• Horror stories of dogs abused, dead or missing while being looked after by Rover sitters

    CNN Business reports on the growing number of dogs that have gone missing or died while in the care of sitters provided by Rover, an Uber-like pet-sitting service. They report on six, but suspects there are many more because, it reports, the company uses arbitration and NDAs to muzzle customers.

    All of them said they turned to the platform because it was a recognizable name in the industry and they felt more comfortable after reading positive reviews of their respective sitters on the site. One pet owner said her sitter remained on the platform for months after her dogs were lost while in the sitter's care. (Rover declined to comment on this claim.) Another owner, whose dog was found dead with no explanation, said the sitter whose care he was in remains live on the platform. (Rover said it is reviewing this matter.)It's unclear how many owners have experienced such incidents. [Rover spokesperson Dave] Rosenbaum told CNN Business the company tracks these incidents but does not "currently disclose" numbers. However, there have been stories over the years of dogs who were lost,abused, or found dead while in the care of Rover sitters, often reported on by local news outlets.

    CNN found sitters still on the platform even after animals died in their care under inexplicable circumstances.

    Annette Leturia dropped off her two dogs — two-year-old Togo and nearly four-year-old Liam — with a Rover sitter in Houston, Texas, in late June for what was supposed to be a week-long vacation, only to return early after the sitter told her Togo was found dead on the bathroom floor. Afterward, Leturia said she had an independent background check done on the sitter, which turned up troubling charges for grand theft and fraud. She said she still has no closure on what happened to Togo.In the meantime, based on screenshots viewed by CNN Business, the sitter appears to be pet sitting on the platform. When asked about this, [Rover spokesperson Dave] Rosenbaum said: "We have asked our team to review the specifics of this incident and take further action if appropriate."

    And cash for silence:

    Joy Collier, whose Blue Weimaraner and Aussie Shepard doodle went missing in late May 2020 while in the care of a sitter she booked through Rover, allegedly had a similar experience. She said Rover offered her roughly $4,300 on the condition of signing an NDA after she started to get some local press attention about her lost dogs.

    I wouldn't trust so much as a houseplant to the care of this company.

  • A gorgeous wooden ergonomic keyboard you can actually buy

    The Keyboardio Model 100 is a handsome wooden ergonomic keyboard, all but alone in a world of ugly "medical devices" to which typists with tricky hands must subject themselves. Just a few hours remains on its Kickstarter campaign if you want one by January 2022. The makers have a track record of shipping quality gadgets.

    Kaia Dekker, co-founder of Keyboardio, writes:

    My husband and I started Keyboardio in the spring of 2014. We started designing keyboards for ourselves after developing repetitive stress injuries. After numerous people asked us where they could buy that strange looking keyboard we were using, we decided to go into business. Our first product launched on Kickstarter in 2015 and we've sold many thousands since. We're also known for writing extensively about the travails of low-volume hardware manufacturing in China. We launched our second product, an ultraportable keyboard designed for travel on Kickstarter in March of 2020, just as the pandemic shut down the world and shipped it later that year, to rave reviews.

  • The full story of the Dybbuk Box hoax

    The Dybbuk Box—a cursed wine box that supposedly came to America laden with its owner's grim experience of the Holocaust—was one of the few straight-up paranormal "hits" in an era when the subject became laced with irony and meta. Books and a movie followed. Though sharply debunked in Skeptical Inquirer after a revealing social media post from the maker, Input got everyone—including the hoaxers—on the record to tell the full story.

    Mannis says it wasn't money issues that motivated him, but relationship problems with his girlfriend and a host of other bad-luck events. He says he channeled all of that negative energy into his tall tale. "At the time I created the Dybbuk Box, it was during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement," he writes in a Facebook message to me. "I created the box whilst praying and asking for forgiveness for all of the sins that I had committed that I knew about, and, perhaps even more important, the sins I had committed that I didn't know about."

    Not everything about Mannis' story was fake, however. "I did give her the box on Halloween," he tells me, referring to his mother, who has since passed. "She did have that stroke."

