That's chutzpah right there
June 30, 2021 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Clifford Stoll, yes that Cliff, has had the Amazon listing for his Klein bottles stolen by hijackers and there doesn't seem to be anything he can do about it
posted by Mitheral (46 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
Previously
posted by Mitheral at 6:44 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Fascinating and horrible
posted by Going To Maine at 6:58 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I demand multiple state attorney generals launch a sweeping investigation of how Amazon is enabling this obvious fraud and undermining of domestic industry for a Chinese Trojan horse. Perhaps I’m over reacting…..
posted by interogative mood at 7:16 PM on June 30 [7 favorites]


I can affirm that they really are excellent klein bottles.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 7:16 PM on June 30 [13 favorites]


It is kind of funny that this is the man who famously wrote in Newsweek back in 1995 as part of his promotion for his book Silicon Snakeoil:

Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete.

So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?

posted by interogative mood at 7:23 PM on June 30 [8 favorites]


Ordering anything from amazon has become unpossible for me. Want a good quality tent for the beach?

Navigate through immediately recognizable brands like UMARDOO, AKASO, and MAVTOTOP as you try to find something that isn’t terrible knock off garbage.

Dread the shipping process as you wait to see if someone scammed a store by labeling bins with the same codes.

Hate the process by which Amazon scooped up the lions share of retail and then laid down on top of it to slowly rot and fester from the belly up as an organization bent on extracting profits from itself now.

There’s a Darth Plagueis the Wise joke in all of this, somewhere.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:29 PM on June 30 [60 favorites]


Whattaya know, they didn't publish my review complaining that Mr. Stoll isn't actually connected with the seller. *insert teenage eye roll*
posted by wenestvedt at 7:56 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Maybe this is Russian hackers finally getting revenge for all that KGB stuff.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:11 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


It is kind of funny that this is the man who famously wrote in Newsweek back in 1995

In 1992 I gave a lecture on why gopher was the future of the online world, while HTTP would shortly fall into disuse. So it goes.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:44 PM on June 30 [43 favorites]


How is Amazon itself not liable?
posted by geoff. at 8:45 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Navigate through immediately recognizable brands like UMARDOO, AKASO, and MAVTOTOP as you try to find something that isn’t terrible knock off garbage.

But on the upside, you can pretend you're at an alien bazaar, filled with weirdos selling ordinary-looking gadgets with nonsense names. It's very Rick and Morty (but without the annoying fans, heh).
posted by ryanrs at 8:50 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I have actually bought stuff from Amazon lately, and amazon.com.au at that. Mostly I use Aliexpress, but sometimes I need a very specific product that Aliexpress either doesn't do or obviously isn't the original source for (mostly the price seems way high). In those cases, I've searched for the proper supplier and discovered they mainly sell through Amazon. With the items obscure enough to not likely be counterfeit and me searching for a specific product of a specific brand, buying through Amazon has been ok.

It's impressive that they've found a way to fuck even this up.
posted by krisjohn at 8:51 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I think this is resolved, there's no listing for a Klein bottle or blackhead removal. The only Klein Bottle I could find does mention Chris Stoll in the name but there are only 7 product reviews and they predate Amazon Prime Day. Helps to be a famous author.
posted by geoff. at 9:01 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Yeah, on his website he notes that the listing on amazon has been removed.
posted by anhedonic at 9:36 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Amazon is like the seediest black-marketplace we imagine in a shitty dystopic genre fiction, only it's real and it one of the biggest, most mainstream commerce sites on the planet, and apparently enough people care about fast fake-free shipping and conveniently buying cheap junk, damn the provenance, that no one can do anything about it.

I mean, all things considered Amazon.com is nowhere near the worst thing in the world, but it's probably pretty high on the list of worst, most mainstream, most broadly accepted shitty enterprise things in America.
posted by glonous keming at 9:37 PM on June 30 [14 favorites]


What is the world coming to? It’s as if everything’s turned inside out.
posted by skyscraper at 9:41 PM on June 30 [26 favorites]


>I think this is resolved ...

I don't think it's resolved if the original listing isn't back up, and it's definitely not resolved if the only way to fix this problem is by being famous enough to get personal attention - the normal channels were all ignoring this issue.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 9:47 PM on June 30 [18 favorites]


Maybe I'm just being one-sided, but this has me all twisted inside-out. The reasons for this are manifold, but even just a few dimensions of this story leave me feeling like I'm without orientation. I suppose you could say my feelings are just a projection of how Cliff must feel. I hope some day good people like Cliff won't be at the mercy of massive corporations like Amazon, but I don't know how we punch through to the other side without finding some kind of edge to the issue.
posted by biogeo at 11:13 PM on June 30 [36 favorites]


The YC Hacker News thread about this, replete with many comments from Cliff Stoll himself.
posted by bz at 11:18 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


Amazon has been destroying its search function for a few years. Some of the time, even when I know exactly what I want, it insists on showing me other things, and for some products, it only shows me dubious third party sellers. Has anyone seen a good explanation of what's going on?

