Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Autocomplete Zeitgeist


As everybody knows, Google Autocomplete is a function of Google Search that starts providing feedback even before you’re finished typing your search query. The search engine predicts what you’re searching for based on what others have searched for (among other things). As such, it’s a good indicator of where people’s heads are. In this post I examine the national zeitgeist as of March 31, 2018. (To some degree Autocomplete is regional but I’m not going to worry about that right now.)

No, I’m not the first person to do this. But since you’re here, roll with me for a while….

Persecution mania

To start, let’s see what people worry about being busted for. This should showcase an interesting array of guilty consciences and/or unfounded worries.

Typing “is it illegal to” yields the following Autocomplete suggestions:
  • Is it illegal to burn the US flag
  • Is it illegal to drive without shoes
  • Is it illegal to change lanes in an intersection
  • Is it illegal to burn money
  • Is it illegal to run away
So far, it appears a majority of Internet searchers are unpatriotic free spirits who hate wearing shoes, didn’t study very hard for their driving test, resent their own wealth, and would run away from home if they weren’t worried about being arrested.

Changing our query to “is it against the law” doesn’t change much except we get “to threaten someone,” “to not file taxes,” “to spit on someone,” and “to cheat on your spouse.” So the America-hating, wealth-hating free spirits who are miserable at home are also adulterous and gross.

“Can you be arrested for” causes Google to add “speeding,” “slander,” and “jaywalking,” which all fit our emerging profile  of the scofflaw, irreverent American. Bringing in the search term “imprisoned” yields Autocomplete suggestions like “for a debt,” “for not paying taxes,” and (perhaps most alarmingly) “for drink driving.” (No, that’s not a typo. I mean, it’s not my typo.) Seems that a lot of these social degenerates are misbehaving first and asking questions later.

“Can a police officer” … take a guess. Get a date? Be a winner? No, but nice try. Autocomplete suggests “search your car,” “lie to you,” “take your phone,” “take your car,” and “threaten you.” So it looks like these miscreants expect to get back as bad as they give.

If we back off the legal aspect and soften our query to “are you allowed to,” the suggestions get a bit softer, too: 
  • Are you allowed to smoke weed in public
  • Are you allowed to bring weed on a plane
  • Are you allowed to bring lighters on planes
  • Are you allowed to retire at age 50
  • Are you allowed to use a calculator on the gre
It’s perhaps worth noting that these misanthropic lawless hooligans can’t be bothered to try to spell “marijuana.” Try searching on “is smoking w” and you’ll get a full rack of weed-related Autocompletes:

But searching on “is smoking m” doesn’t even begin to suggest marijuana:

Whoah, that’s a weird batch of Autocompletes. I saved you the trouble of looking up what “smoking money” means … it’s using dollar bills as rolling papers. Why would anybody do this? Could Zig-Zags cost that much? (Believe me, I’m the wrong guy to ask.) Mullein is some kind of flower that people are evidently seeing fit to smoke. Ditto mugwort. So apparently our carefree, resentful scofflaws are burning money for a reason; will get high on just about anything; and are approaching 50 and fearing some kind of pushback if they leave workforce. If all this weren’t strange enough, they’re also thinking of taking the GRE.

Who, what, where, why, how

Okay, there’s more to life than finding out what we can and can’t get away with. There are larger, existential questions like who, what, where, why, and how. Searching on “what is,” the top five suggestions I get are:
  • What is palm sunday
  • What is bitcoin
  • What is my ip
  • What is a rambler
  • What is net neutrality
The first suggestions merely tells you when I started researching this post. The bitcoin response suggests either a fascination with alternative currencies or the never-ending quest to get rich quick. So which is it? Well, considering that my thorough explanation of bitcoin has not gone viral, probably the latter.

The question “what is my IP” is a pretty silly one, because most people have their IP address dynamically assigned via DHCP, so the concept of “my IP” is about as useful as smoking dollar bills. So our freewheeling unpatriotic ne’er-do-well, though he may despise paper money, likes the idea of cryptocurrency and wealth, even if he’s a bit confused about the Internet and/or retiring at 50.