  • Mike Lindell pulls ads from Fox News and denounces channel after it refused to run his election lies

    Mike Lindell, the Trump supporter and MyPillow entrepreneur, today denounced Fox News and pulled his pillow ads from the network after it refused to run one that repeated his favorite election conspiracies.

    "Fox News, supposed to be conservative or whatever they're supposed to be, completely turns on the American people!" Lindell ranted on Real America's Voice, another conservative news channel. "Let's not report the news, let's just talk about the weather. They should just be a weather channel as far as I'm concerned"

    For its part, Fox News wrote in a statement that "It's unfortunate Mr. Lindell has chosen to pause his commercial time on FOX News given the level of success he's experienced in building his brand through advertising on the number one cable news network."

    The ad pull is not inconsiderable. According to advertising data firms, MyPillow ads accounted for 37.8% of revenue for Tucker Carlson's show in 2020 and about $50m in total for the network that year.

  • Amanda Knox, acquitted in murder of Meredith Kircher, assails movie that fictionalizes a hand in her killing

    Tom McCarthy, the director of Stillwater, is proud to have been "directly inspired" by "the Amanda Knox saga". The movie is being promoted with the image and the name of Amanda Knox. His movie fictionalizes an Amanda Knox stand-in character prompting the murder of a Meredith Kircher stand-in, the two posed as roommates and lovers. But there's a big problem with this scenario: Amanda Knox was falsely accused and ultimately acquitted of involvement in Meredith Kircher's murder, and the claim they were lovers was media fabrication.

    Knox knows there's no legal way to stop the use of her name in marketing a movie that doesn't. But she has had enough of the media making her the star of someone else's murder and then blaming her for that choice.

    Tom McCarthy's fictionalized version of me is just the tabloid conspiracy guilter version of me.

    By fictionalizing away my innocence, my total lack of involvement, by erasing the role of the authorities in my wrongful conviction, McCarthy reinforces an image of me as a guilty and untrustworthy person. And with Matt Damon's star power, both are sure to profit handsomely off of this fictionalization of "the Amanda Knox saga" that is sure to leave plenty of viewers wondering, "Maybe the real-life Amanda was involved somehow." …

    I never asked to become a public person. The Italian authorities and global media made that choice for me. And when I was acquitted and freed, the media and the public wouldn't allow me to become a private citizen again. I went back to school and fellow students photographed me surreptitiously, people who lived in my apartment building invented stories for the tabloids, I worked a minimum wage job at a used bookstore, only to be confronted by stalkers at the counter. I was hounded by paparazzi, my story and trauma was (and is) endlessly recycled for entertainment, and in the process, I've been accused of shifting attention away from the memory of Meredith Kercher, of being a media whore.

    There is a raw, gross psychology to how Knox was treated by media, that of the stalker who blames his own obsessive behavior, misinterpretations and assumptions on the victim. And then there's fiction that just goes right ahead and imagines if she did it.

    Less grotesque but likewise telling is how journalists get so snarled up in the mythic Amanda Knox they forget she's an actual person who could cause trouble for them. Malcolm Gladwell, she writes, phoned her the day before publication of a book with a chapter on her to ask for permission to use certain material!

  • Fourth death at "The Vessel" sculpture in New York City's Hudson Yards

    A 14-year-old boy fell Thursday from the so-called "Vessel" sculpture at New York City's Hudson Yards, the fourth death there since it opened in 2019. Rising 150 feet, the ostentatiously pointless building quickly became a symbol of gentrification, the city's unwillingness to invest in affordable housing, and suicide.

    As making it safe would compromise the architect's vision or whatever, they instituted a bunch of pop-psychology policies thinking they'd be able to spot suicidal people coming. It may now be closed for good to the public.

    "We thought we did everything that would really prevent this," Ross told The Daily Beast. "It's hard to really fathom how something like that could happen. But you know, I feel terrible for the family."

    Some community leaders say that Related could have done more.

    "For Related to claim they did everything possible here is just not true," said Lowell Kern, chair of Manhattan Community Board 4, which operates in parts of western Manhattan, including Hudson Yards. "They could have raised the height of the barriers, and that would have prevented this tragedy. For reasons unknown to us they decided not to do that."

