Foo Fighters bad web site design and denialism

Today I read an excellent article about denialism and HIV denialism in particular posted at the Public Library of Science. Right up at the start the band the Foo Fighters is mentioned as promoting HIV denialism. Since I’d been a fan of them since their founding I just had to click over to their site to check it out.

My first reaction was, what idiot designed this web page, see for yourself in this screen shot.ffweb

Black text on a dark brown background! The Foo Fighters need to get themselves a person with at least a tiny bit of graphic arts, web design or publishing skills to fix this total crap. If they can’t find someone themselves, I know some pre-teens that can do better than this. On second thought maybe they intentionally made the page unreadable so that fans don’t see what they are supporting.

It disgusts me that these musicians would promote outrageous pseudo-science like this. Encouraging their fans to ignore public health is simply irresponsible. I will not be supporting this band in any way in the future unless they come to their senses and stick to what they have expertise in, music. Expertise is real and it matters, The Foo Fighters obviously have no expertise in web design or public health so please ignore them on these matters.

Expertise is real and it matters

The title of this post is a quote from PZ Myers at his blog Pharyngula from a few months ago.

I’m reminded of the time a creationist tried to invite me to a creationist geology talk – that would have been a waste of effort. Expertise is real and it matters, and I have none in geology at all – but I do have a Ph.D. I’m sure my glazed-eyed bafflement at what any geologist would have recognized as truly stupid mistakes would have been taken as an affirmation, and that’s exactly what they want, to confuse their audiences and declare victory. They win when we’re all as ignorant as they are.

It’s worth repeating, expertise is real and it matters, if you have a plumbing question who’s answer would you consider to be the best, an electricians or a plumbers? I hope you’d choose the plumber since there may be health and safety consequences from a wrong answer. Within any particular field of expertise there are also specialty subfields and the same rule applies. Sticking with the plumbing example, if the plumbing question is about a special hazardous waste pipe in a factory you don’t want to just call a residential plumber or even a commercial plumber. In this case you need to talk with an industrial/commercial plumber licensed for hazardous waste pipes because it could be extremely dangerous if the wrong specialty materials and techniques are used.

On a recent Infidel guy show (part of “The Triad of Reason” podcasts) was a 2002 interview with Massimo Pigliucci . It’s a good interview and in the middle they talk about the importance of expertise. Massimo says:

Just because you’re a scientist that doesn’t mean you get everything right, especially if it’s not you’re field.

He continues to explain why you shouldn’t ask him to comment on quantum mechanics or even the evolution of sex because they are not fields of study in which he is expert.

I stumbled upon a blog post soon after reading PZ’s post and thought it was a good example. The excellent musician and AFAIK all around nice guy David Byrne has a blog, and back in April he posted about the bee problem that was all over the news. The following quote from David’s blog was often stated in the media and other places including Bill Maher on his HBO series Real Time.

According to Einstein we’ve got a little over 4 years. Here’s a quote from him:

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. …..

David Byrne and the others using this quotation show there lack of expertise in science history, the life and words of Albert Einstein in particular. No one has yet found any actual reference for this alleged Einstein quote and when asked, an Einstein Biographer says he’s never encountered it. Even if the quote turns out to be real, the bigger problem is Einstein’s lack of expertise. Albert Einstein was an expert theoretical physicist, one of the greatest to ever live, but he was not an expert biologist. If you want the best information on bees and the colony collapse problem the type of expert you want is an entomologist, the insect biology experts.

Determining who is a real expert in a field of study is not always easy, the denialism blog has a nice article that should help in sorting the real experts from the fake experts.

When it comes to evolutionary biology there seems to be an abundance of fake experts, you can find a whole bunch of them listed at the Center for Science and Culture. Ed at Dispatches from the Culture Wars wrote about one of the worst of this bunch in his post, Dembski Offers Money Again.

It’s quite common for Dembski to question the credentials of critics rather than engage their arguments; … But what’s funny about this is that it’s coming from a guy with absolutely no training in biology telling virtually every biologist in the world that they’re wrong.

For some more reading on this topic check out the article “Amateur experts”

Firefox problem solved

I’ve been having a problem on one of my work stations with Firefox. When I clicked a link to a text file rather than display the file in Firefox it would only let me download it or view it in an external application. I figured I had screwed up a setting somewhere but hadn’t been able to figure out what I hosed. Well I finally found out where to fix the problem that I had created somehow via the Firefox options interfaces. Since I’ll likely screw this up again at some point and/or someone else might be looking for the solution so, here it is:

Locate the mimeTypes.rdf file for your profile, mine was at: X:Documents and SettingsusernameApplication DataMozillaFirefoxProfiles570j6lt0.defaultmimeTypes.rdf

Open the file in a text editor and delete the following lines.

<RDF:Description RDF:about="urn:mimetype:application/x-download"
NC:description="Text Document"
<NC:handlerProp RDF:resource="urn:mimetype:handler:application/x-download"/>

Now Firefox displays text files again for me. 🙂

AOL hiring polite blog spammer?

