John Farrier's Blog Posts

Jonty Hurwitz's Amazing Engineered Optical Illusions

Hurwitz frog

Hurwitz hand

Jonty Hurwitz's three-dimensional objects look like amorphous blobs or a random assortment of objects. But when viewed from certain angles and often in mirrors, their intended impressions suddenly become clear. Hurwitz begins the creative process by scanning a three-dimensional object, then uses computational software to work out alternate physical forms. You can view many more examples at the link.

Link | Artist's Website

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Chelsea Swank's Beautiful Star Wars Rings

Chelsea Swank makes jewelry with many popular themes, including Halo, Donnie Darko and steampunk. But what grabbed my attention is her collection of Star Wars gold and silver rings, many of them paired for couples.

Link -via Technabob

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Banana in Bloom

Falling in Love

Anna Pleteneva's photostream is a delight to page through. Her works are crisp, balanced and clear. And every now and then, something really intesting pops up. Why is this work entitled Falling in Love? I don't know, but I like it.

Link -via 1|1k3 (warning: artistic nudity)

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The Reader's Thumbprint of Literature


What literature moves you? You can have an enormous thumbprint image of the works that speak to you. Cheryl Sorg, an artist in Boston, cuts up the covers and lines of great works of literature that appeal to individual readers:

Sorg works with her subjects to gather their favorite books, book quotes, song lyrics, movies, and anything culturally meaningful to them that can be found in text. Once Sorg has her list, she finds the corresponding text and cuts it up into tiny strands that she weaves and curves into the actual thumbprint.

I can immediately think of lines from Shardik, Anthem and So Long and Thanks for All the Fish that I'd choose. Which passages would you want on your thumbprint?

Image LinkNews Story and Artist's Website -via Lustik

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Fish Geyser

(Video Link)

The fish trapped under the ice have found a great way to escape--at least from the fishermen's point of view. Heat up the deep fryer because we're eating a lot of fish tonight!

-via Yababoon

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Keep Austin Weird

Austin facial hair

Geographically, Austin is located in Texas. But that's about it. Locals boast of their oddness with ubiquitous "Keep Austin Weird" bumper stickers. In contrast, I was never able to sell more than three "Keep Longview Weird" stickers.

Are you a man moving to Austin? You'll need to wear the appropriate uniform. Cartoonist Jackie Evangelisti has some tips:

Once you’ve embraced your itchy push broom, it is only a matter of time before the stash gets a name and possibly a spot on that sleeve you couldn’t quite afford to finish. The years spent grooming and growing only add to your popularity as you surpass a Mr. Pringles level of thickness and ascend Austin’s invisible ladder. Due to the hoards arriving daily, the longer someone’s been in Austin, the cooler people think they are. Living on top feels magical, but unfortunately this young transient city won’t admire you forever. So go out somewhere classy for a tenth Beardaversary, prepared to bid that decade long love affair farewell. Either that or watch it slowly evolve into a hairy security blanket that won’t fetch any free PBRs that aren’t already empty.

Link -via Pleated Jeans

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Carved Cow Femur

Romanian artist Capraru Marian works in many media, but I'm especially impressed with his carvings. In this gallery, you can see the delicate, careful work he's done on a cow femur and a horn. He also makes, appropriately, bone-carved "Dracula fangs." It probably helps to have a local supplier.


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Steamer Trunk Furniture

Restoration Hardware makes a beautiful line of home furniture that resembles old steamer trunks. Those classic lines, shapes and textures now grace desks, bookcases, enterainment centers and chests.

Link -via Dornob

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Clet Abraham's Altered Street Signs

Clet Abraham

Clet Abraham

Clet Abraham

Clet Abraham

Stop! Come back with that bar! We need it! Clet Abraham, a street artist in Florence, Italy, adds stickers of little people to street signs to alter their meanings. He writes:

My adhesives are developed to add a further level of reading [to street signs] constructed on the base of their original signification in order to maintain its utility but give it some intellectual, spiritual, or simply amusing interest. The final objective? That traffic keeps flowing without us feeling spoken down to!

