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04 Sep 08:42

New Needle Felted Food and Animal Friends by Hanna Dovhan

by Christopher Jobson

The word “cute” is woefully insufficient in describing the squee-inducing impression of these needled felted wool sculptures by Ukraine-based designer Hanna Dovhan (previously here and here). Her latest pairs of hand-made mustachioed donuts, mushrooms, croissants, and veggies are all designed to rest in a tender embrace or to simply hold hands. You can see more by following her on Instagram or in her Etsy shop Woolsculpture.

03 Jun 18:09

Art Therapy: Fictional Self-Help Book Titles Painted by Johan Deckmann

by Christopher Jobson

Copenhagen-based artist Johan Deckmann examines the complications of life through clever titles painted on the covers of fictional self-help books that appear to tackle life’s biggest questions, fears, and absurdities. A practicing psychotherapist himself, Deckmann thoroughly recognizes the power of language in therapy and possesses a keen ability to translate his discoveries into witty phrases. “I like the idea of distilling words to compress information, feelings or fantasies into an essence, a truth,” he shares. “The right words can be like good medicine.”

Deckmann often takes his pieces beyond simple language and into the realm of visual puns, such as an LP cover titled “The very best of the voices inside my head” or the juxtaposition of smaller and larger suitcases labeled “Baggage” and “Emotional Baggage.” All of the pieces have the faded color and worn texture of 1970s era self-help guides that were popular at the time.

Deckmann’s books have been exhibited around the world since he began the series in 2015, including a solo show last March at Andenken Gallery in Amsterdam. You can follow more of his recent work on Facebook, and on his website.

26 Apr 16:50

An Orange Cat Repeatedly Gets Her Face Stuck In the Vacuum Hose While Licking at the Suctioned Air

by Lori Dorn

Cat Licks Vacuum Cleaner

In 2013, a rather crazy-eyed but beautiful orange cat named Rijka clung tightly to the vacuum cleaner with her front paws and proceeded to lick at the suctioned air moving through the device. While doing so, however, the determined tabby would get her face stuck in the hose for a moment, calmly remove and continue on, happily undeterred.

Andrey Lebedev filmed this of his cat Rijka playing with a vacuum cleaner. It has since gone viral, but this is the original footage.

via reddit

Related Laughing Squid Posts

03 Apr 05:37

"Floating World" by Ray Bartkus is a Mural Meant to be Seen on the Water

by Alex Santoso

We've featured a number of large mural artworks on Neatorama before, but this one titled "Floating World" by Ray Bartkus is different. Drawn on the side of a building in Marijampole, Lithiuania, the artwork is meant to be viewed as its reflection on the water.

View more over at Bartkus' website.

28 Mar 14:36

It's Impossible to be Grumpy After You See These Quokka Pics

by Alex Santoso

Image @cambojones2020 and @rottnestfastferries

We've posted about the quokka on Neatorama a couple of times before. If you haven't seen it before, however, its worth visiting instaquokka, an Instagram page dedicated to "the happiest animal on Earth." Instant mood lifter!

Seriously, folks - quokkas can't look sad or grumpy even if they tried. No wonder they love taking selfies!

Image @abzhudson

Image @bonan_chen

Image @felixtravelbook

Image @nataliaeire

This is me at the end of the day! Image @sarahannea

Check out instaquokka for more of the lovable marsupial.

27 Mar 13:19

Phonetically Defined

by Miss Cellania

If you didn't speak English as a native, you'd be tempted to figure out new words by pulling them apart into smaller words you know. Then you'd be really wrong. This method wouldn't work for "placate" if you are learning British English, as they pronounce it differently. This is the latest from John Atkinson at Wrong Hands. See more of his "phonetically defined" words here. -via Nag on the Lake

05 Mar 20:29

This Photoshop Wizard's Skills Are Most Impressive Indeed

by Zeon Santos

Most of the digitally altered images you see online are simple composite images created by cutting subjects out of one photo and pasting them into another.

So when someone who actually knows how to use a digital tool like Photoshop to its fullest show off their skills the difference is night and day.

Digital artist Max Asabin is really good at cutting people out of boring photos and transporting them to more intriguing places, creating a seamless composite image with a whole new mood.

See Artist's Impressive Photoshop Skills Transport Anyone Into A Different Scene here

05 Mar 20:27

What Color Are These Strawberries?

by Miss Cellania

Gotta love science

We know that strawberries are red, or at least they should be, so that's what we see. Professor of Psychology Akiyoshi Kitaoka (previously at Neatorama) created this image of strawberries that contains no red pixels at all. This is an example of color correction in our brains. We essentially filter out colors that make no sense to us in order to see things as they should be. Carson Mell isolated the colors found in the strawberries, and none of them are red.

It's easier to see the color of the berries in this image. Cover the strawberries with your hand to get a better look at the color bar at the bottom.

An article at Motherboard explains what's going on in your brain when you see a picture like this.

"If you imagine walking around outside under a blue sky, that blueness is, in some sense, color-contaminating everything you see," explained Bevil Conway, an expert on visual perception from the National Eye Institute. "If you take a red apple outside under a blue sky, there are more blue wavelengths entering your eye. If you take the apple inside under a fluorescent or incandescent light without that same bias, the pigments in the apple are exactly the same but because the spectral content of the light source is different, the spectrum entering your eye that's reflected off the object is different."