    A glistening, modern, hygienic staircase to nothing but our own worst thoughts. They should turn it into a mausoleum for J.G. Ballard.

    If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741

  • Goblincore in The Guardian

    Goblincore [r/goblincore] refers to fashion that features natural things supposedly considered ugly: molds, slimy gastropods, muddy ponds, and so forth, with a strong flavor of fairyland's wilder mutations. Mainstream attention brings the usual paradoxical forces of capitalism: the cool thing becomes successful [The Guardian], but popularity subverts it and you end up with blatantly cute mushrooms and butterflies and gnarled trees and hot cosplayers. But that's just David Bowie in The Labyrinth surrounded by muppets. Who is complaining?

    The hashtag has more than 498m views on TikTok and is a rising trend on Pinterest in the UK. On Reddit, the r/goblincore subreddit's 19,000-strong membership has increased its subscribers by 395% year-on-year, with one recent poster hoping for an exchange of their "tiny mice and vole bones in vials" for other goblincore items.

    Goblincore fashion and paraphernalia are selling well. On Etsy, there has been a 652% increase in searches for related items in the last month compared with the same time last year. Individual sellers attest – at the Divine Occult Shop there has been a dramatic increase in sales of elf ear cuffs; while goblincore is the top search term at the Mushroom Babes, which sells body-positive mushroom art.

    An echo of how fantastical romantic art around the Georgian era was sublimated into Victorian fairy painting, but this time around gets to keep its hands dirty. I like it! Also, anyone got those notes on a formal distinction between –core and –punk suffixes?

  • Games Workshop declares war on fan videos

    Games Workshop's latest terms of service expressly forbid animated fan-art and other films. The new policy shuts down a thriving subculture devoted to just this, and has left creative fans of the company's fantastical worlds (i.e. Warhammer) angry and deflated.

    "Individuals must not create fan films or animations based on our settings and characters. These are only to be created under licence from Games Workshop."

    Such policies sometimes reflect business dealings with companies that dislike fandom except as a kind of commercial baseline. Fan works generally make a property less attractive to potential licensees, no matter how obviously it signifies the property's value, because licensees want exclusivity and control and licensors are happy to sell it. The resentment this generates is so bitter because fan creators know that their work may be exploited but they never think they're going to get dumped.

    UPDATE: Here you go:

    These changes coincide with the recent launch of the Warhammer+ subscription service, which launches with two animated series. Games Workshop has also been pushing hard on official Warhammer animations, many of which were sourced from existing fan projects—even outright hiring the creator of those stunning Astartes shorts.

    For fans, it reads as somewhat hypocritical for Games Workshop to shoot down fan animations at the same time it's benefitting from their work, as is the distinction between which kinds of fan works are allowed. We've reached out to Games Workshop for comment.

    Enjoy one of the "In the grim future of Hello Kitty there is only war" mashups, while you can!

  • Playdate pre-orders open

    Playdate, from Panic and Teenage Engineering, is the only handheld console I'll be buying this year. The official store opened today, accepting pre-orders for delivery in 2022.

    Playdate distinguishes itself with a high-res 1-bit display, a hand-crank (for control, not recharging) and a solid collection of launch games (included in the $179 price!) in development from fantastic indie devs.

  • Disney reinstates mask mandate, vaccinated or not

    Going to Orlando? Bring a mask. You're not getting on Disney soil without one. From the company's website, updated guidance restores the mask mandate dropped only six weeks ago, following the summer spike in Covid cases in the state.

    Beginning July 30, face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) while indoors and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status. This includes upon entering and throughout all attractions. Face coverings remain optional for all Guests in outdoor common areas.

    It's widely reported that many Florida cities and businesses are reinstating mask mandates, defying Governor DeSantis's political insistence otherwise.

    Masks will again be required at indoor county facilities in Florida's populous Miami-Dade following new federal guidance recommending that even people vaccinated against COVID-19 should wear facial coverings. And in Orange County, home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, the mayor went a step further and announced all 4,200 nonunion county employees will be required to get their first coronavirus vaccine shot by the end of August, and the second shot by the end of September. Disney World announced on its website Wednesday evening that beginning July 30, face coverings will be required for all guests ages 2 and up while indoors and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status. This includes upon entering and throughout all attractions. Face coverings remain optional in outdoor common areas.