Link -via Amusing Planet | Photos: Clet Abraham, Philosophia

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Piano Bookcase


This classy bookcase fits neatly into the corner, don't you think? Entero, a custom furniture company in Estonia, made it from a ruined antique piano:

As work progresses, the strings and hammers where removed from the body. The body was made deeper that we could build there bookshelf. The keypad was restored. Piano lacquer casing was removed, damaged veneer patterns where repaired and to the edges we made new moldings from mahogany and we lacquered it with glossy varnish. The bookshelf was made from mahogany veneer, and the contents were prepared with matt lacquer.

You can view more pictures at the link.

Link -via Recyclart

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9 Star Wars S'Mores

If you've ever wanted to eat a Wookie, here's your chance! Jill of Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons has spent the past week making s'more pops that look like characters from Star Wars. Click through the gallery to see them all. At the link, you can find instructions on how to make your own.


We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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Baby Elephant Rescued from a Well

(Video Link)

Our little, er, large friend is just a baby, perhaps eight or nine months old. He fell into a well in Bundu, Jharkhand, India. The villagers went straight to work. After five hours of digging with heavy equipment, the baby elephant scrambled to safety. Hooray!

Link -via Daily of the Day 

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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A Little Girl's Batmobile

One little girl is ripping up the streets of Gotham City in her new Batmobile. Instructables member Cinnamontwisties took a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, painted it and added a pink cushion. Now her toddler is on her way to becoming a superhero.

Link -via The Mary Sue

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Isaac Asimov's Business Card

Isaac Asimov

Well, he did publish hundreds of books, including works in nine of the ten categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification system. And Asimov was clearly modest about it.

-via Explore | Photo origin: unknown

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Football Zucchini Fritters

zucchini fritters

It's just two more weeks until the Super Bowl! Beth Jackson Klosterboer has some great treats for the football fans in her house. She made these fritters by grating zucchini, potato, carrot and onion together, then shaping the mixture with a football-shaped cookie cutter. You can find her recipe at the link.


We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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I'm quite taken with the sculptures of British artist Anna Gillespie. She uses stone, bronze, acorn cups, tree bark and other materials to create striking images of human frailty. She explained why she makes heavy use of unusual natural materials:

Even speaking of 'nature' as something distinct from the human race suggests an artificial separation. We are all part of the natural world. Collecting beech nuts and acorns for sculptures, made me realise that every one is the same and yet different...just like us. Nature is so prolific.

Artist's Website and Interview -via Wunderkammer

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Should We Stop Using the Singular "They"?

In formal English grammar, the pronoun "they" is always plural. There is no gender-nonspecific singular pronoun in English. This is a problem, for there is often a need to express such a pronoun.

There are alternatives. In graduate school, the use of gender-inclusive language was pounded into me, so I now reflexively use "he or she" or "s/he" or "his or her", even when writing for Neatorama. But it is awkward and some writers prefer the smoother if gramatically icky singular "they". Jenn Doll of The Atlantic is not among them. She wants English speakers and writers to use "he" and "she":

Let's talk about something. Let's talk about the "singular" they. That's when a writer or a speaker — a he or a she — is discussing someone who might be either a he or a she (it's unknown, or the writer doesn't intend to make a subject or object gender-specific and instead hopes to convey a universality of personhood). So instead of writing, say, he or she did x or y, the writer uses theyIt's everywhere, proliferating like fruit flies 'round a bowl of rotting bananas, bad writing surrounding bad writing. [...]

I'm all for a certain flexibility and adaptive ease with regard to language and how we use it. I'm happy to add three exclamation points to a sentence or write in ALL CAPS when it seems to fit the moment, especially online. But I see absolutely no reason other than laziness to start subbing our hes and shes with a clunky they, or our hises and hers with theirs. There is a reason we have distinct pronouns, and that is so we can be specific. If we don't know the specifics, we should try to find them out, or use one of those handy words — he or she or one, for instance — that get around the they problem. Peppering one's sentences with some hes and shes can be kind of nice, really, a way to assemble a collection of characters who are certainly more real and individualized than a collective they.

There is criticism that the use of he as the generic pronoun is an example of linguistic sexism of a sort, and I agree there's no need to always use he as the default if you don't know the gender of the person about whom you are speaking, or if you're using the pronoun to stand for persons of either gender. You can just as easily swap in a she; mix it up! Make it fun! Keep people on their toes! Maybe even create a new word, and make it happen! The message that something should be easy, that we all understand anyway, that it doesn't really matter and we should give up the fight may be the most galling part of this argument, though. Since when was writing or creating art with words (if you're being high-minded) supposed to be convenient? Since when was past history the rule for how we live in the present and future? Break the rules if you must, for a purpose, to make an impact. Don't do something because it's easy and everyone else is doing it. If a word sounds like it's landing with a horrid thump in your ear, it's landing that way to at least some of your readers. Every time I see a singular they, my inner grammatical spirit aches.