Since all this color contamination from light sources isn't really useful (it would be super confusing if a ripe banana looked yellow in the morning but green at midday, for example), our brains have evolved to color correct. It allows the colors we see to look the same no matter the lighting.  

 -via Digg

(Image credit: Akiyoshi Kitaoka‏)

20 Feb 22:32

Matchmaker Says: Is Casual Sex the Standard?

by The Matchmakers
Art: Isabel Reitemeyer

Art: Isabel Reitemeyer

I don't want casual sex. Is that realistic? it?

We live in a world where contemporary dating culture is saturated with terms like ghosting, hookup, hang-out, swipe left and swipe right. This is not the age of virtuous romantic notions for the masses. This is the age of Tinder. Ugh. 

Not everyone belongs in this age. Not everyone wants to hookup, hang-out and ghost. So what does the anomaly do? If you're 2 standard deviations (or more) from the dating norm, how do you deal? How do you date? 

Tawkify Matchable Member, Betsy, wrote into Heartalytics with a specific concern. In her words:

"In my twenties, I was in an apartment, sowing my wild oats. Now, I'm 36, own my home and am a responsible "grown-up." I recently dated someone, things started well, but he seemed to lose interest when we didn't have sex after a few dates. Honestly, I feel I've out grown out of the casual sex realm, and would like commitment.

Am I holding my standards too high in this crazy world of dating?"

I sent Betsy's question straight to the front-line experts -- our matchmakers, and they had a lot to say on the topic. It became apparent Betsy's inquiry was not uncommon. So, if you feel like a fish out of water in this "crazy world of dating," this article is for you. 


Valerie Presley Ackler
Editor, Heartalytics

Matchmaker Candice Cain:

Betsy isn't alone in her feelings! There are many women who feel this way and have expressed similar sentiments to me. Casual sex is a bit passé now -- especially for people that are looking for a serious relationship. However, sometimes you just "click," and shouldn't have feelings of guilt or regret if something does happen in those situations. I wouldn't put a specific timeline on it -- it's a matter of how you feel, and when you feel it's right. You aren't holding your standards too high, there is no such thing -- they are your standards, you set them, you keep them! The man that meets those standards is the man for you.

Matchmaker Sophy Singer:

The right man won't lose interest if there isn't sex within a couple dates. Quite the opposite, I think. The right man will remained intrigued and will stick around until you feel like you're ready. Many times, couples have sex and each person views it differently. Generally speaking, the woman feels less casual after sex and the man could go either way. Men are typically much better at compartmentalizing sex. Whereas, women are physiologically wired to become more emotionally attached after sex (look up oxytocin - it's science!). If this is how you feel, my advice is to stick to your guns and hold out on sex. That's not to say you can't be intimate in other fun ways, that can make you both feel more connected. You'll be ready when you have a better read on his intentions. Good luck!

Matchmaker Celine Song:

I echo everything Candice and Sophy said, and I agree that this won't be a problem with the right person, but I think there's one caveat... you two must communicate.

Sometimes men don't realize that you are drawing a conscious line to not sleep with them...

and assume that you are just not interested in them anymore. They take rejection, re: sex as a rejection altogether. This is because in the past, the women who liked them, slept with them. Yes, some men are just in it for sex, but often men are just as insecure about negotiating sex as women are -- and are just trying to read the signals. 

I am a huge fan of frank communication to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary drama.

Betsy -- if this is how you feel, there is no better strategy than to be transparent, i.e. "I am trying something new this year, where I don't have casual sex with a man I've just started seeing. I think I'm getting to the point in my life where that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I find you very attractive, I want to keep seeing you and get to know you better -- and I think I might want to take that step with you sometime. But if you like me, I would appreciate your patience and respect. Does that make sense?" If he reacts to this positively with understanding, you've learned he is a good man and you have opened up a channel to talk about the "stuff" that matters. If he reacts immaturely and with any degree of irritation, then what a fantastic opportunity this was to figure this man out. You can move on with clarity. 

Matchmaker Deepali Gupta agrees with Celine:

I endorse Celine's strategy. I think the most important thing is to let a man (if he's worth it!) know *why* you aren't interested in casual sex (because they have anxieties at stake too) -- and if you can make asserting your boundaries an act of flirtation, all the better! 

Matchmaker Christina Han offers a statistical perspective:

If a man appears to have lost interest in you, it is most assuredly not because you didn't have sex within the first couple of dates. First off, a quality, desirable man will never push for sex overly eagerly, because he is either *projecting the impression that he is always having exactly as much sex as he wants to at any given time in his life* or he really is.  

Secondly, by not having sex right away, you are inadvertently raising your own value in his presumably conventional cis hetero sights. 

Sadly, "the chase" is not archaic. I've done my own research on the matter, and my data is anecdotal but I think reliable across the board.  

When asked if they honestly thought they'd be with their current partners if they'd been able to have sex with them early on, my straight male friends unanimously hemmed and hawed and ultimately admitted that they could see themselves having lost interest. They'd have texted less and steam for the pursuit of another date would have dissipated. This isn't to say that they'd think any less of the woman, or that they'd consciously have *not wanted to see her,* but that base, underlying motivation would have been gone. Depressing, but generally true.  

