Archive for September, 2011

The Business of Fraudulent Reviews, Big and Small

You’d have to be fantastically naive to believe that every “review” for every product on every website on the internet is legitimate. Reviews are Serious Business, because they are – according to some people, at least – worth money, insofar as positive reviews enhance credibility and consumer confidence and all that crap.

It’s usually not too hard to spot the most obvious fraudulent reviews, and there have been news stories of late of people working on algorithmic approaches to detecting more sophisticated fraud.

Sometimes, though, the pros aren’t nearly as good as they think they are, and can be found out by some patient human sleuthing.

Today, let’s meet one of the arguably least honest authors ever to grace the virtual shelves of Amazon.com…
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General | on September 20th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

Chicago Heavy Metal – Because That’s Just How I Roll

On Sunday, I was about a block from the downtown farmer’s market when my bike’s rear tire began to die. I was braking hard, coming down a steep hill, and bam!, a spoke broke like a gunshot. The wheel went crazy out of true, locking up hard against the frame, and I came skidding to a halt.

Five minutes with a spoke wrench later, I could at least wobble into downtown proper. I picked up food at the farmer’s market, found that the downtown bike shop is closed on Sundays, and just managed to make it to a bus stop on the bike before another spoke gave up the ghost.

I took the bike home on the bus, put the groceries away, and contemplated my situation.

It was a bit after noon, my only form of transportation was unusable, and I had an appointment I had to get to by bike the next morning, about five miles away. No bike shop in town that’s open on a Sunday stocks 27-inch rear wheels. So… what to do?

When the going gets tough, the tough go… to garage sales.
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on September 15th, 2011 | No Comments »

Not All Hotness is Created Equal

I live, as you know, in the U.S. state of Minnesota, which is very nearly renown for its culinary blandness. Despite this, I have something of an affinity for somewhat flavourful foods – reasonably authentic Mexican or Asian food, in particular.

I’m not a huge fan of spicy food, mind – but I generally opt for “medium” levels of spice, and am usually well pleased with the results.

Earlier today, I was reminded that “medium spicy” is a [i]very[/i] relative idea.

The owner (I think…) of a little Hmong market here in town was offering samples of some homemade relish, basically, which he was rather proud of (and was selling). I say “relish”, though he called it “mustard pickles”. He only knew the name in Laotian, and had no idea how to spell it, and I for the life of me couldn’t transcribe what he was saying… but, he assured me, it meant “mustard pickles”. Shredded pickled cucumber, some onion, sundry seasonings…

It’s actually quite delicious. Like… relish, a bit. Just sour, and tasting a bit of… mustard.

Anyway, he asked how spicy of food I liked, which seemed a bit odd, but I replied “medium”, and then to try and avoid misunderstanding or personal injury, added “white-people medium”.

He then scooped out about an ounce of his pickle concoction into a little plastic cup, took a pair of scissors, and chopped up an entire fresh red bird chile, about the length of my middle finger, into the cup, which he then stirred with a plastic fork and proffered me.

If I can’t be any more specific about the flavour of this dish than “like relish” and “tasting a bit of mustard”, well, that’s why. One whole bird chile, seeds and all – into around an ounce of the stuff.

Hot? Oh holy hell yes.

“Mild”, he explained, would be half a chile. Hot would be two, “maybe three, if they’re small”.

And that, dear Diary, is why you never order anything at an Asian restaurant that’s “extra spicy”, unless you have a death wish…

Published in: General | on September 12th, 2011 | 1 Comment »