As far as “rambler,” that’s a very good question … after several seconds of painstaking research I’ve determined that it’s the nomadic hobo, which for some reason takes lupine form, that is the mascot of Loyola-Chicago’s sports teams. Apparently the average American, while not driving barefoot to an extramarital tryst and/or smoking weed, is watching sports while pondering the deep questions that activity produces.

Moving on to the question of why, we’re presented with a laundry list of compelling mysteries:
  • Why is the sky blue
  • Why is downsizing rated r
  • Why is fortnite so popular
  • Why is my poop green
  • Why is my internet so slow
I know just what you’re thinking: even though you aren’t personally a person who madly changes lanes right in the middle of an intersection while “driving drink,” or smokes weed on an airplane, spits on people, and hopes to get rich via bitcoin, you really would like the answers to those pressing questions. So I’ll save you a Google search:
  • The sky is blue because it’s a beautiful day
  • Downsizing is rated R because of multiple scenes of male full frontal nudity, 24 instances of the F-word, and moderate drug use
  • Fortnite is popular because it’s a stupid video game where you shoot people (i.e., society is doomed)
  • Your poop is green because you smoke too much mullein
  • Your Internet is so slow because your ISP gave you a really lame IP address and there’s no net neutrality (whatever that is)
Moving on to “who is,” we discover that the cash-smoking moral degenerates of our time are more interested in Snoke (a Star Wars character) than Jesus, though at least Jesus took second and third place. Next up is “the richest person in the world,” who better watch out lest his cash get burned up (whether out of spite or as joints). Rounding out the podium we have Marshmello, an electronic dance music producer (probably responsible for the music people listen to while smoking mugwort and watching the Loyola game with the sound turned off).

“Where” gives us these suggestions:
  • Where’s my refund
  • Where am i
  • Where is  xur
  • Where is the final four this year
  • Where to buy ripple
So the freewheeling adulterous drink-driver isn’t so anti-money that he isn’t impatient for his refund, and meanwhile wants to get rich on Ripple, which I’ve learned is like bitcoin. He doesn’t know where he physically is, which is what you get for rolling up plant matter in paper currency and inhaling.

I’m going to guess that Loyola made the Final Four … good job, Ramblers!

But what the hell is xur? Oddly, when I Google “what is  x,” Autocomplete doesn’t suggest “what is xur.” It suggests instead, “what is xur selling.” And when I google “what is xur,” the first result is “Where is Xur? Find Him here and See What He’s Selling.” In fact, the whole first page of responses deals with Xur’s location and what he’s selling. Now, I’m not about to be arrested because the cops track my IP address and bust me for trying to buy a bunch of Xur’s illicit products. So I’m not going to I looked up “xur” on Wikipedia and—check this out—there’s no entry. When’s the last time that happened? Suffice to say, if you want to know anything about Xur, you’re on your own.

And finally, the big questions all having been investigated, we reach the practical matter of how:
  • How to delete facebook
  • How many ounces in a pound
  • How to make slime
  • How to buy bitcoin
  • How to tie a tie
I guess it just figures that a person who cheats on his or her spouse, spits on people, and smokes weed on airplanes would also be painfully active on social media, ignorant of basic weights and measures, and unable to tie a necktie. But making slime? Is this really the new national pastime? God we’re a weird populace.

The future

So far I’ve focused on Internet searches regarding the present. But where, as a people, are we going, or do we hope to go? To find out, I typed “am I going” and Autocomplete dished up a laundry list of common fears:
  • Am I going crazy
  • Am I going to die
  • Am I going to hell
  • Am I going bald
  • Am I going to die alone
  • Am I going insane
  • Am I going deaf
  • Am I going to heaven or hell
Next I typed “will I” into Google, but unfortunately this yielded a number of false starts involving the musician will. i. am. To jettison these I changed my query to “will I ever,” and the result was possibly even sadder than “am I going”:
  • Will I ever find love
  • Will I ever be good enough
  • Will I ever get married
  • Will I ever be happy
  • Will I ever get a boyfriend
  • Will I ever find true love
  • Will I ever get over him
  • Will I ever be happy again
The thing is, these are tough questions that would require a lot more information than a Google query can give (even with Google and other cookie-enabled agents presumably tracking our every move on the Internet). It strikes me that the people asking these questions (and thus making these the most popular queries) are using Google less as a search engine and more as a Magic 8-Ball. So why not just do that?