So what happened in these cases where sex was clearly delayed and they're now in relationships? Attachment grew pre-coitus to the point that there was extensive interest and investment in their respective women as human beings. At that point there was already a relationship or the foundation of a relationship to naturally build upon.

Matchmaker Lauren Schott is in the Deepali and Celine camp: 

Communication is key in this situation. As women, we tend to overthink and also make a bigger deal than necessary of some of our uncertainties. I've found that most men are more than happy to have an open conversation about their intentions. 9 times out of 10 they'll tell you -- "just ask me!" Are they looking for sex, are they interested in a relationship, are they open to marriage, how do they feel about waiting to sleep together?

I think Betsy should stand behind what she wants, not worry about what everyone else is doing, and be ready to talk openly about why she feels like she'd prefer to wait.

As many have already expressed, this won't be a deterrent to the right man. It's also really great practice for tougher conversations down the road.

Matchmaker Dorothy Stover concludes:

Having a standard is different than an expectation. If a man or woman has an expectation of casual sex, they're not the right person for someone that doesn't want something casual. She has a standard and should stick to it. When a man wants a woman, he will go to extremes to win her over. I've had 10 marriage proposals and I was only physically involved with three of the men. I've seen it time and again that the physical involvement does not equate to love or commitment. Of course, sex is great for bringing two people together but if it doesn't feel right to her, she shouldn't do it. Hold your standard Betsy. A good man will come forward, respect your standard and rise to meet it.

Betsy specifically asked when two people should become physically involved. Here are a few rules I have seen employed with success, but first and foremost -- always be upfront. Let the other person know your standard. The man will either cut ties (and of course he's not worth it), or he will get it and love it. 

When to have sex...

  1. After at least 90 days of dating. You can learn a lot about someone after three months of dating them. Including if you want a future. 
  2. When there's a clear commitment. Through my experience (and research) most men have an inclination if they are going to marry a woman within a month. 
  3. When you want to. Sometimes the rules are thrown out the window. I had a one night stand turn into two and a half year relationship, which turned into an engagement. 
  4. Wait until marriage. Let the other person know you won't be involved physically until marriage. I've seen this work both ways but more often then not, when married they stick things through because their relationship transcends the physical. 

Thank you Tawkify Matchmaking team & thank you Betsy for kicking off the discussion!


Team Tawkify

P.S. We're curious to hear from our male readers on this subject. Let us know how Betsy's concerns hit you -- and if you agree with the matchmaker feedback.

All thoughts and comments are welcomed for discussion!

14 Feb 08:26

How Certain English Words That Come From the Same Source Can Have Very Different Meanings

by Lori Dorn

In an enlightening episode of their incredibly informative whiteboard series for Mental Floss , linguist Arika Okrent and illustrator Sean O’Neill verbally and visually explain how certain words, such as terrific and terrible and awesome and awful, each come from the same source despite having meanings quite opposite from one another.

The word awe originally referred to immediate and active fear. It then became associated with religious, reverential fear, and then to a feeling of being humbled at the sublime. While awful retains the negative sense, awesome took on the positive one.

Related Laughing Squid Posts

13 Feb 16:39

Love Connection: 3 Ways to Love Yourself Better

by Marisha Dixon
Art: Adam Hale

Art: Adam Hale

Last week, I advocated for the power of self-love. In short, learning to love yourself first will help you find love in all of the [other] right places – romantically and professionally. You can read more on this, here.

This week, I’m back to present 3 strategies to foster the kind of self-love that changes lives – and it all begins with self-talk.

#1: Monitor Your Self-Talk

Yep, self-talk. We’ve all heard it before, but what is it really and what’s the big hubbub anyway? Self-talk is the subtle running commentary we all have going on in our heads that isn’t likely to be voiced out loud. What you say in your mind, is simply illustrating a future story…a future experience that you will (or won’t) have. That inner voice plays a huge role in determining how you feel about yourself, how you engage in romantic relationships, and how you interact with the world around you.

When it comes to your relationships and other areas of life, it’s important to monitor internal dialogue. There are several ways to do that:

  • Throughout the day, be proactive and take note of the conversations you’re having with yourself about romance, your career, your family, etc. and the resulting emotions and experiences that surround those topics.
  • Question your self-talk. Ask if there is a more positive perspective you can have about a given topic. Reflect on whether you have evidence to validate your thoughts. Or ask yourself what you would tell a friend or family member in a similar situation.
  • Practice makes proficient, not perfect. You can have better experiences in your relationships and other areas of your life when you start practicing the language that corresponds to what you truly want. Try avoiding finite, negative comments such as “I’ll never find a good man/woman” or “Every boss I have is a horrible leader.” Practice ways to put a positive spin on tough situations.

Once you begin to recognize the correlation between your inner thoughts, emotions and outer experiences, you can start to rewrite your story.

You can begin to live your life by design and not default.

Read on for the next step you must take to not only boost your clarity and confidence, but also to begin attracting the people, opportunities and experiences that are truly fulfilling to you.