I received the following attempt to comment spam this blog today:

Author : galinagirll (IP: ,
E-mail :
hello , you have a very nice site, but Im hired to leave advertising comments on sites, sorry i hate to do it but i have to . If you dont like advertising comments please send me an email with your site address to tedirectory(at)yahoo(dot)com and I will not write on your site. Sorry for inconvenience.

The URI link,, returns this WhoIs info:

Domain Name:
22000 AOL Way
Dulles, VA 20166

The domain redirects to AOL personals so, the polite comment spammer sure seems to be working for AOL. Is AOL really stooping this low, hiring spammers to get better Google rankings?

FCC Issues $1 Million Forfeiture Order

I think I scooped Conformity Magazine on this one, it’s not that I was trying to scoop them, I just got lucky. 😉

Last year I posted about the FCC issuing a notice of apparent liability against Behringer USA, Inc. On June 1st, the FCC released the forfeiture order for one million dollars, ouch. The FCC rejected Behringer’s claims including one that CE compliance = FCC compliance. Quote from the order:

12. We disagree. Although the CE and the FCC standards share some common elements, as the NAL noted, “[CE] testing neither is the equivalent of nor demonstrates compliance with the Commission’s technical standards.”

Lesson for all you designers, manufacturers and, importers of embedded devices, follow the FCC rules, they take their job very seriously. If FCC enforcement isn’t enough inducement think of it this way. How would you like it if an emergency professional had delays helping you or a loved one because some interfering product is being operated nearby. Think about it, RF interference isn’t usually a life or death situation but it could be.

Wasting more of my tax dollars

Sadly the NCCAM has requested $122 million for its FY 08 budget and they’ll likely get it. After decades of research and tons of cash spent what do we have to show for it, nothing. Well not exactly nothing we have more studies showing that none of it works better than other placebo effects. When are we going to wake up and smell the coffee, disband the NCCAM and give the money to NIH to help us actually improve health care.

It’s one thing for private individuals in the US to waste their own $40 Billion per year on placebo effects but, it’s totally unfair to spend my tax dollars on studying these bogus treatments. No matter how many CAM studies show there ineffectiveness, people will keep spending their money on quackery. Many of these CAM practices have been shown ineffective for centuries yet people keep buying in do to wishful thinking and deluded or fraudulent practitioners. 😦

Hat tip to Orac for pointing this out this insanity.

FCC, EPA and CPSC news

Three interesting regulatory related news stories from Conformity this week.

Story one:
The FCC has turned down a request from alarm system providers who wanted an extension on the availability of the old Cellular Analog Service Requirement. It is still widely deployed as the backup link for alarm systems but the FCC will not extend the deadline past it’s termination date of February 18, 2008. This does not mean all service providers will turn off their systems on that date, it means they have the legal right to turn off their systems then. Full details are in the FCC order. After all the pushing back of deadlines the FCC had to do for analog TV service, I had figured they wouldn’t allow any further moving of this deadline.

Story two:
Safety of products made in China not so good according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). From the Conformity article:

According to the CPSC, about two-thirds of all U.S. product recalls involve imported products. Since products manufactured in China account for approximately 40% of all consumer products imported into the U.S., efforts to curb the importation of defective products from China has become a major agency priority.

See the CPSC report for details of how they’re going to keep us safer. FYI – the link in the PDF report is wrong, the China program plan page is here. While this is a good step it is vitally important that consumers watch out for themselves. If a product looks or feels unsafe, don’t buy it just because it’s cheaper than the alternatives. Remember, in the USA, regulatory action for safety doesn’t usually happen until after someone is harmed.

Story three :
EPA report on the majority of e-waste still going to landfill. From the EPA fact sheet:

About 15-20 percent were collected for recycling. The recycled/disposed split remained fairly constant between 1999-2005. Although recycling continues to increase, the percentage recycled remains constant …

This comes as no surprise to me, e-waste recycling is very inconvenient and/or expensive. If everywhere in the US had easy to use, zero cost, e-waste disposal, the number of items ending up in landfill would likely drop significantly.

Funny + Funny = Hilarious

I watched this video a while back and loved it. Since it’s making the rounds of blogs again I thought this would be a good opportunity to finally try embedding YouTube video into the blog.

Star Trek and Rocky Horror both make me laugh, the combination makes me LOL.

Laser safety and compliance

Via Conformity, the FDA has released updated guidelines for laser testing compliance as they transition to the newest regulations.

Of more general importance is this safety warning from the International Laser Display Association. This warning is in reference to a Laser Flashlight Hack that has been getting attention around the internet. Details of this DIY laser are at the Instructables web site but, IMHO, the safety warnings provided there are not nearly adequate.

If anyone is planning on making this potentially very dangerous laser pointer out of a DVD burner and cheap parts, I urge you to read and re-read all the warnings from the ILDA.