I tried this by going to (Note that this site isn’t encrypted so you better not ask anything too private.) I asked it, “Will I ever be happy again?” and got back “Concentrate and ask again,” followed by “Without a doubt.” (This isn’t as complete as “Wait … aren’t you happy now?” but I’ll take it.) Disconcertingly, before answers, it briefly presents the message “Contacting Oracle.” This makes its responses seem less like magic and more like a database lookup. But then, isn’t that just like the Internet?

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

My Father’s Things ... Looking For a Home


This post is about getting rid of my late father’s stuff. Not the valuable stuff, like his house and his car (which have new owners), but all the rest of the stuff that meant something to him, and possibly even to somebody else (given that there are over 7 billion people in this world).

You’ll get to see some of this stuff showcased below, in case you want any of it. But I’m also going to proselytize a bit about not accumulating stuff. You might find that amusing and/or a needed wake-up call.

A soldier’s things

There aren’t many activities sadder, I think, than going through a dead person’s stuff. The poor guy … his stuff outlasted him, and now he can’t use it anymore! In case the sorting activity itself isn’t enough to make you cry, it helps to get the Tom Waits song “A Soldier’s Things” in your head. Although I have just discovered there is some debate about the meaning of this song, I take it to be about a yard sale for all the stuff a soldier left behind when he didn’t make it home.

Some time ago I went through a similar process with the bike gear left behind by a friend of mine who drowned. That was almost unfathomably tragic but at least I had the satisfaction of finding good homes for the vast majority of the stuff. Many friends bought his old bike components (with the proceeds going to Mark’s widow) simply because they wanted something to remember him by. I myself am enjoying Mark’s old rollers, and I suspect I’m using them more than he even did.

But with my dad’s belongings … well, it’s all just such weird, arcane stuff. My dad realized well ahead of his death that he ought to do something with all of it, since it’s not really anything you could offer up at an estate sale. But by that time he was so old and sick, I found myself suggesting that he not spend his last months or years on this Earth getting rid of it all. I suppose it was reasonable advice but now I’m dealing with the aftermath.

A bit of advice

If you’re the hoarding sort, as I’ll confess to (somewhat) being, it sure doesn’t hurt to pair up with somebody with the opposite approach. My wife has a strong aversion to almost all physical objects. A running joke in my household is that I have to keep moving, or she’ll drag me out to the curb. As her most recent birthday was approaching, I suggested that I find some object in the house, gift-wrap it, and announce—as she opens it—that I’ll get rid of it before the end of the day.  She was delighted by the idea—and not just as a joke. She’d have actually been thrilled (though I couldn’t bring myself to actually do it).

But even if you aren’t lucky enough to be mated to an anti-hoarder, here’s a suggestion: as you approach retirement age (but while you’re still energetic and have your wits about you), go through all of your belongings and ask the following questions about each object:
  • Is this making me happy?
  • Is this making me money?
  • Would my kid(s) want to inherit this?
If the answer to all three questions is any version of “no,” get rid of the object. If the answer to the third question is “yes,” ask yourself a follow-on question: would my kid(s) want this now? If so, offer it up. If your offer is declined, maybe you answered the question wrong (i.e., you should jettison the object).

My dad’s stuff … you want it?