#2: Complete A Self-Inventory

Self-Inventory is an opportunity to invest-in and truly explore one’s self – from the core values you’ve maintained since childhood to the new ones you’ve adopted along the way. From your personal beliefs to the deepest, unspoken desires of your heart. Yes, go there. This is simply a reflective process designed to help you uncover what your priorities are in life – from the people you spend time with or ignore, to the energy you put into perfecting your craft and building new knowledge for your career, to the time you put into your physical or spiritual well-being.

Once you become clear on what currently makes up your world – who and what influences your thoughts, emotions and experiences, you can define and live by your own new set of core values. At this point, regardless of the messages you see in the media or pressure from family and friends about what you should be doing romantically or professionally, you are grounded in knowing what’s truly meant for you. You can and will begin to experience an authentic life.

Your present thoughts and actions are an illustration of your future story. Until you find clarity on what makes you fulfilled, you won’t be able to attract the people, opportunities and experiences that are truly gratifying for YOU! So take the time to find that clarity and make life happen on your own terms. Step #3 will tell you how to do it.

#3: Recognize We’re All Self-Made

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.” Henry Ford

This quote sums things up nicely. Ultimately, if you think you’re deserving of a good relationship, that new job, that house on the hill and the shiny new sports car, you will employ these thought processes to make it happen. Your perception of who you are and what you deserve ultimately becomes your reality -- and if you get what you think about, why not focus on what you truly want?!

This requires time and lots of practice, but man, the return on the investment is beyond what you can even fathom. Once you recognize the power of your thoughts and how they have not only made you the man/woman you are today but have also drawn to you the people, opportunities and experiences you consistently have in your life, you can do so much more to redirect the future. We are all self-made, it’s just that those who are happily in love, and relishing life the way they want are the only ones willing to admit it.

Regardless of the time of year, your family’s expectations or what TV and social media ads propagate, take ownership your life. Make YOU your priority and do the inner work FIRST! That’s it…that’s my advice to find love and happiness in all the right places. Take from it what you will. Best wishes to you in love and in life this Valentine’s Day – and beyond.

Catch me on the new Heartalytics video series, Tawk To Me, where I sit down with leading influencers to discuss the realities of today's single life, dating game and marriage mayhem!

Marisha Dixon
Matchmaker + Executive Coach


Join my monthly newsletter where you’ll receive updates on resources that will not only help you improve the relationships that mean the most to you but, you’ll also get a sneak peak of the advice our expert guests have to share and much more!

The Tawk to Me launch is just around the corner! Join me for thought-provoking conversations with leading influencers. We will boldly share the realities of today's single life, dating game, marriage mayhem and more on the relationships that mean the most to us!

Tawk To Me is a monthly, digital interview series that will kick off Valentine's Day with mentor, entrepreneur and TV Host, Paul C. BrunsonGet The Scoop and be sure to check back Feb. 14th!

Ms. Marisha
13 Feb 00:43

Backyard Design Idea – Create A Sunken Fire Pit For Entertaining Friends

by Erin

I'm doing this.

13 Feb 00:32

Revenge of the Lunch Lady

by Miss Cellania

In 2009, British chef Jamie Oliver visited Huntington, West Virginia, and was appalled at the processed food the schools were serving. He brought in a test kitchen and developed recipes that used fresh produce and a variety of ingredients (for the TV show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution), but got little in the way of thanks. For one thing, the kids did not like the food. Another problem was that his dishes did not meet federal nutritional standards for the school lunch program. Besides, there was a set budget for meals that schools could not afford to step over. What to do? Cabell County food service director Rhonda McCoy went to work, and made it happen.

But to understand the difficulties in serving good food, that kids like, that meets federal nutrition standards, within a budget, in a school kitchen, you have to know a little about the changes the U.S. school lunch program has undergone in its 70 year existence. It's a story of differing goals, conflicts of interest, lobbying, budget cutbacks, subsidies, and grants. You'll get a good overview of McCoy's work and why it will be hard to replicate everywhere, at Highline.

(Image credit: Sam Kaplan)

09 Feb 15:52

Thousands of Birds Photographed Atop Snow-Laden Trees in Downtown Portland, Oregon

by Christopher Jobson

so beautiful

Photo © Walker Berg courtesy Portland Police

One evening last week, C.S.I. Walker Berg of the Portland Oregon Police Bureau looked out a window on the 12th floor of the Justice Center to discover an incredible sight: trees freshly covered in thick white snow were covered in yet another layer of thousands of black crows. Berg grabbed a Nikon D700 and snapped this amazing shot of the trees eerily lit from below by street lamps before the birds disappeared. The police department shared the image dubbed “Crows on Snow” on Facebook and Twitter where it quickly went viral.

09 Feb 15:49

The Jollylook Is a ‘Retro’ Folding Polaroid Camera Made from Recycled Cardboard

by Christopher Jobson

I know someone who's getting one of these!

