Amazon reviewer scam?

We all know by now that Amazon.com accidentally revealed the identities of anonymous reviewers on its Canadian website last week. The story is newsworthy from a technical perspective (how confident can you be that personal information remains personal), and it’s also amusing (authors were found to have reviewed of their own work). But there’s a slew of websites reporting that the Amazon reviewer scam has been uncovered.

Are they serious? Really?  No one suspected that people were anonymously reviewing themselves and their rivals? It’s not really kosher for authors to do this, but it’s not really a scam. There’s no outright lie involved, and besides, people should be taking anonymous reviews with a grain of salt.

This is just another example of technology making it easier for people to do something they’ve always done anyway (the New York Times points out that Walt Whitman and Anthony Burgess reviewed their books under assumed names). If anything, these authors should be criticized for stupidity. If I was going anonymously review my own work on Amazon, I’d first log in under a phony name. Duh.

Arts pick: tyranny

petroglyph
This week’s arts pick is another outdoor installation–this time outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Many visitors will no doubt find the artist’s images disturbing. The eye is immediately drawn to the prominent male figure that dominates the canvas. As if the subject’s size and position within the composition are not ample indications of his tyranny over the surrounding people and animals, the artist felt compelled to add a final anatomical touch to ensure that the subject’s virility will not go unnoticed by viewers.

Unfortunately, the artist was under-appreciated during his lifetime. As a result, there are no surviving contextual clues to help the modern day historian understand the meaning of this work. Is it a self portrait done by an insecure and misunderstood genius? Is it a statement about humankind’s foolish insistence that man can remove himself from nature (notice how the primary subject seems to float above the other animals)? Or perhaps it is simply the work of a sexist artist with delusions of grandeur. I recommend visiting Albuquerque to decide for yourself.

Arts Pick: uncertainty

snowman
We are living in uncertain times, and artists everywhere are expressing this theme in their work. Few, however, do it as brilliantly as a local Philadelphia artist in her new outdoor installation. The artist juxtaposes organic material with a stark, concrete backdrop to emphasize the temporal nature of her subject; at the same time, she personifies the subject, reminding us of our own mortality. The unusual medium causes the piece to change over time–it began as an unblemished, homogeneous entity but has slowly absorbed the impurities of the surrounding environment until it reached its current bruised and deformed state.

Everything about this piece speaks of our modern-day isolation and struggle–the vacant eyes; the feeble arms reaching out but never quite grasping; the limited color palette that causes the subject to blend into the background, almost invisible to passers-by. This installation is not to be missed. It is showing in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia for a limited time.

Courier is dead. Long live Courier.


Boing Boing, a blog that cannot be accessed here in the souless office park due to our internet security filter, is reporting that as of today, “courier new 12” is obsolete and unacceptable at the US State Department. The new standard font is Times New Roman 14. Exceptions to the new rule include:

  • telegrams
  • treaty materials prepared by the State Department’s legal affairs office
  • documents drawn up for the president’s signature

Why is it not surprising that the legal office is exempt? We can’t wean the lawyers off of WordPerfect, let alone Courier.

The original article uses the word draconian to describe the new edict, which is pretty harsh. I support the State Department’s effort to standardize the look and feel of its documents; not enough people pay attention to the relationship between presentation and the effectiveness of a communication. Say what you’d like about our foreign policy but know that font-wise, this country is headed in the right direction. Goodnight, and God bless America.

Mail Bombs

An Arkansas lawyer and his son are going to jail for mailing a poisonous snake:

Bob Sam Castleman, an attorney and former city judge in Pocahontas, Arkansas, and his son, Jerrod, were charged with mailing a cardboard box containing a venomous copperhead snake to a neighbor with whom they had feuded. The two pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday

Last year, a co-worker of mine (not boss-across-the-hall) was planning to FedEx a crocodile to Texas, though I don’t know if he ever enacted this plan. And once, when I spent the summer working at a QVC returns warehouse (what an education that was), I saw someone open a package full of roaches. It actually isn’t uncommon for QVC customers to express dissatisfaction by including “bonus” items when they return a product.

Boss-across-the-hall update

Very happy news–Mrs. Boss-across-the-hall delivered a healthy baby boy over the weekend (their first child). Best wishes to all! And remember, boss-across-the-hall, that you are entitled to three months of leave.