These two are only loosely related to the subject of his blog, but they make me laugh. The one above is from www.xkcd.com which might be the best web site on the internet.
I HATE Advertising. I can't even watch regular TV any more. TIVO has ruined me for good. I just spent an hour watching un-TIVO'd TV at my parents' house and I reached for the remote to fast forward like 10 times. That's more than once per commercial break. I hate ads because they are programmed to be played at a louder volume than normal TV. I hate them because they are (with a few exceptions) unoriginal and mindless. But mainly, I hate them because of how they misuse and abuse statistics to influence the masses.
I blame the government as much as anyone else. There needs to be better truth in advertising laws. For example, how is it that I can save hundreds of dollars with every car insurance company? That can't possibly work unless I am on some sort of MC Escher inspired never ending staircase of savings. I've got it! I will just keep changing companies and because I can save with each one, eventually they will be paying me right? I realize that they are using hand picked stats with very specific amounts of coverage to prove their point, but does anyone get to know what that given set of data is? The worst part is that because I can't trust all of these claims, I don't trust any of them. Each ad might as well be someone saying, "Hey, we also sell car insurance."
Other ads claim "#1 in customer service" or "America's favorite hot dog". Rarely do they go into how they came to this bold statement. Occasionally, they mention some sort of national poll which I am immediately skeptical about. What was the sample size, who were the subjects, what was the method of randomization, and how many times did you do the poll before you landed on the result you were looking for? OK, that may be the Statistics nerd in me talking and I get that few others care about these things, but these companies should have to put this stuff on their websites so that nerds like me can look it up and tell everyone else if the claims are legitimate. Well, no such rule exists. Companies can say that they are the best at something with basically no proof. I think that there is a rule that if a company says something like "clinically proven", there must be some study that proves what they are saying. But the company is not required to make that study public so what good is that to me?
Lastly, here are a pair of phrases that get me every time. First, be on the lookout for the words "up to". As in, "you could lose up to 10 lbs." So, I could lose nothing or even gain weight? Awesome! With that in mind, I am starting my new "do nothing" diet. Just pay me $20 and you could lose up to 5 lbs in the first week alone. I'm sure that in a random sample of, say, 1000 people, at least one person would lose 5 lbs right? The other phrase is "no one does _____ more/better". As in, "No one provides a better picture than Sony." The thing is, they are not actually saying that they do it better than anyone else, just that they do it at least equal to everyone else. By way of ridiculous analogy, and this is true, no one alive today has been to Mars more times than ME! And if anyone tells you otherwise, they are a big, fat liar!