  • Americans are getting the covid vaccine in secret to avoid being ostracized by their families

    CNN's Aya Elamroussi reports on people in Missouri who have gotten the covid vaccine secretly because they fear their friends and families will ostracize them. To get vaccinated against the killer disease is now a mark of shame among conspiracy-obsessed Americans who see the pandemic as a political sham and are openly shunning and excluding people who are vaccinated.

    In a hospital produced video, Frase said one pharmacist at her hospital told her "they've had several people come in to get vaccinated who have tried to sort of disguise their appearance and even went so far as to say, 'please, please, please don't let anybody know that I got this vaccine.'"

    Frase told CNN if a patient asks for privacy to get vaccinated, the hospital tries to accommodate the request — whether at the drive-thru window or at their cars. "Anything we can do to get people in a place that they're comfortable receiving the vaccine," Frase said.

    Only 41% of Missourans are double-vaccinated against Covid (Alabama is worst, at 34.11%; nowhere has yet cracked 70%) and the state is among those suffeing most from the latest wave of Covid.

    It's popular to point out that many anti-vaxxers and Covid conspiracists are on the crunchy soccer-mom left, but the reality is they are overwhelmingly conservative and it is fundamentally a right-wing phenomenon.

  • Custom device just plays the Monkey Island theme on a PC speaker

    No other music is required, obviously, and the methodology used to recreate the 1990 DOS experience here is incredibly fastidious; code is provided!

    Thanassis Tsiodras:

    TL;DR:
    I modified DOSBox to extract the frequency/delay value pairs of the Monkey Island PC-Speaker songs.
    I then used Huffman compression to squeeze all music inside an ATtiny85 (512 bytes of RAM, 8 KB of flash)
    Once I managed that, I then created a small circuit with a speaker – to play the music…
    …as a gift for my nieces and nephews; whom I'll see next week after more than a year's isolation (COVID)!

    For comparison, here's the original (emulated):

  • After 25 years, animated kids' show Arthur is ending

    Arthur is the longest-running kids' TV show in history, according to NPR, and it's coming to an end after 25 years. It vastly outlasted contemporary series such as Magic School Bus and Hey Arnold, maintaining its 1990s ligne claire art style deep into a new century.

    The news of the show ending was first floated earlier this month in an interview featured in the July 13 episode of the podcast Finding D.W., where Arthur writer Kathy Waugh revealed that the show was no longer in production, and the final episode was completed years ago. "I think Arthur should come back," she said. "I know I'm not alone in thinking they made a mistake."

    Still, this might not be the end of Arthur: The statement from Greenwald adds that "producer GBH and PBS KIDS are continuing to work together on additional Arthur content, sharing the lessons of Arthur and his friends in new ways."

    The Postcards from Buster side-series was noted, among other things, for being furiously denounced by Bush-era education secretary Margaret Spellings after a 2005 episode was scheduled in which Buster meets a rabbit with a "mom and a stepmom." Spellings threatened PBS's funding and the network canned the episode.

    15 years later, Spelling was reduced to defending confederate statues while Arthur enjoys gay weddings.

  • Gawker's back

    Behold the new Gawker, with a new look but a familiar approach. Everyone's talking about it. Editor-in-Chief Leah Finnegan was the features editor there until 2014 (and worked at The New York Times and The Outline in the interim). An introduction:

    …no, it can't be exactly what it once was, but we strive to honor the past and embrace the present. We are here to make you laugh, I hope, and think, and do a spit-take or furrow your brow, or maybe go "huh!" or "wow!" or "damn!" or "what the fuck?" or "I'm glad someone finally said it!" You might notice it all looks a little different, and to that I say "a change of scenery enriches the soul." So, I hope you like it. And if you don't, that's really more of a "you" problem, I think.

    A few for starters: Descriptors used to rate writers, ranked. Tarpley Hitt on suspected sex trafficker and alleged pedo guy Matt Gaetz (R-Fla); Space: The Lamest Frontier is as good a note about the vanity of billionaires as any; Sarah Hago on the overwhelming whiteness of ufology; Claire Carusillo on the unvarying Disney nose sported by celebrity rhinoplastees; and, well, there's a lot of launch content. No word yet from Peter.