It also shut down the ability to replay to comments, which I think is a considerable loss.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:46 PM on June 30 [17 favorites]


Brand Name Hijacking takes advantage of several bugs in Amazon's seller business model:
[...]
3) Amazon combines reviews of different item variations and colors, even though they are from completely different listings and manufacturers.


There's also the one where they combine reviews of items from different sellers, and don't let you order from some specific seller that you know is legit because they also combine everyone's inventory. So if there is (or was, at some point in the past) an honest seller responsible for all the good reviews and a counterfeit seller supposedly selling the same item, you can't choose, or even know, who will be supplying the product you order.
posted by trig at 11:54 PM on June 30 [22 favorites]


If a man builds an inferior mousetrap, China will beat a path to his door.
posted by chavenet at 4:24 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I can affirm that they really are excellent klein bottles.

Good for trapping Mars Flies?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:42 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


For anyone reading who still bothers to leave Amazon reviews, it it super helpful to include the product name and model number in the text of your review. Several times recently I have run into reviews worded that way and which are now listed against completely different items.
posted by Lanark at 5:06 AM on July 1 [23 favorites]


I read through the whole wikipedia entry on what a Klein bottle is and I didn't really understand any of it. Not feeling very bright today.
posted by JanetLand at 5:35 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


I read through the whole wikipedia entry on what a Klein bottle is and I didn't really understand any of it. Not feeling very bright today.

as far as I understand it (not super far): if you ever made a Mobius strip as a kid it's kinda the 3D version of that? like you could trace a path from any point on its surface to any other point on its surface without ever transitioning between an "inside" and "outside" of the bottle, something like that?

anyway very ticked off that anyone would mess with Cliff Stoll who is delightful! the Nova special linked in the previously is well worth a watch if you haven't, or even if you haven't in a while (I wore the VHS tape of it out as a kid)
posted by taquito sunrise at 5:48 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]


Given the union busting shenanigans, I had resolved to avoid Amazon anyway and hey look, another reason!
posted by emjaybee at 5:49 AM on July 1 [4 favorites]


I didn't really understand any of i

The way I like to think if it is: imagine a strip of paper, pink on one side and white on the other. You can bend it into a ring and attach the ends to each other so one colour is on the inside and the other on the outside, or you can give it a half twist so the pink side meets the white side. That's a Möbius strip, and as you can see: the inside and outside are contiguous.

OK, so suppose you have a tube that, like the strip of paper, has two colours: pink on the inside and white on the outside. You could bend it into a circle and join the ends together, and then you'd have something like a tire: pink on the inside and white on the outside. But what if there was a way to twist it like our paper, so the pink side joined on to the white side and the white side to the pink side? Then you'd have an object whose inside and outside were contiguous: not because you cam pass through an opening but because the space inside and the space outside are joined.

You can't make such an object in our universe (you can try yourself by sacrificing an old sock) but you could if you were able to bend objects through a fourth dimension. What Clifford Stollnis selling is glass objects that kind of approximate a Klein bottle. The neck just curves and pierces the side so it can join up inside, whereas in a real one it would pass through the fourth dimension.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:04 AM on July 1 [7 favorites]


I read through the whole wikipedia entry on what a Klein bottle is and I didn't really understand any of it. Not feeling very bright today.

A Klein bottle is a thing we can imagine ought to exist in higher dimensions but because of real limitations we can't really see or make it in our dimensions. Next to the descriptions of Klein bottle in many math textbooks, there is always a drawing of a thing that we could make, a weird abstract swan looking bottle-like thingy, which has some of the qualities of a Klein bottle.

The Klein bottle is a thing that can't be made, people who have seen the drawing know it can't be made, but Mr. Stoll makes bottle-like thingies based on the drawing, and one can purchase them. It's like a scam, but unlike Amvoom, because both buyer and seller are in on it. It's completely transparent.
posted by otherchaz at 7:50 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


If I could trace Klein on a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to paint every face 'til eternity passes away
'til the blackhead's removed

And if I could make space last forever
And if words could make wishes come true
We'd pop all the pimples a-ripening there and
Klein would flow through us and you

And I'd paint every face without measure and then
Again and again the blackhead's removed

And I've looked around enough to know
You're the one I wanna go through Klein with (ooh-ooh)
Through Klein with (ooh-ooh)
Through Klein with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty except for the memory
Of all of the blackheads removed

So if I could trace Klein on a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to paint every face 'til eternity passes away
'til the blackhead's removed

And I'd paint every face without measure and then
Again and again the blackhead's removed

I've looked around enough to know
You're the one I wanna go through Klein with (ooh-ooh)
Through Klein with (ooh-ooh)
Through Klein with
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:05 AM on July 1 [21 favorites]


I ordered from Clifford Stoll (via his website, not via amazon) and I just want to say that the entire experience was a delight. Highly recommended.

Made my heart sink to read this. I hope it gets fixed...
posted by Cozybee at 9:44 AM on July 1


I find this somewhat hilarious considering Clifford Stoll's accidental astronomer turned hacker/spy hunting history and I bet he does, too.

