Stung by a Facebook Scammer

Back in August of this year, I ordered something that looked very interesting from an ad that appeared on my facebook wall:

“The Grand Orrery model of the solar system depicts the correct relative orbital speeds of the planets plus relative orbital movement of Earth’s moon. Historically, a Grand Orrery showed only the “naked eye” planets out to Saturn, as they were developed in the early 18th century.”

Beautiful product advertised

It looked gorgeous and intricate, and I thought I would love to have this on my desk. The total charge to an outfit called “acfantasy” was $48.06.

What I received today, after a wait of two months (shipped, of course, from China) was this:

Fecal replica – nothing moves

To say that I was stunned by the duplicity would be an understatement. True, I actually got something – a lot of these Chinese wankstains will take your money and not bother to ship anything at all – but sending out a cheap piece of scrap metal like this, which is not worth 49¢ let alone $49.00 is stunning in its audacity.

The company has a website (acfantasy.vip) and a contact email; I immediately shot off a demand for a full refund, but given the nature of the beast I sincerely doubt I will hear anything.

I have ordered things from Facebook ads before and been pleasantly surprised by what I would consider adequate quality and value for the money; this one certainly falls into the “Chinese businesses with all the ethics of a starving honey badger” column.

Facebook needs to do much better in vetting its advertisers. There are far too many scammers out there, about which I have written elsewhere. Despite being careful, I got burned this time. These people can sit on a very fragile glass cactus.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

In Praise of Tabasco Sauce

This post is cobbled together from a couple of different entries at my Livejournal back in 2009

Leigh Callaway, wherever you are, I owe you dinner.¹

The year was 1965, I was 14, and it was my senior year at Camp Wildwood in Bridgton, Maine.²

In this my 4th year at camp, the pinnacle of the year was, prophetically, travel. I sucked at team sports – still do – but loved traveling, camping, the woods and individual challenges; in short, I lived for tripping. Not that kind. Shut up.

My yearbook blurb quoted, “However unorganized his body of knowledge may be, he still is a source of many bits of information and despite his mere 85 lb. bulk, was one of our most energetic and determined trippers.” By the dessicated skull of Mogg’s grandfather, how prophetic was that?

After a 5-day canoe trip to Rangeley Lake early in the summer, six of us, accompanied by several counselors, took another 5-day trip in canoes from Lobster Lake down the Penobscot River to Chesuncook Lake in Maine. It was a trip never to be forgotten.

The Rangeley Lakes complex in western Maine

What does all this have to do with Tabasco Sauce? Hush. We’ll get to that.

The year, as I mentioned, was 1965, and inland Maine was still pretty untouched in most places. It was five days of canoeing, camping, 20 miles of river, camping, 4 miles of rapids, camping, portages, camping, woods, camping, absolutely glacial pools and waterfalls which we reveled in as a test of manhood, more camping, and breathtaking scenery.

Are you starting to see a pattern?

When you camp, you cook whatever you have along. That means a lot of dehydrated chicken soup and noodles carbonara and canned stuff and interesting stuff and things you might never fix at home.

One of the counsellors that accompanied us on this trip was a young man named Leigh Callaway.

Now to a 14-year-old, all our counselors were ageless. If they were counselors, they were adults – so I can’t tell you how old he was at the time, but he was probably not much more than a kid himself. So all I can tell you about him was that he was extremely kind to me (huge points!) and had a BMW motorcycle (more huge points), and that I worshiped the ground he walked on. And he could cook.

One night, whether out of inventiveness or desperation, Leigh fried up a huge cast-iron skillet full of rice until the grains were golden brown, and then filled the pan with water. When the rice was cooked soft, he threw in a can of tuna or three, sauteed it up a bit longer, and then seasoned the whole thing with Tabasco™. Lots and lots of Tabasco™.