  • Ebay official jailed after sending dead pig fetus to critics of company

    Ebay security supervisor Philip Cooke, 56, was jailed for 18 months Wednesday for harassing critics of the company online. Cooke, a former police officer, targeted a Massachusetts couple who published a consumer rights newsletter, sending them a preserved pig fetus and a book about coping with the death of a spouse as part of a "carefully planned" campaign of harassment.

    …in three stages, according to the US Department of Justice (DoJ). In the first, disturbing packages were sent to the couple, including live cockroaches and a bloody pig mask. The second phase involved some of the accused sending Twitter messages to the pair, complaining about the newsletter and saying they would visit the couple at home. The DoJ alleged they "planned these messages to become increasingly disturbing, culminating with 'doxing' the victims (ie publishing their home address)".

    eBay said it "cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities throughout the process", presumably after it cooperated fully and extensively with its own employees, six of whom have either pleaded guilty or are going to trial over the stalking campaign.

  • Liquid bandage ad features a talking wound

    I just saw a new advertisement for New-Skin liquid bandages on TV and though you'd all like to see it too. It features a neat, deep, meat-red cut in someone's hand. The cut is talking. The cut's edges flap like human lips. The things it is saying are unpleasant and related to the inadequacy of traditional sticky bandages. The talking cut is drowned in a blob of New-Skin liquid bandage. It attempts to continue talking but its muffled voice can no longer be understood.

    It turns out there are several of these ads, so I compiled them into a single video for you to clench your teeth at in skincrawling dread. One of them features a talking cut that bisects an extensor tendon in the sufferer's hand.

    Sadly, the agency is not named at the usual places.

  • Martin Shkreli's Wu-Tang Clan album sold off to pay his debts

    Martin Shkreli paid $2m for the sole copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, a curious artifact that ended up in the possession of the government after the "pharma bro" was convicted of fraud. The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it had sold the item to an anonymous buyer.

    The price wasn't disclosed, but the department confirmed that it covered the remainder of Shkreli's $7.4m restitution.

    Proceeds from the sale of the Album will be applied to satisfy the outstanding balance owed on the Forfeiture Money Judgment.  The contract of sale contains a confidentiality provision that protects information relating to the buyer and price.

    Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the sale of the Album.

    "Through the diligent and persistent efforts of this Office and its law enforcement partners, Shkreli has been held accountable and paid the price for lying and stealing from investors to enrich himself.  With today's sale of this one-of-a-kind album, his payment of the forfeiture is now complete," stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis.

    So unpleasant that his own lawyer said he wanted to punch him in the face, Shkreli hiked the price of a life-saving medicine, defrauded hedge fund investors, and smirked his way through a Capitol Hill hearing in the disastrous misbelief the public would hate him less than they hated Congress.

  • After three months (and a helpful push from pirates) Capcom finally fixes game broken by DRM

    Capcom finally released an update this week that fixes problems caused by the DRM used in its hit game Resident Evil Village. It's a classic example of DRM hurting only honest buyers, with a pirated version of the game earning widespread media publicity when it became obvious it was the only sure way to play the game on PC without stuttering frame rates.

    I've lined up performance data from the unpatched game, the cracked version and the newly released title update and essentially, the patched rendition of Resident Evil Village now runs identically to the cracked version – Capcom's adjustments to "optimise the anti-piracy technology" do work. However, it's still unclear as to why the issues were never addressed before the DRM fiasco was brought to light. The patch notes confirm that the anti-piracy technology is to blame, but does not explain how the problems made their way into user-facing code when they are so obvious and plain to see. Not only that, even in the face of user feedback and reviews, still nothing was done about it. Those who bought and paid for the game deserve some kind of explanation and apology.

    Pundits can argue all they like about piracy, but when it's the only way to play a broken game with sales numbers in the millions, it's going to happen at scale. Capcom introduced a new generation of kiddies to the culture and infrastructure of game piracy with this farce, and it did it with DRM.