"Wait, really? I went through all of that and settled down to sell my nerdy little art glass niche Klein bottles and I still get to deal with this seriously dumb shit? I should have taken down the internet when it was still small enough to drown in a swimming pool!"
posted by loquacious at 9:59 AM on July 1 [7 favorites]


If you buy a Klein Bottle (directly from Cliff of course, not Amazon), make sure you also get a Klein Bottle opener -- https://www.kleintools.com/catalog/branded-collection/klein-bottle-opener

I bought some from Cliff several years ago and he threw in random fun stuff he apparently had lying around like some old computer punch cards. Does he still store them in his crawlspace and use a home made remote control robot to fetch them? I recall seeing that on his web site at the time.
posted by thefool at 10:27 AM on July 1 [5 favorites]


Thanks for this post, learning more about Cliff is worth the price of admission. I purchased a bunch of his glasswork from Acme Klein Bottle and was not disappointed. I really like the version where he has sawed the bottle in half: both halves are Mobius strips! If you want to see some more of his humor, check out the job opportunities at Acme.
posted by TreeRooster at 10:42 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]


This is just to say

I have stolen
the reviews
that were up
on Amazon

and which
people probably
meant
for Klein bottles

Forgive me
they were lucrative
so unprotected
and so good
posted by automatronic at 11:35 AM on July 1 [5 favorites]


I think this is resolved, there's no listing for a Klein bottle or blackhead removal.

Damn, and I really wanted a blackhead remover with a lot of glowing reviews written by people who don't seem to know what a blackhead remover is or does.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:57 AM on July 1


A blackhead remover that operated through the 4th dimension could remove blackheads, from the inside, without penetrating your skin.
posted by glonous keming at 12:03 PM on July 1 [5 favorites]


"⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ as excellent on the inside as it is on the outside"
posted by joeyh at 12:04 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


I didn't really understand any of it

I think it may be one of those things where, if you’re the kind of person who finds this stuff interesting, you almost certainly know about it already.
posted by Phanx at 12:26 PM on July 1


I think it may be one of those things where, if you’re the kind of person who finds this stuff interesting, you almost certainly know about it already.

No
posted by eviemath at 12:33 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]




The man with 1,000 Klein Bottles UNDER his house - Numberphile

Of course he has a little remote controlled robot forklift. Of course.
posted by loquacious at 9:55 AM on July 2


Imagine a company trying to compete with Amazon nowadays based on these clear problems the company has. Imagine its tag lines: “Enough with the fake-free shipping. We give you the exact price of shipping our product to you and never make a profit on delivery. Promised!” “Tired of fake brands selling you dangerous fake products and gamed reviews? Give us a try: we only have the amount of support requests and refund requests underneath our products. No gaming shenanigans. Promised!”

That company cannot exist because Amazon would dump its prices for years to destroy it, with the support of its shareholders. That’s why it needs to be broken up.
posted by papineau at 2:32 PM on July 2 [5 favorites]


Or... hear me out, now: We start two companies, B and C, both selling the same story and inventory. We are independently owned, and never discuss strategy or price. Company B buys it's inventory at market cost and sells below Amazon price, at the break even point, no profit margin. Just to force Amazon to sell at a loss. Then drops prices even further after Amazon undercuts them, undercutting Amazon's already too-low price. Which would be sustainable for Amazon, but not for Company B. So after forcing Amazon to take a loss, company B cries uncle, sells their remaining inventory to Company C at a huge loss, way under market cost, and declares bankruptcy. Company C just sits on the inventory until Amazon raises prices again, then undercuts them by a huge margin, but still at a profit for Company C. Meanwhile, Companies D through ZZ (tops) are playing the same game. Half of these companies will fail, and half will be profitable, but Amazon will always lose money trying to keep up. Because although there is absolutely no discussion between these companies about specific price fixing, there is a single rule: no selling of discounted inventory to Amazon. And somewhere down the line, one could imagine the investors in the bankrupt companies maybe getting hired onto the boards of the profitable companies with some really sweet golden parachutes. Still illegal in the sorts of ways that companies frequently get away with, so probably better to run them all out of somewhere offshore, and probably not a sustainable model. Which is why when I say D through ZZ (tops), I really mean D through ZZ n. Bloodletting at volume. I mean, it would never work. This was basically just a Trading Places fan fic. But it was a very satisfying fantasy. Five star review. And shipping was free.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:33 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Another Klein Bottle Bottle Opener
posted by Happy Monkey at 11:24 AM on July 3


You can't make such an object in our universe (you can try yourself by sacrificing an old sock) but you could if you were able to bend objects through a fourth dimension. What Clifford Stollnis selling is glass objects that kind of approximate a Klein bottle. The neck just curves and pierces the side so it can join up inside, whereas in a real one it would pass through the fourth dimension.

The trick is that where a genuine Klein bottle would have no thickness and need to go through another dimension to penetrate itself without a break, the "approximate Klein bottle" has an amount of glass at any point separating the "outer" and "inner" edge so that where the neck appears to penetrate the body, the outer edge splits away from the inner edge to follow the outside of the bottle while the inner edge follows the inside of the bottle.
posted by straight at 11:56 AM on July 6


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