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May 31, 2011

Salem may license and regulate witches

Witchy Town’s Worry - Do Too Many Psychics Spoil the Brew? - NYTimes.com
Christian Day, a warlock who calls himself the “Kathy Griffin of witchcraft,” thinks the competition is good for Salem. “I want Salem to be the Las Vegas of psychics,” said Mr. Day, who used to work in advertising and helped draft the 2007 regulations. Since they went into effect, he has opened two stores, Hex and Omen. But not everyone is sure that quantity can ensure quality. Lorelei Stathopoulos, formerly an exotic dancer known as Toppsey Curvey, has been doing psychic readings at her store, Crow Haven Corner, for 15 years. She thinks psychics should have years of experience to practice here. “I want Salem to keep its wonderful quaint reputation,” said Ms. Stathopoulos, who was wearing a black tank top that read “Sexy witch.” “And with that you have to have wonderful people working.” Under the 2007 regulations, psychics must have lived in the city for at least a year to obtain an individual license, and businesses must be open for at least a year to hire five psychics. License applicants are also subject to criminal background checks. Ms. Stathopoulos says a garden-variety reader makes 40 percent of a $35 reading that lasts 15 minutes. She charges $90 and up for a half-hour of her services, and keeps all of that.

May 28, 2011

Behind the scenes at the grilling emergency hotline

The job basically seems to be all about walking men through how to grill while dealing with their crushing anxiety over adequately performing their perceived gender role. At the Grilling Hot Line Center, Remaining Calm Under Fire - NYTimes.com
“Quick, I need to talk to a man,” he says curtly. For Ms. Olsen, 67, it was yet another caller insisting that no woman could possibly grasp a grilling issue. With 14 years on the job, she calmly but firmly explains that she will be able to handle the problem. If the man is especially upset, she suggests, “You might want to grab a beer — and just listen for a while.” At the Weber hot line center here, this is the busiest week of the year, as thousands of befuddled grillers (overwhelmingly male) are being rescued by a team of about 40 grilling experts (almost all of them women). Some questions are more tricky than others. “So I’ve got this squirrel,” one caller informed Ms. Olsen. “So how do I cook it?” Since squirrel-cooking is not in the Weber catalog, Ms. Olsen told the man he could probably find some answers online. Ms. Olsen, who was widowed at 51 and has pictures of her grandchildren on her cubicle walls, does not rattle easily. “I’m good at what I do,” she said. “I don’t cry” — unlike some of her male callers — “though I have thrown a headset.”

May 27, 2011

Yelp sued--again--for extortion

They allege that Yelp will hide bad reviews if you buy ads and will promote bad reviews to the top of the page if you don't. I wrote a bad review for a local hotel (My dad stayed there. They had bedbugs.) And within minutes of me posting it the review was moved to the hidden section. Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Shady Business Practices At Yelp Returns From The Dead: News: SFAppeal
The new suit adds a few allegations to the laundry list of long-standing complains many small businesses have with the company. It now alleges that the San Francisco-based site paid people to write reviews and actively manipulated the placement of negative reviews on the pages of various businesses in an effort to coerce them into buying advertising. John Mercurio, the owner of the Santa Clara auto shop Wheel Techniques and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, claimed that the company moved a one-star review to the top of the Wheel Techniques page immediately after he declined to buy advertising. "Within minutes, a one-star review was moved to the top of its Yelp review page," the suit alleges. "Upon information and belief, Yelp placed the one-star review at the top of the Wheel Techniques review page as a threat to cause Wheel Techniques to fear that if it did not pay Yelp money to advertise, the negative review would remain at the top of its Yelp review page and/or additional negative reviews would appear, and lower its overall star rating." Other businesses claim Yelp offered to move bad reviews to more inconspicuous locations on their site in exchange for ad buys. The filing of this second lawsuit, nearly identical to the one Jude Marilyn Patel dismissed last month, was widely expected. In April, Patel ruled the plaintiffs lacked sufficient evidence to support a case of direct extortion.