Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category.

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)


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.



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.

A Plea for Legible Flight Reservations

A Plea for Legible Flight Reservations
We’ve been at this whole commercial flight thing for about a hundred years. You would think that the airlines could 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 posted 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.

Don’t Use Periods in Your Phone Number

Please please please understand that your phone number does not look like this:


The use of periods in people’s phone number started during the Dot Com boom of 1999. People wanted their phone numbers to look more “internety”. By replacing the parenthesis and dashes with periods, your phone number resembles an IP address. But it isn’t.

It was a cute fad. But now more than ten years later, when you use dots in your phone number, you demonstrate that you do not know the difference between a phone number and IP address. It’s like writing the word “interweb” on your business card. It makes you look dumb.

The accepted ways of writing a phone number are:

(415) 555-1212  or  415-555-1212.

I prefer the latter because it uses fewer characters and the idea of an area code, the thing specified inside the parenthesis, isn’t important for many areas any more. In many urban areas there are overlapping area codes so you must dial all 10 digits. Simply put, a phone number used to be 7 digits long but now it is 10 digits long.  But don’t be distracted by this last point. Just know: don’t use periods in your phone number. It makes you look like a  Luddite.

Quantitative Easing Explained

Exhibit A

QE2: Fed pulls the trigger (CNN Nov 3, 2010)
Short form:The fed is going to buy 600 billion dollars in T-bills as part of a Quantitative Easing program (e.g. paid for with money they borrowed from themselves… e.g. they just effing printed it)

Exhibit B
Quantitative Easing Explained by 2 cartoon characters

local version:

Are the cartoon characters correct?

Ok, now the big question: Should I cash out my meager life-savings now?

(Yes I know that if every individual cashed out the way I am considering, the world would get all Mad Maxy real quick. But I have to act as an individual, right? I cashed out in September 2008 for a few months; I ended up loosing about 30% of my life savings to the credit crunch while many people lost 50%; it was the right decision then.)

iTunes and Quicktime is Bad at Everything

What is the deal with this?

When I double-click a .mov file, it takes 30+ seconds for Quicktime to power up and play the file.

When I plug my iPhone into my computer, it takes 2+ minutes to backup the iPhone every time… and THEN it starts syncing.

iTunes is DOG SLOW to do anything and everything. It is USELESS as a player of anything because I can’t even freaking scroll down a list without frustration.

It never was a very good podcast player. I just switched back to the open source, free, Juice podcast player (an app that hasn’t been updated in 5 years!) and it’s sooo much better.

The interface is still completely non-intuitive. While I watch other people using it, their mouths always say “it’s so easy!” but the frustration in their fingers and eyes tell me they are lying.

I just reinstalled windows due to a hard drive crash. My computer was lighting fast at everything as I was reinstalling apps until I came to reinstalling iTunes. Fucking boat anchor of an application.

The ONLY reason I use iTunes is to sync my iPhone to Outlook.

iTunes Interface is Worthless

Could someone please offer one reason why the iTunes interface isn’t completely worthless?

It’s worse than worthless because I keep throwing time at it just to get a few freaking songs and movies put onto my iPhone and nothing is freaking happening.

iTunes wants to “own” my music and video collection but it does a crappy job of finding it (how the frig do you tell it “Look in folder x for my music?) and just as crappy job of sorting it (one giant list of 8,500 media files is NOT helpful). It wants to copy all my files to one central location for no effing purpose. It can’t even tell (or be told) that a file it previously found isn’t there any more.

I could rant for 10 paragraphs about the worthlessness of this interface. Here’s just an outline.

CRAZY slow –  clicking most anything takes a full 0.5 seconds for a response and I never see an hourglass cursor. And that’s  just an “Eff you user, you learn to wait!”

INSANE menu choices – For instance, I can’t even look my iPhone preferences unless my iPhone is plugged in.

NO WAY to tell it simple things like “here is where you should look for my music”

AMBIGUOUS controls. If you “Delete” something in iTunes, are you deleting the content?