Now my mother, bless her soul, took me to many ethnic restaurants in New York while I was young, and one of our favorites was this little Aztec-Mexican hole in the wall called Xochitl.³ They had a hot sauce there that would rival much of what Blair offers (certainly not their 16-million scoville pure capsaicin insanity, but highly effective nonetheless.) I remember that a tiny drop of this stuff on a toothpick, applied to the tongue, was enough to bring tears to the eyes. So I was no stranger to odd and savory foods. (Hm. How that I’m thinking of it, perhaps I should give Mom some credit at my Banquet from Hell.) That said, cooking at home was pretty basic meat-and-potatoes fare, and there wasn’t a lot of exotic stuff around, so I had never used Tabasco™ before.

Well, anyway. When you’ve been paddling a canoe for 12 hours, and you’re exhausted and starving, it doesn’t matter much what’s on the fire. I think if Leigh had fried up a beaver tail, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. As it was, we had fried rice and tuna with Tabasco™ – and I tucked in like a trencherman. Mogg’s teeth – it was so good. It would be easy to say that my enjoyment was born of famine, but given that I have prepared this concoction and many others like it many times in my life thereafter, I can discount that theory. Simply put, I was hooked on Tabasco™.

Now, I like Frank’s Original Red Hot too – it’s got a nice flavor, and I always keep a bottle of it handy, but there’s something about Tabasco™ that just can’t be matched.⁴ Yes, I’m well and truly addicted.

So Leigh, wherever you are, know that you made a huge impression on me that summer, and your influence is still being felt *mops brow* 44 years later.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

PS – I still remember the taste of black coffee sweetened with maple syrup, too…


Footnotes

¹ Leigh, bless his heart, saw this post and actually responded with a bit of information about his subsequent experiences. He recommended that since I loved Tabasco I should try Sambal Oelek, an Indonesian chili paste that apparently puts Sriracha to shame. I was grateful for the recommendation, but would have loved some hint about how to contact him. Which he did not provide, the rascal. I would have loved to renew the acquaintance and catch up in person.

² Camp Wildwood is a superb boys’ camp run – at the time – by Leo Mayer and Ed Hartman, which is still operating in Bridgton, Maine, although it has passed through other owners since then.

³ Another one was “La Fonda del Sol”, a very upscale place which I loved eating at. Now gone. *snif* But there are some memories here.

⁴ In fact, as I was typing my earlier post at Livejournal and thinking about a nice dish of fettucine with tuna and hot sauce, my ears were burning and I was experiencing all the symptoms of a good solid capsaicin flush. Which confirmed my theory. I love hot food; there’s nothing like a good capsaicin burn. The last two times I had prepared spicy foods, though, I had a very unusual experience – the flush to the face began as soon as I had opened the bottle of hot sauce – and hadn’t even eaten it yet. The first time it happened, I thought I was “imagining things.” But it happened again… as I was liberally lacing some burritos with Tabasco, I started getting the burning and vascular dilation that I always experience with certain peppers – very much like a Niacin flush, if you’ve ever experienced that. And, what’s even stranger, I experienced a repeat as I typed this. Just thinking about it was sufficient to recall the physiological response.

Now that’s just weird. Maybe if I salivate enough, I can get my doorbell to ring. 

New York’s Chinatown Fair and the Animated Dragon

I grew up in New York City in the ’50s and ’60s. Much has gone since that time, but my memories include hings I deeply miss about New York in my early days:

  • The myriad small businesses instead of brass-and-glass
  • Little Italy full of Italians, and the Feasts of San Antonio and San Gennaro
  • Yellow Cabs with huge back seats and those little jumpseats (Yes, unsafe, but they were so fun)
  • Air-conditioned movie theaters with giant screens and velvet curtains where you could stay all day for 50¢ and watch a cartoon, a short subject, a newsreel, and the main feature over and over again
  • the 42nd Street Subway Stations with Red and Blue lights guiding you to your line of choice, IRT, BMT, or IND, or the Shuttle
  • Underground OJ bars and other odd little shops in the subways such as Al Stevenson’s magic store (otherwise known as the Wizard’s Workshop)
  • Hole-in-the-wall pizza joints where you could order pizza by the “Slice!” for 15¢.
  • The Staten Island ferry for a nickel
  • Christmas trees up and down Park Avenue, and the stars that would twinkle on the 666 building
  • the Lord and Taylor Christmas windows
  • And so many more…

But one of my most indelible memories is from Chinatown, where my mother would take me on occasion. There were myriad stores and restaurants selling the ubiquitous Chinese back-scratchers, finger traps, and wonderful puzzle boxes, some of which I wish I still had.