Okay, let’s get into the stuff itself. Some of it my brothers and I are keeping, like an assortment of beautiful, expensive-looking prisms. (There are dozens of them, weirdly enough, so if you have a thing for prisms, let me know.) Obviously some stuff has sentimental value, like the homemade coat rack with our initials carved in the base, and thousands of photo slides, most of which nobody has ever laid eyes on before (since slide projectors take so long to load up). But the vast majority of the stuff had value only to him (and perhaps not even much value, as most of it spent the last few decades out in the garage or moldering away in boxes).

Exhibit A is his recumbent tricycle. Five of the six members of our family find the original, classic bicycle design to be a rare example of perfect functional elegance. The recumbent makes about as much sense as microwave popcorn (i.e., none at all). When I see a person riding a recumbent I feel terribly sorry for him. He looks like a tortoise flipped over on its back. Oh, these recumbent riders try to look like they’re enjoying themselves, but they’re not. There is actually no logical way to explain this recumbent-riding behavior except a nerdy person held prisoner by his own iconoclastic yearnings. When my dad purchased this tricycle, to replace the recumbent bicycle he never quite managed to learn to ride, I was dead set against the idea (but I kept my mouth shut … there’s simply no point arguing with an iconoclast). He never ended up riding it much because it hurt his neck.

But anyway, perhaps you’re a weirdo yourself and think a recumbent trike is a fine idea (the product does, after all exist), so here’s a movie showcasing it. I will confess that my narration of this video flies in the face of everything I’ve just typed.

And now, on to the telescopes. Why don’t I want these for myself, you ask? Well, the Bay Area isn’t exactly a great place for astronomy. If you want to see anything cool, you have to take a trip to the middle of nowhere. I’m a true family man, so I don’t fancy the idea of a solo astronomy expedition. And I can’t bring my family on such a trip, because I’m married to The Woman Who Ruined Astronomy.

Here’s what happened. Like twenty years ago, before we had kids, my wife and I did a mountain biking vacation in Moab, Utah. My dad drove down and met us. We were camping in Arches or Canyonlands, and the astronomy was superb. Thus, my dad—a fanatic stargazer—gave us a free (if unsolicited) astronomy lesson that lasted, it seemed, for at least a couple of hours. I have to confess, when I peer through the eyepiece of a telescope I seldom see anything interesting. Often I think I’m only seeing the reflection of my own eye. Sometimes there are little pinpricks of light. It all just seems so pointless and arbitrary. The constellations? I have no use for them. I can recognize Orion’s Belt, and the Big Dipper, but all the rest? Forget it. Anyway, at some point my wife heard a noise. We were at a totally deserted campsite pretty much in the middle nowhere, and that sound could have been anything. A wolf, a puma, maybe even a Sleestak! So my wife turned on a flashlight and shone it around. This, of course, spoiled everybody’s hard-won night vision. My dad snapped, “Thanks a lot. You just ruined astronomy.” I guess it didn’t occur to him that she valued her own safety more than the wonders of the celestial heavens. My dad’s utterance instantly became a classic quote, trotted out regularly to this day, pretty much whenever somebody notices the night sky.

I wish I could have seen my dad in his element, holding forth at a star party to people who actually cared about astronomy. Surely he was everybody’s hero in that exalted realm. His telescopes are amazing. One of them in particular seems to be a crazy hybrid of state-of-the-art commercial technology and his own carpentry. My dad actually worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, fixing this giant flaw that originally plagued it. He was the real deal when it came to aerospace and optical engineering. It’s really a crying shame that although my dad had four sons, not one of us appreciate astronomy enough to want this stuff, but that there’s what it is. Anyway, here are a couple of videos showcasing the amazing telescopes themselves along with the crazy menagerie of tripods that supported them. If you are serious about astronomy, give me a shout and claim one or more of these for yourself. (Note: if you’re thinking of using one of these to spy on your sexy neighbor, consider that you would probably end up getting a very good look at his or her pores.)