DOESN’T PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS. If you want to find the folder where you’ve put a piece of music, sure, you can do a “Get Info” to see what folder it’s in but then you have to go to Windows Explorer and navigate there by hand.

There’s tons of other examples. But I’ve spent enough time on this stupid program.

Swine Flu = Bunk

Update 11-16-09: Be sure to read the comments before assuming this post has all the info you need.

from the CDC on their page Key Facts About Seasonal Influenza (Flu)

Every year in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications; and
  • about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes.

From the Associated Press and The Discover Channel


The fall flu season has only just begun and already thousands have died from the H1N1 virus.

Estimates of deaths caused by the swine flu have grown to nearly 4,000 since April, roughly quadrupling previous estimates

To borrow from TJIC’s (and the creator of the ONOZ OMG avatar)

But wait. How deadly is the Swine flu really? Let’s see…. four thousand divided by twenty two million is…
4,000 / 22,000,000 = 0.000181

Swine flu AKA H1N1 is 0.018% fatal
Ok, so how deadly is the average flu?

From the CDC stats above, roughly 10% of the US population gets the flu each year… that’s 30,400,000 people. And 36,000 people die from it…

36,000 / 30,400,000 = 0.00118

The average flu is 0.11% fatal

Comparing the two…

0.0011 * n  = 0.00018

n = 6.1

The average flu is 6.1 times more deadly than swine / H1N1 flu.


You’re kidding, right???

Someone is making a lot of money by causing an unwarranted panic. I’m betting it’s the maker of the influenza vaccine and influenza test.

Freaking Muni Fare Evaders

As I was exiting the rear door of the bus on my way home, 3 or 4 people got on the bus through the back door. There’s big signs saying that you’re not allowed to do that so I looked into it.

Yup, fare evading is crazy rampant. This article says:

A study conducted in 2004 and 2005 by the Municipal Transportation Agency and released last year found that between 54 and 73 percent of riders at three subway stations didn’t pay a fare or show a pass.

WHAT? Roughly 60% of riders are freeloaders?!?!?!?! You are kidding, right?

Oh my. Read this from January 2009:

In the past two years, Muni has more than doubled its staff of fare inspectors, to 49

The investigation helped kick-start reforms to Muni’s fare enforcement, which helped the agency collect $35,000 in fare-evasion tickets from July through September [2008 I believe]

That sounds good until you do the math. A first time offender pays a $50 fine. Liberally assuming that every one of the fare evaders was a first time offender, and that a pathetic 50% of ticketed people actually pay, that means Muni issued 35,000 / $50 / 50% = 1400 tickets in 90 days.

Therefore, there are 49 inspectors that issued 1400 tickets in 90 days.

The entire Muni inspection team  issued 1400/90 = 15.6 tickets per day for 90 days.

15.6 tickets / 49 inspectors = The average inspector issued 0.32 tickets a day over 3 months.

You have GOT to be kidding. On my way home tonight, in 30 minutes, I saw more than 10 people walking in the back door of  a Muni street car and then the #14 bus. Apparently if I were a Muni inspector and I ticketed those folks, I would have just done my job for an entire fricking month.

This is wrong.

I am outraged.


San Francisco Rent Strike

Some fliers made it to the front step of the building. They remind me that I live in San Freaky Cisco.


From the website

Rent control has been a road block for Landowners, but it does not stop them from taking advantage of renters. For example:

– 2 bedroom apartments being advertised as 4 bedrooms
(calling the living room and dining room bedrooms),
charging twice the value of the apartment to maximize profits.
So, this guy didn’t actually notice he was moving into a tiny city apartment?

– realtors bribing senior tenants to move out so they
can jack up the rent to “market value.”
Hmm, good idea

– renters fixing their apartments themselves instead of calling
the Landowners afraid inspections will force them out.
So this guy would rather continue to live in a place that -should- be condemned rather than use the existing laws and force the landlord to make repairs? Ok… umm…

I like that the website has a (insane) poison pill statement

The FBI in the Bay Area with help from the police have been known in the past to spread disinformation to prevent popular movements from interfering with business as usual, (COINTELPRO era and beyond). DO NOT TRUST any rent strike statement you see that is racist, authoritarian, anti immigrant, sexist, factional, or contradicts anything you read in this statement. With the economy in the state that it’s in today a rent strike could very well scare many wealthy Landowners and realty companies (look up COINTELPRO).