Link -via The Hairpin

UPDATE: In the comments, Gerard Van der Leun correctly points out that I forgot to include in the poll the traditional use of "he" is an implied gender nonspecific pronoun. I've now added it.

Which singular, gender non-specific pronoun should English speakers use?

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The Butterfly Beauty Myth

Poor caterpillar. She will be forever compared to some imaginary, photoshopped creature pushed by popular culture. Cartoonist Caldwell Tanner offers his sympathies.

Link -via Pleated Jeans

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Dragon Head Violin

Like the prow of a Viking longship, this violin is topped with the head of a fierce beast. Dutch artist Jeroen made it and other beautifully carved violins. 


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A Detailed Legal Analysis of Bilbo's Contract in The Hobbit


In one of the more comical scenes in The Hobbit, the dwarves present Bilbo with an employment contract. Like Neatorama employment contacts, Bilbo's alarmingly waives the dwarves of liability for lacerations, eviscerations and incinerations incurred during employment. Bilbo nonetheless signs it.

Did he get a good deal? Attorney James Daily studied the contract and thinks that it was well-crafted--at least from the dwarves' point of view. For example, Thorin has substantial leeway to alter the terms:

These two clauses also pose something of a contradiction.  On the one hand we see the first of many liability waivers:

[Thorin has] a right to alter the course of the journey at his so choosing, without prior notification and/or liability for accident or injury incurred.” But on the other hand we see this explicit obligation of care: “[the Adventure] shall proceed in a timely manner and with all due care and consideration.

Ordinarily “due care and consideration” signifies taking on liability for negligence, so this conflicts with the earlier liability waiver. Perhaps the two can be reconciled by the phrase “as seen fit by said Thorin Oakenshield and companions.” Thorin and Co. could always claim that the amount of care and consideration they saw fit was extremely minimal, though that runs the risk of making the clause meaningless, which courts usually don’t like to do.  ”As a general proposition, whenever possible, the law favors reconciliation of clauses within a contract which appear contradictory.” City of Columbia v. Paul N. Howard Co., 707 F.2d 338, 340 (8th Cir. 1983). Taken together with the numerous other waivers and disclaimers, I think a court would probably conclude that Thorin & Co. were not taking on any particular duty of care. ”A writing is interpreted as a whole.”  Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 202(2).

Waivers or disclaimers of liability are an important part of many contracts. These can include waivers of a product warranty (seen all the time in software license agreements) and waivers for liability due to negligence (often required before doing something dangerous like skydiving). But there are limits to liability waivers. While a party to a contract can ordinarily waive liability for negligence (although not in every jurisdiction), one cannot waive liability for gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct.  So the numerous (and sweeping!) waivers and disclaimers may not be as effective as they appear at first glance.

You can read the rest of his analysis at the link. You may already be familiar with Daily's comedy. He's a contributor to Law and the Multiverse, a blog which examines the legal ramifications of actions taken by superheroes.

Link -via Glenn Reynolds | Image: Warner Bros.

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How the Knife and Fork Gave Us an Overbite

chewdriverBee Wilson wrote Consider the Fork, a history of the technology of cooking and eating. The way we prepare and consume food has greatly changed over time and those changes have had an impact on the human body. For example, one anthropologist thinks that using the knife and fork to eat food leads to an overbite:

Until around 250 years ago in the West, archaeological evidence suggests that most human beings had an edge-to-edge bite, similar to apes. In other words, our teeth were aligned liked a guillotine, with the top layer clashing against the bottom layer. Then, quite suddenly, this alignment of the jaw changed: We developed an overbite, which is still normal today. The top layer of teeth fits over the bottom layer like a lid on a box.

This change is far too recent for any evolutionary explanation. Rather, it seems to be a question of usage. An American anthropologist, C. Loring Brace, put forward the thesis that the overbite results from the way we use cutlery, from childhood onwards.