Now, scopes ain’t all that he had … all kinda crazy shit was in this baller’s pad. (I’m paraphrasing Ice-T because that’s what my dad would’ve wanted. No he wouldn’t.) He also had all manner of useful, high-tech instrument. Unfortunately I can’t identify much of anything. I know that he built a number of interferometers, unmatched perhaps by anything ever produced by anyone, but he apparently didn’t save any of those. Suffice to say, the instruments in his collection were all top-of-the-line, made in America because nobody else knew how to build this stuff. Check it out:

Hey, wait! The video did not capture everything. Here are yet more instruments:

Here is a close-up of the two grooviest instruments:

Wow, what a lot of cool stuff. Probably the Smithsonian museum would love this stuff. Or maybe the Antiques Roadshow would pay a mint. Or some mad scientist would give anything to get his or her hands on it (either to put it to good use, or to store it in his or her house for a decade or two). Anyway, it’s free to a good home.

And now for one more thing: the Hewlett Packard 85 computer. As described here, this bad boy cost $3,250 back in January of 1980, which equates to over $10,000 in today’s dollars.  It sported 8K of RAM. (To put that in perspective, a decent modern laptop has 1.5 million times as much memory.) The HP-85 was a good investment: my brother Bryan and I both learned how to program on that machine, and one of us makes his living writing code. (Hint: it’s not me.) Here’s a print ad for the HP-85, followed by a video:

Some years ago, my dad offered me the computer. I politely declined, because I just couldn’t imagine myself actually making the time to mess about with it, and my kids would be even less interested. So it would just sit around taking up space. Well, I should have accepted, because that would have made my dad happy, and now here I am storing the damn thing anyway. (In a storage locker, no less, because I couldn’t bring myself to take it to the Goodwill or a disposal center.)

So, if you want any of this stuff, let me know—and if you don’t, forward this post (via this link) to everybody you know, and hell, even a lot of people you don’t know, and have them all do the same. Threaten them with bad luck if they break the chain—whatever it takes to find the right home for all these things! You’d be doing me and my father’s memory a huge solid.

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review - Los Gallos Taqueria (or, How To Choose a Mexican Restaurant)


Road trips can be great for dining. They can also be lousy if you guess wrong about a restaurant. (For example, I went to a dynamite-looking Bavarian pastry shop in Michigan back in ’94 that looked so promising until the first grainy, filmy, insipid bite.) Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google can obviously help, if you’re able to sort through the conflicting reviews.

This I did with my brother Bryan on a recent road trip that took us through Reno. This post reviews a great taqueria there, and in the process lays out some solid criteria for evaluating one. I also cover (once again) some of the pitfalls of amateur reviews.

Restaurant Review – Los Gallos taqueria, Reno, NV

While Bryan drove, I searched top-10 lists for Reno taquerias. My method is simple: see if the same taqueria pops up in the top-10 lists of Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google. Then I scan the reviews of a favorable place and look for undeniable evidence for or against a place being good. Undeniable would be along the lines of “whole wheat and gluten free tortillas offered!” (against) and “best lengua I’ve ever had!” (for). What I’m looking for is authenticity and assurance that that Sysco is not involved.

Just in case you’re not familiar with lengua, it’s beef tongue. I only had it once, from a mediocre food truck. My burrito had giant rubbery hunks of it and it made me feel kind of ill. I hauled the tongue out of the burrito and put it in my cat’s dish, so I could set up a family member to ask me, “Whatsa matter … cat got your tongue?” (Nobody did.) Interesting aside: the resemblance of “lengua” to the word “language” is no coincidence, and the Russian word for language, язык, is the same as their word for tongue. Anyway, I will probably never order lengua again, but I like to know it’s on the menu. It’s like a shibboleth.

Los Gallos taqueria showed immediate promise based on this statement from a 5-star review: “Burrito-gasms= spicy pork and lingua.” A 4-star review said, “Any restaurant whose theme is cock fighting, just check the wall decor, has to be confident in their grub… If you ever wanted to try buche, tripas or lengua, this is the place.”

(I thought going into this review that the person would be complaining about the cockfighting motif. Frankly, I would not watch a cockfight, but that doesn’t mean I think this restaurant should be avoided. I mean, I wouldn’t fight in a war if I could avoid it, but I don’t shun Hemingway’s work just because he wrote about war.)

