Tag Archives: blue screen of death

was this review helpful? choose: no / not even a little bit

A year ago I got a Moroccan cookbook. Naturally, I also wanted to get a tagine. Because why wouldn’t I? They’re beautiful, they’re impressive, and dammit they’re authentic, and you can’t make an authentic tagine without one. But like a responsible person I decided I’d wait on buying one, because 1. they’re large, 2. they’re heavy, and 3. they’re expensive. I figured if I cooked enough Moroccan food to warrant getting one, I’d consider it and start researching. If not, then I saved myself a bunch of money and space.

That cookbook has become my go-to book, and is responsible for the massive expansion of my spice shelf, the several leftover lamb bones in my freezer, and the lovely turmeric-yellow discoloration of one of my wooden spoons. I make something from it at least once a month, usually more often. So I’ve decided to finally look into getting a tagine.

My cookbook tells me the traditional ones are made of fired ceramic, but need to be seasoned and are meant for use over a charcoal fire. Without a diffuser, using one on a stove directly will drastically reduce the life of the vessel. It also says that the fool-proof way to go is Le Creuset’s cast iron version, which sounds much more reasonable and hassle-free to me (considering cast iron is a natural diffuser).

So, I go online and start researching tagines. I know I want one that’s cast iron, glazed, and around the 2-quart range. Le Creuset’s model is $175, which is a little on the steep side for me. (Read: ouch.) Emile Henry has several models, somewhat less expensive, and apparently they’re made of ceramic with some kind of new technology that permits stovetop use, and also has a footed base for heat diffusion. These seem to be the two top models. I am considering them.

I see what amazon has. Le Souk seems to be really reasonably priced with some lovely designs. They are ceramic and need seasoning, but I consider it. I make a mental note to do more research on how involved this “seasoning” bit is.

I skip all the serving tagines, since I can’t actually cook in them, but I want them all anyway because they have the most intricate designs. I click on one of the “medium” sized cooking tagines by Treasures of Morocco, since it’s pretty inexpensive. It tells me almost nothing in the description: 10.5″ wide (nothing about capacity), free shipping, “easy to cook in it”, and that you can use it with an electric or glass (?) stove, but to use a diffuser with gas. I am assuming it is ceramic. This is probably the fourth such semi-description I’ve found across various brands.

Oh look, it has a five-star rating. That means it’s either the best product ever, or only one person reviewed it. I bet you can guess! Her review goes like this:

“I made my first tagine last night with this and it tasted wonderful. I’m not sure whether it was just because of the dish itsself or because of the cook ;-) but this was exactly what I needed. I can make authentic tagine without worrying about the bottom burning if I leave the food on too long (like a metal pot does). I really didn’t have to do much when I cooked with this. I just put all the ingredients in, mixed a few times, and left the dish to do the rest… and it was amazing. Of course it was… Tagine is ALWAYS amazing… ”

No, no this review was not helpful to me. You basically told me that you didn’t screw up the recipe. Of course it tasted wonderful – you could make it in anything and it would taste good. What do you think happens when you throw together cinnamon, coriander, and honey with lamb and dates and then simmer it for an hour in its own juices? If you have a problem with things burning, I recommend a) turning the heat down, b) watching it more carefully, or c) both. You said absolutely nothing about whether you seasoned the vessel, how well that worked, how easy cleanup was, whether it was easy to use, how well it was made, whether there were any tips and tricks needed, nothing. All you said was, essentially, “I made tasty dinner last night! Yaaayyy!” Congratulations, so did I.

The sad thing is, this is how the majority of online reviews are. Go on almost any cooking website/blog, and most of the recipe reviews will read something like: “5 stars! OMG this looks so good, can’t wait to try it!” That’s not a review, that’s a pre-view. You can’t give five stars to something you haven’t made yet.

Often on sheet music websites, I see, “This is my favorite piece ever!” Why? Was it was easy to play? Did it sound like the original? Mascara reviews are often rather enlightening and most go something like this: “OMG THIS IS THE BEST EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE IT”. Yes, and how does it work? Does it volumize, lengthen, curl? How long does it wear? How about smudging? Flaking? How black is it? Easy to remove?

But my favorites have to be book reviews. I downloaded Lord of the Rings yesterday for my new nook, and the very top review read, in its entirety: “Orlando Bloom was Legolas!!” Of course I don’t expect in-depth literary criticism from everyone, but that… come on, really?

So the moral of the story is, I still haven’t chosen a tagine. (Suggestions welcome.) And if you’re going to write a review, make sure you’re actually saying something about the product.


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Filed under this actually happened

first contact

I received the following texts today. As always, everything is transcribed directly from my phone, with incriminating evidence hidden.