What changed 250 years ago was the adoption of the knife and fork, which meant that we were cutting chewy food into small morsels before eating it. Previously, when eating something chewy such as meat, crusty bread or hard cheese, it would have been clamped between the jaws, then sliced with a knife or ripped with a hand -- a style of eating Professor Brace has called "stuff-and-cut."

Link -via Megan Garber | Photo: The Chewdriver, now on sale at the NeatoShop

We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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The Piano and Violin House

piano and violin building

piano and violin building

This magnificent building graces Huainan, China. The transparent violin contains a staircase that leads to an exhibition center in the piano. The Hefei University of Technology built it in 2007. It'd be a wonderful place to have a concert.

Link -via The Presurfer | Photo:, bg6agy

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Breakfast Bacon Burger


In his laboratory, Nick of DudeFoods has been experimenting with BacoBurger, a combination of ground beef and ground bacon. He's used it to make this: the Breakfast BacoBurger. To make you're own, you'll need a waffle iron and a frying pan. Nick writes:

It sort of reminded me of the McGriddles that you can get at McDonald’s, except for the fact that BacoBurger patties are 100 times better tasting than the sausage at McDonald’s.


We dish up more neat food posts at the Neatolicious blog

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Ingenious Invention: Tire Chains That Deploy with the Flip of a Switch

(Video Link)

Brilliant! Apparently these things have been around since the 70s, but I've only now heard of On-Spot tire chains. These gadgets have short lengths of steel chain attached to a spindle. When the driver encounters heavy snow, s/he can lower them to tire level. The spindles spin with the wheels, driving the chains beneath the tires. When the driver turns them off, spring tension raises the spindles back up.


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Felix Salazar's Amazing Coral Reef Photographs

Felix Salazar, a photographer in Los Angeles, gets very close to his subjects. His images of the mysterious lifeforms found in coral reefs will mesmerize you with their colors and shapes. You can view many more at the link.

Link -via Colossal

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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Modeling Agency Specializes in Ugly People

fashion model

Dell, pictured above, is a professional model. Yes, really! He may be...uh, aesthetically challenged, but that's only to his benefit. Ugly Models, a London-based modeling agency, specializes in getting photographers models with unusual physical appearances. At their website, you can view their four categories: men, women, "specials" and Guinness World Records.

That last category Just wow.

Link | Agency Website | Photo: National Geographic

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A Letter from Hogwarts

letter from Hogwarts feather painting

It's wonderful news: you've been admitted to Hogwarts! Pack your size 2 pewter cauldron and get moving. Russian artist Alvia Alcedo painted this scene from Harry Potter on the feather of a greater spotted owl using acrylic and tempera paints.


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Say "Cheese!"

camera tattoo

Professional photographer Lotte van den Acker wants to take your picture. Smile at her gorgeous tattoo of an Asahi Pentax 35mm SLR, a classic camera made from the 70s to the 90s. The tattoo was inked by her own mother, Helma van der Weide.

Link -via Lustik | Photo: Helma van der Weide

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A Mother's Tattoo


Redditor Rhinobeetle has an awesome mom:

My brother is special needs and 17, this year he drew his first picture. My mother did something pretty special with it.

Link -via Blame It on the Voices

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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This Family Lives on an Ice-Locked Boat in the Arctic. On Purpose.

Brossier family

They had already spent five years on a boat in the Svalbard Islands north of Norway. That wasn't quite extreme enough for the Brossier family. For two years, they've lived on their 15-meter boat Vagabond in Grise Fiord in northern Canada. At the moment, the boat is ice-locked. But they can handle it:

This is the second year the family has spent in Grise Fiord, but Brossier and his family are no strangers to living on a boat in the Arctic. They also spent five years on a boat near Spitsbergen, which is an island near Norway. Brossier’s eldest daughter was only 12 days old when her parents first brought her on board.

“Our neighbours were really the polar bears. I think we saw 800 polar bears in five years so it was not many people,” he said. [...]

“We live here without any agenda and without any tight schedule. When you start something you have time to finish it,” he said. “Of course there are some things we cannot do. We miss mainly our families but we are already with our own little family… and it’s easier nowadays to keep in touch with Skype and the internet.”

Link -via Offbeat Families | Photo: Eric Brossier

See more about baby and kids at NeatoBambino

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Profile for John Farrier

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