The Jollylook is a new camera concept that merges the retro form-factor of a fold out camera utilizing polaroid film, and it’s fabricated primarily from recycled cardboard. Despite the bare-bones construction the Jollylook has an adjustable aperture, lens settings for different shooting modes (landscape, portrait, group, or macro), and a crank for extracting the polaroid once the image is taken. All you have to do is load it up with commonly available Fujifilm “instax mini” instant film cartridges. The project is currently funding on Kickstarter and reached their goal in just a few hours. (via PetaPixel)

07 Feb 04:05

State: Time Warner Cable Defrauded Customers By Advertising Internet Speeds It Couldn’t Provide

by Chris Morran

something the rest of us have known for long time

Back in 2015, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched a statewide effort to measure residents’ broadband speeds to see if they were getting the “blazing fast” internet access that the service providers advertised. Today, Schneiderman announced his office is suing New York City’s biggest broadband provider for not only failing to live up to its promises, but for allegedly knowing that many customers couldn’t possibly see the speeds that TWC promised.

“For years, Time Warner Cable promised New York families ‘blazing fast’ and ‘super reliable’ service,” said Schneiderman in a press event announcing the lawsuit. The reality, claims the AG, is that TWC’s service was “neither fast nor reliable.”

According to the complaint [PDF] filed today in a New York state court, Time Warner Cable engaged in a deliberate scheme to defraud customers.

The state claims that TWC deliberately neglected its network and didn’t provide upgraded equipment to customers, meaning many broadband subscribers were unable to see the speeds the company marketed to them.

The lawsuit cites an internal company presentation from June 2013, where TWC staff acknowledged that 75% of the modems associated with the 20 Mbps broadband plan could not actually deliver that speed. And yet, that memo notes that this outdated hardware was “still being deployed due to budget restraints,” and “no communications have been sent to the existing customer base” to tell them they should swap out their modems for compliant devices.

At the time, according to the complaint, this presentation recommended against recycling these modems to new customers and for swapping them out with new devices.

In fact, the company even convinced the FCC to not include data from these older modems in its annual report of broadband speeds, based on the promise that they would be replaced.

However, the state contends that only select TWC customers who had volunteered for the FCC’s study received new modems and “VIP treatment,” while the rest of the company’s customer base continued to use antiquated equipment.

Meanwhile, notes the lawsuit, TWC made a sales push in New York City, encouraging customers to upgrade to faster — and more expensive — tiers of service, but “without ever checking whether the modems it leased to subscribers were capable of actually supporting their new speed plans.”

The issue is still a problem in some parts of TWC’s market, says the state, which found that — as of Feb. 2016 — there were still 185,000 TWC customers in New York with deficient modems.

The state also took issue with TWC’s marketing of its WiFi routers, claiming they could not deliver the in-home speeds that the company touted.

In 2014, a TWC Vice President noted that the company-supplied routers were not going to provide the high-speed access promised to the company’s more expensive service tiers, telling his colleagues that “we are going to experience a mismatch between what we sell the customer and what they actually measure on their laptop/tablet/etc.”

“The allegations confirm what millions of New Yorkers have long suspected: Spectrum-Time Warner Cable has been ripping you off,” said Schneiderman, claiming that even after the merger with Charter, “Spectrum-Time Warner Cable continues to offer Internet speeds that we found they cannot reliably deliver.”

In a statement to Consumerist, a rep for Charter says the company is “disappointed” that Schneiderman is suing over broadband speeds that were measured before Charter acquired TWC.

“Charter made significant commitments to New York state as part of our merger with Time Warner Cable in areas of network investment, broadband deployment and offerings, customer service and jobs,” claims the company. “In addition, Charter was among the highest rated broadband providers in the 2016 FCC Broadband Report. Charter has already made substantial investments in the interest of upgrading the Time Warner Cable systems and delivering the best possible experience to customers. We will continue to invest in our business and deliver the highest quality services to our customers while we defend against these allegations involving Time Warner Cable practices.”

Last summer, while the state was still reviewing the data it had collected, internet advocate and special adviser to the AG’s office Tim Wu told Charter that the numbers were “troubling,” and that it looked like TWC had “been failing to take adequate or necessary steps to keep pace with the demand of [their] consumers.”

“It appears that TWC has been advertising its WiFi in ways that defy the technology’s technical capabilities,” wrote Wu at the time, “and has been provisioning some of its customers with equipment that simply cannot achieve the higher bandwidths the company has sold to them.”

04 Feb 00:54

How to Make a Dry Erase Stick Figure Dance, Animate, and Get Abducted by Aliens

by Glen Tickle

This is pretty cool. Would be fun to do and show little kids.

Science presenter Steve Mould explains how to make a dry erase stick figure dance, animate, and get abducted by aliens.

You might have seen some videos of stick men floating of water recently. This is how you can do it and how it works.

Earlier we shared video of someone demonstrating the trick, but Mould explains the properties of a dry erase marker that make it work.

Related Laughing Squid Posts

30 Jan 22:50

Your New Stormtrooper Snuggie Comes With A Surprise: It Strips You Of Your Right To File A Lawsuit

by Chris Morran

This is already becoming commonplace.

Until the other day, Consumerist reader Jeff had completely forgotten about that cute Stormtrooper Snuggie someone gave him for Christmas. When he finally opened the box, there was the Star Wars-themed sleeved blanket, and a slip of paper giving him the bad news: He had, without doing a thing, given up his right to sue the Snuggie’s manufacturer.