Singer E: (1:03) Hey! I’m in need of an accompanist for my voice lessons. I’m wondering how much you charge and if you’re available on mondays [time-time]. Thanks!
-[First Name]

Singer F: (6:10) (1/3) Hi. My name is [Full Name] and I am a friend of [someone I already accompany]. I am looking for an accompanist for this semester, and after hearing nothing but good
Singer F: (6:10) (2/3) things about you from [singer], I figured I would ask you. My lessons are tentatively scheduled for Wednesdays at [time]. My teacher is [teacher]. I
Singer F: (6:10) (3/3) understand if this won’t work out, but I figured I’d give it a shot. Yours, [First name].

So I guess there’s only one way to put this, let’s not beat around the bush: Why did they think that texting me was a good way to start? Would it have been so difficult to actually dial the phone and leave me a voicemail, or to write an email? The second set of texts especially – it already is an email. And a rather professional one at that. If you go through all the trouble to write such a nice letter, is it too much of a stretch to actually email it? Also, do you just assume everyone has text capabilities now?

Is professionalism completely dead? Texting is far too familiar to begin a professional relationship. You don’t even know the person yet! It’s like trying to make a business acquaintance with a pickup line. “Hey baby, I hear your portfolio is doing fiiiine. How’s about you and me trade stocks?”

(I left them both voicemails.)

On the other hand if this is what happens when email gets involved, maybe I don’t want to go there. Last semester this happened:


I am looking for an accompanist that can work with me twice a week for 30 minutes each time (Wednesday afternoon for my voice class and any other day for practice). I will be working with you for an 1 hour a week. If you could please e-mail me back to this address or call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you’re interested as well as prices and schedule. Thank you.

Singer G.

Singer G,

Thanks for contacting me! Unfortunately, before either of us can do anything else, I need to know when your lesson time is! Beyond that, I’d be interested, but I’d like some more information: what year are you, who’s your professor, are you a major, and what rep will you be singing? As for me, my rates are $30/hr or appropriate fraction thereof. Looking forward to hearing back from you –


My lessons are from 12:30 – 1:30pm. I will need an accompanist fro the last 30 minutes of the class which is at 1pm tomorrow at room 16. If you could reply to this ASAP I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

Singer G

Singer G,

I’m afraid I’m still missing some important details. Am I playing for your lesson tomorrow, or your studio class? What building are we in – HMU or KMU? Also, can we meet beforehand so you can get me some music? I don’t know that you’d need me tomorrow, since we haven’t actually met yet.



I never heard from him again.

**UPDATE! Singer F heard my voicemail, called me back, and we set something up. Singer E didn’t bother to listen to my voicemail, called my unfamiliar number and asked who I was and why I called him.

(Also, for those of you wondering who Singers A, B, C, and D are.)

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Filed under adventures in accompanying, this actually happened


Remember the days before cellphones and internet, when we actually had to pass notes? Or ask the girl to her face? Or (shame of shames) ask our friends to find out for us? I’m not saying I miss that, at all. I’m saying I miss that we had to do that. Because all that requirement of actually interacting prepared us to be real people who could actually communicate with each other. Now that we’re older, we should have the capability of telling someone how we feel, one way or the other. Our grandparents had to write letters to each other, our parents phoned, and we call, and text, and Skype, and email, and Facebook, and all that. But we communicate. We were forced to go face-to-face from early on. We couldn’t hide behind glowing electric screens.

For the most part, we still communicate with each other fairly well. But technology offers us an easy out. It’s so much less stressful to say the difficult things from behind a keyboard. You can backspace, you can think before you react, and best of all, you can’t see the person you’re talking to. Unfortunately I start to see that temptation winning among my age group. Arguments and breakups are executed via text message. I for one am certainly guilty of having AIM conversations that really would have been better on the phone. I always try to say important things in person, or at least over the phone, but sometimes the shield of technology is too tempting.

And then, surfing Craigslist Missed Connections, I see this:

“Biology Class – m4w – 19 (TCC)

Hi. you’re in my biology class at TCC and I think you’re pretty cool. You seem to check me out every so often and I want to talk to you but I always think, “Wait, what if she’s just looking at the clock or someone else?”.
Anyway the class starts at 12:20. I dont want to be too descriptive in the ad because what if you figure out who this is and you don’t actually like me. Then we have to spend the rest of the semester in awkwardness.”

This dude does not deserve to call himself 19. He is 12, tops. He has probably never considered how to express his emotions other than to a computer screen, nor the proper way to express his affections to a woman, and this is what it comes to. This has to be the most whiny, equivocal, driveling statement of interest I’ve ever read. If it has to be written, it should be in a diary.

Here’s a tip, dude: get up from your laptop, get your cojones out from the Xbox carton under your bed, and make eye contact with her. Flirt. She isn’t going to look at you twice if you’re that afraid of your own feelings.

Will it be painful and stressful and nerve-wracking? Absolutely. Will you get severely embarassed? Quite possibly. But you have to start using those people skills if you expect to ever get a woman.

By the way, dude, I’d take this ad down: if by some slim chance she sees this and recognizes you, she’s probably going to think you a ridiculously insecure dweeb not worth her time.


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