Removing Landowners’ control over properties they don’t live on would be real property reform. They definitely shouldn’t control or profit from land they don’t need (use your imagination). Striking rent could be the beginning of this process. Our ability to organize our community will determine how successful striking rent will be.

I went to his recommended website and found this list of how terrible CitiApartments/Skyline is. From that site:

* Showing up at tenant’s doors late at night with a couple of big guys, for “inspections”
The law says they have to be “announced” and appear at a “reasonable time”. Dude, just tell them to come back tommorrow!

* Snooping around tenants’ apartments on false pretenses like inspections, and then looking for things they can use against tenants
What illegal activities were you hiding?

* Telling tenants “we can do this the easy way, or the hard way”
So you did something that caused the building to be condemned, got caught and the landlord asked you to leave. It was time to quit yesterday. Why didn’t you just leave?

* setting up tables in the lobby with a photo copier and demanding ID from tenants

* putting notices up saying tenants aren’t allowed in the building

* refusing to repair elevators in buildings full of seniors
If the elevator is in the lease, make them fix it. If not…

* telling tenants they will call the FBI, homeland security, or immigration on them
Ok, what did you do? Really?

* (in at least one case) showing up at a tenants’ door wearing fatigues and a firearm
The landlord has a license to carry in your San Francisco neighborhood? Man, you live in a shitty neighborhood. You should really move!

* pretending they didn’t receive rent and then issuing evictions for lack of payment of rent
You didn’t pay by check and you didn’t get a receipt. Ok.

* issuing evictions for roommates “in violation of lease” when roommates are legal tenants
Are they? What -exactly- does your lease say? Your friends can’t crash on your couch forever, really.

* refusing to pay interest on security deposits
Dude, it’s like 1% interest. $20/year or something. Just let it go.

* telling immigrants or people of color that their “money isn’t good here”
There are serious laws about that. If you can prove those statements, you’re golden.

* videotaping tenants as they walk out of their doors
That sounds like a good thing, since even the landlord, who is packing, got mugged with your rent money.

* letting bedbug epidimics run unabated
Umm…. get a new bed? Bedbugs are hard to get rid of, really. Sorry.

* doing construction on buildings in such an irritating way that tenants are forced to leave
Yes, you’re right, they should use hammer muffs.

* demanding meetings with tenants at the church and market office
Those Bitches!

* trying to impose draconian house rules on tenants
Which one? “Turn off your faucet before you go out of town” or “It’s 11 o’clock, turn down that crazy rap music!”

* trying to require that tenants tell them when they’re leaving town

* issuing evictions when tenants leave town for the weekend
Evictions take weeks. And why are you getting evicted? Oh yeah, you left the faucet on for 3 months while you were out of town.

* issuing evictions for messy apartments
Dude, if it smells that bad, you really should clean it up. And yes, you can get evicted for that.

* requiring tenants to hand deliver their checks
The lease has the landlord’s address at the top of it. On the 26th of every month, write and mail a check. Is it that hard? Apparently. That’s why I advocate building in late-fees to leases so when people like you write your rent check late every freaking month, the landlord says, “No problem. If received after the 5th of the month, you owe an extra $20. Pay or get out.”

* failing to fix the heat
San Francisco law is quite clear about how much heat an apartment should get. If it’s substandard, lodge a complaint. But if you want a sauna, move to Iceland. They have lots of those there.

* claiming tenants are “nuisances” and then offering them market rate rooms in other buildings
Well, with your crazy parties and running the faucet for months at a time and that smell, that smell! You should move further away. Or save some money buy your own place so you can do all those things in your own house.

Here’s the new chant for our picket line:

Free Housing! No Rent!

Free Rent! No Housing!