The TL;DR Version

Consumerist reader Jeff found that his new Stormtrooper Snuggie included an arbitration agreement inside the box.
This “agreement” says he must resolve all disputes out of the courtroom, and on his own (no class actions).
Some lawyers contend that this sort of arbitration agreement would be difficult to enforce since there is no way of knowing it exists before buying the product.
Courts are currently divided on exactly how much pre-purchase notice companies must give about the existence of an arbitration clause.
Critics of forced arbitration are concerned that allowing such after-the-fact clauses could result in every product being shielded from legal liability by an after-purchase arbitration declaration.

The document was titled “Consumer Rights & Arbitration Agreement,” even though Jeff hadn’t actually agreed to do anything, other than open a box.

Just like the forced arbitration agreements increasingly used by a growing list of companies, the Snuggie “agreement” states that all disputes between the the customer and the manufacturer — who isn’t even named on the incredibly generic document — “must be resolved through binding arbitration, rather than in a court.”

Additionally, like those other agreements, the Snuggie clause bars you from joining together in a class action with other Snuggie owners, even if that class action is brought through arbitration.

What makes the Snuggie arbitration agreement unlike many of the previous ones we’ve looked at is the fact that the customer does nothing to actually agree with the terms of the document.

When you sign up for services — like cellphones, cable, landline phones — you have to at least pretend that you’ve read and understand the contract. Similarly, when you make a purchase online, you’ve got to check that annoying “I understand and agree” (or whatever it says) check box, indicating that you have agreed to be bound by the terms and conditions of that seller.

snuggiearbitrationformNew Snuggie owner Jeff didn’t even buy the stupid blanket. He just opened the box.

He notes that there is an opt-out window, but unlike most companies that offer this short-term opportunity to say “no” to the deal, Snuggie owners only have 14 days.

Beyond that, it’s not really an opt-out. It’s simply an option of returning the product.

We tried calling the phone number listed in the document, and it’s just a generic answering service for what appears to be a wide range of products. Curiously, it’s also the same number you’re supposed to call when you want to resolve a dispute.

The general counsel for Allstar Products Group, the company behind the Snuggie, answered a few questions for us via email about the company’s reasons for, and use of, this arbitration clause.

“Consistent with the widely-accepted use of arbitration agreements more broadly, we introduced arbitration clauses to ensure parties in any dispute have a faster and less expensive resolution,” writes Allstar.

The company also contends that forcing arbitration helps to curb frivolous lawsuits from folks “seeking to extract settlements from companies who do not want to incur legal costs,” and that the company is passing along its lower legal costs to customers.

That said, Allstar tells Consumerist that the company has not yet used one of these agreements to compel a lawsuit out of the courtroom and into arbitration.

Is This Enforceable?

How can a company hold you to an agreement if you don’t do anything to agree? That’s a good question, says Rachel Clattenburg, an attorney with Public Citizen, who says it all depends on how much notice the purchaser has about the existence of that clause.

“An agreement is only enforceable if the purchaser had reasonable notice of the terms,” she explains. “This means that the purchaser either had actual notice (saw the piece of paper with the terms, for example) or constructive notice, meaning that the arbitration provision was displayed in such a way that a reasonable person would have noticed it.”

In other words, the manufacturer would either need to include the agreement — or something clearly indicating that such an agreement exists — on a product’s packaging, or give the buyer a fair opportunity to review and reject the terms found inside the box.

“For example, if a purchaser opened the box and the Snuggie was wrapped in plastic that was sealed with a sticker setting forth the arbitration provision, such that the purchaser had to see the sticker before opening the Snuggie, and allowing the purchaser to opt out or return the item if the purchaser didn’t want to be bound, that term would most likely be enforceable,” says Clattenburg.

Allstar maintains that its in-box notice for the Snuggie suffices as a clear notice of the arbitration agreement” and, as proof, points to the fact that Jeff saw the document alongside his new Stormtrooper Snuggie.

A Tale Of Two Samsungs

While the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the use of forced arbitration clauses — even in situations where mounting a case is so expensive that a class action would be the only financially feasible way hold a company accountable — it has yet to settle the issue of exactly how much notice of an agreement the consumer must receive before making a purchase.

There are, however, several federal court cases that have dealt with this issue — and reached varying conclusions.

For example, in Han v. Samsung, several Galaxy S4 owners tried to sue the electronics giant, alleging that Samsung misled consumers about the actual storage space available on these phones. The plaintiff customers had each purchased their S4 at a retail store, and did not see the arbitration clause — included in a booklet, “Product & Warranty Information,” found inside the box — until after opening the package.

However, the District Court judge in that case concluded [PDF] that there was significant notice given inside of the package. The booklets — both the Samsung one and the ones provided by the various wireless service providers — containing these clauses instructed the users to “read this manual before” operating the device. Additionally, to get to the battery and and other necessary hardware in the package, the users would have first had to pick up these booklets.

Additionally, these Samsung devices included a 30-day opt-out window, which the court deemed was adequate time to read these manuals, and exercise their ability to say “no thanks” to the arbitration requirement. (Unlike the Snuggie opt-out, the Samsung clause does not require the user to return the phone.)

Yet, in another case involving Samsung, a different District Court judge reached a very different conclusion [PDF]. Norcia v. Samsung also involves a complaint about a Galaxy phone, the S4. Several owners of this device alleged that Samsung misled consumers about the phone’s speed, performance, and memory capacity.