I’ve never wanted to try tripe, but it’s an excellent sign that Los Gallos serves it. And buche? What the hell is that? Google translated it as “maw,” which isn’t really helpful. No animal’s throat would yield much meat, would it? But there’s a Spanish definition given as well: “Abultamiento del esófago de las aves, en forma de bolsa membranosa, donde almacenan los alimentos para reblandecerlos antes de triturarlos en la molleja.” Google translates this as “Bulging of the esophagus of the birds, in the form of a membranous bag, where they store the food to soften them before crushing them in the gizzard.” This puts Los Gallos up there with those really trendy “whole animal” restaurants that cost a fortune. Another good sign!

Of course, it’s important to look at the 1-star reviews as well, to make sure there are no ugly surprises, such as “They don’t have burritos, only ‘wraps,’” or “They charged me $2 extra for guac and it was only the faintest smear,” or “I watched the cook shoot the dishwasher in the stomach just to watch him die” (this was Reno, after all).

But the 1-star reviews I saw weren’t very damning. One said, “Place in kinda run down but was clean. I just found the food to be meh mediocre and do to its dreary decor I don't want to even bother giving it another try.” That first bit, “Place in kinda run down,” is problematic. If “in” was supposed to be “is,” then there’s a verb tense problem with “was” later in the same sentence. If it’s just an extra tacked-on word, well, then the person is sloppy. The fact of “due” being spelled “do” confirms the borderline illiteracy of the reviewer, and any focus on décor shows poor judgment if not poor character. This person does not deserve to be taken seriously.

Another 1-star review said, “Nasty and nasty. I was so disappointed both my husband and I were. I was upset also with the girls that work there at the front they  both were rude. $23.97 went to the garbage can.” The sloppiness of this review (e.g., the run-on sentences) shows remarkable cheek in somebody so utterly unforgiving of her fellow man. And “girls” seems a bit sexist, as surely the employees were adults. I’m not sure what the redundancy of “nasty and nasty” was intended to convey. And I’m dismayed that she threw away her food. (I’ve been known to rescue marginal food from the family compost bin.)

My favorite 1-star review read, “Love the food been coming here for years ... NOW I GET HOME AND THE BURRIOT HAS PICO WHICH I CLEARLY DIDNT ASK FOR!!! ASTONISHED, if this isn't taken care of I will never return, my family won't return and my friends will hear of this.” OMG. Is this person for real? First of all, who doesn’t like pico de gallo? And if this person has loved the food for years, couldn’t a little goof like this be forgiven? “Astonished” … really?

Man, people suck. Fricking prima donnas. I have enjoyed Joe Blow’s Yelp reviews for years, but now I read the non-word “burriot” instead of burrito which is clearly a misspelling! ASTONISHED! If this isn’t taken care of I’ll never read another Joe Blow review, and my family and friends will hear of this! (Note: it has occurred to me that this person’s review could be satirical and/or tongue-in-cheek, but if so that’s no favor to the restaurant given the widespread gullibility of Internet users.)

Of course we should take the favorable reviews with a grain of salt as well. A 4-star review reported, “This place has been on my list for a while.  It’s a bit embarrassing because I live around the corner from the place. Why I haven’t I gone?  The obvious is I’m lazy.” Ah, a classic self-referential blathering review. What do I care of the reviewer’s traits and circumstance? And who is that lazy? Should I trust a lazy person?

A 5-star review raved, “Tacos were filling, meat was savory, and the bottled coke was delicious.” Look, all tacos are filling, if you eat enough of them, and to call any Coke “delicious” shows an exceedingly sunny disposition that must be marvelous in a human being, but not very useful in a critic.

Okay, enough of the received wisdom—on to my own experience. If I were writing a Yelp review, I’d probably give this 5 stars and proclaim, “Totally great place—I was driving through Reno with my brother, coming back from Colorado where we settled our late father’s estate, and we were really hungry from hours of driving along Highway 50, which is a much better route than I-70 or I-80 by the way, and check this out—Los Gallos doesn’t have a parking lot but it does have street parking, and when we got there, there was 36 minutes left on the meter. THIS PLACE ROCKS!”

