically stated that it was wrong of me to have wisdom teeth. The followup is of course, “…and you know, we can fix that problem for you.” It’s like bringing your car in for an oil change and having the mechanic tell you that your confabulator needs realigning, and if you don’t get it done soon, well, who knows what will happen! I’m allergic to professionals using Fear, uncertainty, and doubt on me. I didn’t go back. I thought about blogging about it back then but who has time for that junk?

 

Well, I just came across this article more-or-less confirming my suspicions. It says about 2/3 of wisdom teeth shouldn’t be removed. But don’t believe the article, believe the links the author shows us…

And here is a VERY curious article I found in the Cochrane database (Cochrane is awesome, it’s like the Consumer Reports of research, they look for and help create systematic review research because it is so much better than individual studies).

 

PS, Great thanks to the folks at The Daily Digg for putting the original article in my inbox, with the title of Wisdom Tooth Removal Is A Racket. The Daily Digg is one of my major sources of curated news right now. They practically hide the link to join their mailing list so… sign up here.

Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat Advertising is Intentionally Deceptive

Advertising for the Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat is intentionally deceptive.

chiccoshopThe Chicco website says that it holds a baby “from 4-30 lbs” but they never mention that there is a very important height restriction. This is a dangerous and deceptive lie by omission. (See the Chicco website) (local archive). But the manual is very clear that it supports a baby “4-30 lbs, 30 inches or less.”
30 inches

You might be thinking, “Yeah, whatever, that is a small matter.” No, it isn’t.

The average baby outgrows the car seat by weight when they turn 30 months (2 1/2 years) oldBut the average baby outgrows the car seat by height at 12 months old! (see the CDC height and weight tables) Our baby was 30″ tall at 9 1/2 months!

The manual dictates that the product lasts 60% less than its marketing claims. That is deceptive advertising. Imagine buying a car that had a 10 year, 40,000 mile warranty! Would you feel cheated?

The Amazon ad doesn’t mention this height restriction either (local archive).

We’ve had our Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat for a few months now and it has performed well. But our daughter outgrew it more than a year and a half sooner than we were led to believe by Chicco.

It is a fine product, they don’t need to stoop to this deception. This deception is dangerous for children because if you were to only read the marketing information, you might use this seat long after it was safe to do so.

 

Why is email being made to be useless?

Short form: sellers: if you offer weekly, monthly, and quarterly email options, you’ll have a place in my inbox. If not, you are out!

In the last few months, I have started getting daily emails from lots of the companies and organizations I have relationships with. Who the hell wants a DAILY email from their pharmacy or clothing retailer? I can’t imagine who buys that many drugs or clothes! Of course I have to unsubscribe from these things lest my inbox become useless. What bugs me is that none of these companies offer reasonable ways of me keeping in touch! I would stick with them if they offered weekly, monthly, or quarterly mailers.

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. (Amazon.com listing)

 

The Much Maligned Sacajawia Dollar Coin

Until last year, people could buy dollar coins with their credit cards from the US Mint and have them delivered, with no shipping or service fees. People often used this “loophole” to rack up airline miles on their credit cards. The purpose of this crazy loss-leader by the US Mint was mostly to get people to use Sacajawia dollars!

Here’s an online forum where people are bemoaning the loss of their beloved loophole. And talking about how nobody likes the coin. For instance, “the cashier [at the supermarket] told us that nearly all of the $1 coins that make it into the cashier tills get rolled and sent back to the fed because most customers refuse them in change.” There’s a hundred more stories just like it.

Funny.

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I despise the coin because it is indistinguishable from a quarter when feeling for it in your pocket and under moderate to poor light. And the gold color fades over time, making it look even more like a quarter. Some folks have disagreed with me about the pocket test until I put them to the test. Every person changed their tune when I asked them to try the pocket test themselves.

The US Mint continues to throw good money after bad. It bothers me at how stupid their efforts are and how they are doing it “for the people”. If they could get a dollar coin to stay in circulation, the rewards would be dramatic: dramatic savings in minting costs.

A dollar bill costs about $0.10 to mint and lasts about 1 year
A dollar coin costs about $0.20 to mint and lasts about 30 years.
The US mints about 20 million $1 bills every day, costing about $2 million per day, or $730 million/year.
If we switched to a dollar coin, the US would only need to mint about 666 million $1 coins, costing about $133 thousand per day, or $48 million/year

Switching from bills to coins would save about $680 million dollars/year, every year. Not bad for fixing one stupid problem.

But more than that, it is bad design and bad design hurts my soul. I want nothing to do with it.