Alamy stock photo of a Chinese puzzle box, very similar to one I once owned.

But the most wondrous thing to my young eyes was the Chinatown Fair.

Before it became an electronic game arcade, it featured dancing chickens, tic-tac-toe chickens (you can read about these at Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York), and the amazing animatronic dragon.

8 Mott Street, Chinatown, New York, New York, USA — Performing Chicken in New York Arcade — Image by © Adam Woolfitt/CORBIS

Sadly, no photos of the latter wonder appear to have been saved to the Internet as of this moment, but who knows? Perhaps someone will come across a picture in their old archives and post it in the future. If you happen to stumble across this blog post and have such a photo, please let me know; I would love to feature it here.

At any rate, you would walk up to this row of little windows, each with a coin slot for quarters; drop one in and your window would open, and below you was this most amazing animated dragon which would move and roar at you. Commenter “Donald” at the website Scouting New York had this to say, which syncs with my own memories perfectly:

Yes!! The dragon peep show…. why doesn’t anybody ever mention the dragon peep show? I thought that was the most bizarre “game” I ever saw… you’d drop a quarter in and a sliding plastic window would rise, exposing a glass window underneath (similar to a peep show booth) and literally laying on the basement floor – you’d see this huge animatronic dragon moving it’s head and tail – and from a speaker would blare the soundtrack from an old Godzilla movie… that familiar Godzilla roar. Now the dragon you were looking at and the Godzilla you were hearing of course had nothing to do with each other – but that just added to the cheezy entertainment value of the whole thing. I thought it was great… but nobody ever mentions it. I ALWAYS hear about the Tic Tac Toe Chicken… but never my old dragon friend.

A later photo of The Chinatown Fair at night, from The Chinatown Fair Archive.

The Fair later became a video arcade, but closed in 2011. Some other great memories are archived at Scouting New York, The Gothamist, Ganker, and Huffpost; apparently the arcade featured in a 2015 documentary called The Lost Arcade; in its later years it “the arcade became a shelter to a community as diverse as the city surrounding it and changed lives in doing so.” (IMDB)

According to The Verge, the arcade re-opened in 2012, but the reviews were mixed. Apparently it’s still there, but without that amazing dragon it will never be the same for me.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

GPS guidance has a Waze to go

I love Waze™ as a driving app. 99.5% of the time it gets me where I want to go without difficulty, and provides lots of useful information along the way.

But it has quirks.

Almost invariably, when I enter a destination from a position in a parking lot somewhere, Waze will calculate the route as though I want to go the direction I’m facing.

Example 1:

Here I’m facing north, parked at home – but to get to my destination, I need to drive 3 miles south to Route 1. Waze sends me six miles out of my way, just to make a U-turn.

Example 2:

If I were to head south to Route 1, the distance would be 6.8 miles instead of 13, and 10 minutes instead of 19. In short, Waze is doubling my distance and drive time simply because my nose is pointing north when I input the destination.

This happens far too often for comfort. If I’m in an unfamiliar location parked in a strip mall, for example, it seems like 4 times out of 5, Waze will have me turn the wrong way coming out of the parking lot, which will result in a ten-mile detour just to go back the other way or a longer, more convoluted route to my destination.

In the words of Columbo, “Oh, just one more thing:” I drive from Maine to Boston or New York often, and there’s a huge stretch of road along the way where Waze tells me “Searching for Network,” even though Google Maps has no problem in the same regions. I don’t get why this is an issue.

These are without question first-world problems, but I use this app so heavily – not having the inborn sense of direction that the Goodwoman of the House possesses – that it causes me a lot of stress. And I have not yet figured out how to get this kind of general feedback to anyone at Waze who cares. But on the plus side, for my own needs there’s no better directional guidance app out there.

The Old Wolf has ranted.