Fortunately, albertnet has higher standards so you won’t get my life story. We headed in there, and the menu told us straight off that we were in good hands. Check this out:

Not only was the lengua confirmed, but they have cabeza (beef brains) and buche (which term they helpfully translate for us). They also serve menudo, which you will never, ever find at Chipotle or Trump Tower, and birria, which is goat. (I thought about asking if they’d put birria in my burrito—which I happened to know would be great—but remembered that I’d been warned that “the girls that work there at the front they  both were rude.” I wonder what the items were that have been whited out and papered over on the menu.

The super burrito is a bit pricey ($9) but at least the guacamole comes stock. The cashier asked us if we wanted the cheese that the burritos came with. I take this as another sign of authenticity, as I’m dimly aware that traditional Mexican food isn’t brimming with cheese. (Being a gringo, I actually do want the cheese, but it’s nice to be asked.) The food took a while, which is also good. I once went to Chipotle (it was the only place open on a holiday), and although the place was as deserted as it deserves to be, the cook put my burrito together so hastily and half-assedly I almost lunged across the counter to strangle him.

Interestingly, Los Gallos accepts Android Pay. The only reason I care is that I got my housecat from the animal shelter, where they implant every animal with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. That means if you update your pet’s profile online, adding your credit card number, you can use the animal as a mobile wallet. Not at Los Gallos, though … they don’t allow pets.

While waiting for our burritos we helped ourselves to thick, crunchy chips that were just the right amount of greasy. There was a salsa bar with at least five kinds of salsa, plus the little radishes and pickled jalapenos that I never eat. The salsa was really good and really fiery. It made my mouth hurt. I’m sure there’s a 1-star review out there complaining about this, but it’s how Mexican food is supposed to be (at least as far as I know).

Here’s a photo of the interior. As I’ve said, I’m not hugely into décor, but the original artwork was fun (and decidedly non-institutional). I would give Los Gallos a 5-star review based on this dude’s beard alone. (Yes, that was hyperbole.)

Okay, let’s cut to the chase: how were the burritos? Delicious. I’ll walk you through mine. First, the tortilla was perfectly grilled. (I like grilled way better than steamed.) The first bite obviously had more tortilla than subsequent bites would, as I bit through the “cap,” but I didn’t have to deal with a bunch of wadded-up tortilla like what you get when there’s too much tortilla for the filling. I hate that, even as a lover of large expanses of starch.

The meat—I ordered my burrito al pastor—was a bit greasy, but in a good way. Let’s face it, anyone who doesn’t like a bit of grease would avoid al pastor entirely. The ingredients were perfectly apportioned. I hate it when there’s too much meat in a burrito, even if the meat is good. The flavors must be balanced. The ingredients were also perfectly distributed. I won’t say I dislike coming across a huge pocket of rice, since I like rice, but I obviously don’t prefer any big deposits of a single ingredient. Everything tasted great. Have a look:

I freely confess that’s not a very good photo. The burrito isn’t even in focus. But this actually attests to the burrito’s superb quality. Having tasted it, I couldn’t be bothered to waste a lot of time photographing it. In fact, every moment I spent not stuffing my face was intolerable. But look closely and you’ll see my brother is sweating. That’s because it was spicy. I should have taken another photo toward the end of the meal to better showcase this. (As spicy as the filling was, I kept adding more salsa anyway simply because it was there and it was so good.)

There’s only so much you can say about a burrito without starting to blather like a wine “expert” so I’ll stop now. But I have two things to say about the service. One, when I went back to the counter to ask the cashier to thank the cook for me, she was perfectly friendly. Two, even if the cashier had been totally rude, had insulted me and even my mother to my face, I wouldn’t hesitate to eat at Los Gallos again. I almost wish I had some reason to go back to Reno.

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