Mr. Norcia said he didn’t know about the arbitration clause because he was never even shown the relevant information. He claims he only spent a few minutes in a Verizon store, where an employee unpacked his new S4, helped him transfer information and files from his old phone to the new one, and then sent him on his merry way with just the phone, headphones, and charger.

The court concluded that since Mr. Norcia declined to take the box with him when it was offered by the Verizon employee, he has to be treated as if he did indeed take the box. However, that ultimately didn’t matter, as the court also ruled that Samsung’s warranty booklet was not sufficient notice that he was agreeing to an arbitration clause. As such, the judge held that Norcia did not agree to the arbitration terms.

Samsung has since appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments from both sides last October (see video below). At the core of Samsung’s appeal is the idea that warranty agreements are binding, even though there is no notice on the outside of packaging about them.

The Ninth Circuit should rule on this case in early 2017.

The Slippery Slope

There are two concerns with the Snuggie arbitration agreement. First is the typical forced-arbitration problem of stripping consumers’ of their Constitutional right to a day in court. Imagine a product contains a chemical that makes large numbers of people ill. Those people should be able to not only sue in a court of law, but because they are all making the same claims against the same company, they should be able to join their complaints together into a single class action. Instead, under an arbitration clause, each affected customer would need to go into arbitration on their own.

The second concern involves the potential for this to set a precedent that could lead to other retail products springing the arbitration surprise on consumers. If you can enforce a contract by simply including it inside a box, what’s to stop companies from putting anything on that contract and trying to force you into arbitration if you dispute it?

Clattenburg gives the theoretical example of a box of cereal containing a slip of paper that includes some completely outlandish declaration like, “You agree to pay $50 to Company X. If you don’t opt-out within two weeks, you owe Company X $50.”

“That would be ridiculous,” admits Clattenburg. “But it’s no different than including an arbitration provision in a consumer product with no reasonable notice of that provision’s existence.”

15 Jan 20:48

Sky-High Images of Los Angeles at Dusk and Dawn by Dylan Schwartz

by Kate Sierzputowski

Creative Director and photographer Dylan Schwartz‘s point-of-view is high above the cities he photographs, capturing the bridges, sports complexes, and tips of high rises from the cockpit of a helicopter. Most of Schwartz’s images feature his hometown of LA as the subject, showcasing views from Hollywood to Chinatown during the hazy moments right before dusk and dawn.

Schwartz’s sky-high images of LA will be exhibited next week at PHOTOLA with artbarltd from January 12 through 15. You can see more of his work on his Instagram and website.

15 Jan 20:48

Artist Walead Beshty Shipped Glass Boxes Inside FedEx Boxes to Produce Shattered Sculptures

by Christopher Jobson

FedEx® Large Box ©2005 FEDEX 139751 REV 10/05 SSCC, Priority Overnight, Los Angeles-New York trk#795506878000, November 27-28, 2007

In this intriguing sculptural series spanning 2005 to 2014, LA-based artist Walead Beshty packaged his artworks in FedEx boxes and shipped them across the country to exhibitions and galleries. But unlike most artists who utilize every bit of care to protect and pad their artwork from the inevitable rough handling of mail carriers, Beshty designed his pieces to break. For his famous FedEx works he constructed laminate glass objects that fit seamlessly within the dimensions of standard size shipping boxes. Through the “normal” handling the objects would inevitably crack and shatter and it was up to curators and gallerists to carefully remove each piece for display. The fragile volumes were then given titles that specifically mention the date, tracking number, and box size of shipment.

Not only was Beshty fascinated by obtaining a “fingerprint” of sorts that documented the journey of each package to its destination, but he also found it curious that a corporation has the ability to copyright the exact dimensions of a box, essentially owning an empty shape. He shares in a 2011 interview with Mikkel Carl:

The FedEx works […] initially interested me because they’re defined by a corporate entity in legal terms. There’s a copyright designating the design of each FedEx box, but there’s also the corporate ownership over that very shape. It’s a proprietary volume of space, distinct from the design of the box, which is identified through what’s called a SSCC #, a Serial Shipping Container Code. I considered this volume as my starting point; the
perversity of a corporation owning a shape—not just the design of the object—and
also the fact that the volume is actually separate from the box. They’re owned
independently from one another.

Furthermore, I was interested in how art objects acquire meaning through their context and through travel, what Buren called, something like, “the unbearable compromise of the portable work of art”. So, I wanted to make a work that was specifically organized around its traffic, becoming materially manifest through its movement from one place to another.

Here’s a brief video of Beshty explaining the project during the 2008 Whitney Biennial. (via BoingBoing)

Fedex, 2005.

Image courtesy Arts on 5

FedEx boxes (various), 2008. Installation view, Signs of the Time, The Whitney Museum of American Art.

31 Dec 20:31

The 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

by Jason Kottke

I guess I'm getting mentally stronger.

From psychotherapist Amy Morin, who expanded this list into a book of the same name, a list of 13 ways mentally strong people avoid negative behaviors.

1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves
2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power
3. They Don’t Shy Away from Change
4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control
5. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone
6. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks
7. They Don’t Dwell on the Past
8. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over
9. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success
10. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure
11. They Don’t Fear Alone Time
12. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything
13. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results

That’s all fine and those are worthy goals — and the book probably gets into more detail about this — but do you become more mentally strong by not doing these things or do you already need mental strength? Some of this seems to come down to personality or temperament, things that are difficult to change under even the best circumstances. And self-help lists like this always make me think of Simpsons pitchman Troy McClure’s introduction to a self-help video he’s hosting:

Oh hi, I’m Troy McClure. You might remember me from such self-help videos as Smoke Yourself Thin and Get Confident, Stupid!

It’s simple, just get confident! Just draw the rest of the fucking owl!

Tags: Amy Morin   books   lists   The 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do
31 Dec 20:20

Amazon Go is AWS for retail

by Jason Kottke

Yay! The future. Big brother. Save us!

Some interesting speculation from Evan Puschak on what Amazon is up to with Amazon Go. Basically, Puschak thinks Amazon Go is Amazon Web Services but for retail stores. In the same way that AWS provides hosting for sites like Netflix and Reddit, Amazon Go will provide patent-protected technology infrastructure for “self-shopping” supermarkets and retail stores. But it remains to be seen whether it’s more like their one-click patent, which was licensed by a few others (notably Apple) but everyone else was able to do without it.

Tags: Amazon   business   Evan Puschak   video
31 Dec 03:28

Aldous Huxley

"Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted."
31 Dec 03:25

Orange & Vanilla Hot Buttered Rum

by Garrett McCord
Hot Buttered Rum

Every winter, I’m surprised by how many people have never had a hot buttered rum.

This is a classic American cocktail that dates back to colonial times, and it’s as much a part of Christmas as eggnog or peppermint hot chocolate. More people need to know how good this cocktail can be!

To help spread the word, hot buttered rums have become my standard contribution to holiday parties and potlucks. I just make an extra large batch of spiced butter ahead of time, grab a bottle of dark rum, and off I go.

Continue reading "Orange & Vanilla Hot Buttered Rum" »

30 Dec 16:06

Eerily Elegant Slow Motion Footage of Subway Passengers Waiting for Their Train to Arrive

by Lori Dorn

While creating his short film “Stainless“, German filmmaker Adam Magyar traveled all over the world and captured through high-speed, black and white photography, the life that exists in the subways, under such cities as Berlin, Sao Paolo, New York City, and Xidan. By slowing down the footage, Magyar brought out the eery, but incredible elegance to those passengers waiting in unison for their train to arrive.

An endless row of living sculptures brought together by the same subway line, the same direction, the same intention to get caught and carried away by the urban flow. All their motions slowed down, they are graceful and stainless holding their breath for their train to pull into the station.

via reddit

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29 Dec 23:40

‘1+1=1’ By Denis Cherim

by Sarah Press

Pretty amazing work

Resistant to the idea of putting the environment and familiar objects around him into a particular box, Denis Cherim walks towards his goal of appreciating the ‘un-apreciable’ around the world. With the simplicity of duplicating the same image and rotating it, this artist opens the doors to a quasi-surrealist landscape.

Read more

26 Dec 14:58

Meatwreck’s Disturbing Photography

by Sarah Press

That's my microwave!

Based in Los Angeles, creative studio Meatwreck is a photographic collaboration between artist couple Mitra Saboury and Derek Paul Boyle. The artist duo creates preposterous images every day, generating a disturbing yet intriguing visual language for a large social network.

Read more

25 Dec 03:32

A Playful Giant Panda Methodically Disassembles an Innocent Snowman at the Toronto Zoo

by Lori Dorn

A very playful giant panda named Da Mao very methodically took apart a bright white snowman that was expressly for him by his caretakers at the Toronto Zoo. Once done with his disassembling project, a proud Da Mao then gleefully rolled around in the cold remains of his innocent victim.

Toronto Zoo Keepers made giant panda Da Mao a snowman for enrichment! Watch as he plays with, or rather disassembles, their creation.

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24 Dec 05:16

Cat-Proof Christmas Trees

by Miss Cellania

so cute. damn cats

Chris Poole celebrates Christmas with his cats Cole and Marmalade, and comes up with a list of alternative Christmas trees that the cats won't destroy. One solution to the cats vs. tree problem is to give in and create a tree they can destroy, made of boxes covered with Christmas wrap. That is awesome. But it's not cat-proof, just a way of catering to them.

(YouTube link)

It's too late for you to take most of these ideas for a Christmas tree substitute, but that's not really the point. It's a nice visit to two cats enjoying Christmas to the max. -via Uproxx

24 Dec 05:13

A Blood Curdling Collection Of Scary Snowmen

by Zeon Santos

(Image Link)

The typical soft and smiley snowmen just don't seem appropriate for a year as messed up as 2016, so it's no surprise there have been way more horror snowmen going around the net this year than ever before.

(Image Link)

Hopefully 2017 will be more pleasant than mean old 2016, but even if it is better all of these snowmen, snowwomen and snowchildren will be dead well before next Christmas.

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And maybe that's the point of putting up a bloody and terrifying snowman in your yard- it helps you keep the forces of darkness at bay and celebrates the fleeting nature of life on Earth.

(Image Link)

See These 'Horror' Snowmen Will Turn Your Holiday Dreams Into Nightmares here