Monthly Archives: September 2009

September 11, 2001 As Seen From Space

Collected by Internet Pop Culture

We’ve seen so many shocking and startling images of 9/11 from the perspective of people on the ground but what did that terrible day look like from space?

As you will see from the following photos the chaos taking place in lower Manhattan was very visible from more than 250 miles above Earth inside the International Space Station.

View of the World Trade Center days later from the North.

One of a series of pictures taken of metropolitan New York City (and other parts of New York as well as New Jersey) by one of the Expedition Three crew members onboard the International Space Station (ISS) at various times during the day of September 11, 2001. The image shows a smoke plume rising from the Manhattan area. The orbital outpost was flying at an altitude of approximately 250 miles. The image was recorded with a digital still camera. (via

This still image, taken from video sent from the International Space Station on Tuesday, shows a smoke plume rising from the Manhattan area of New York City. (via

The smoke plume extending into Jersey City, New Jersey.

View of New York City on 9/11/01 from the International Space Station

Shifting winds move the smoke plume into Brooklyn and Long Island.

The Timeless Wisdom of Danny Devito

Collected by rtcrooks

A decade ago, if you had told me Danny Devito would one day be a major part of my favorite television show (and that he’d one day be funny again), I would have slapped you in the face. But he is. And his burning balls are the biggest thing online since LoLcatZ. In honor of It’s Always Sunny… starting up again in just a few days, and in tribute to Mr Devito, we thought it fitting to comprise some of our favorite ‘Frank Reynolds’ quotes – the following is The Timeless Wisdom of Danny Devito:

You Know You’re A ’90’s Kid If…

Collected by casey jones

Since you’re on a site called Ice Ice Babies, it can be assumed that the 90’s is your nostalgic decade.  That said, below is a collection of awesomeness that will take you right back to a time when ‘responsibility’ wasn’t in your vocabulary, Encarta helped you with research, and pay phones weren’t lonely.

You Know You’re A 90’s Kid If.

You know all the words to The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air theme song

Goosebumps and Are You Afraid Of The Dark scared you

You collected (and maybe played) Pogs

You remember people fighting over Beanie Babies and Tickle Me Elmo toys

You had a short-lived slap bracelet phase

You know the Macarena

Your winter coat used to be a Starter jacket

You thought you could climb the Agrocrag faster than any of the kids on GUTS

Your shoes had flashing lights

TGIF was your favorite TV lineup

Oregon Trail Day was your favorite day in class

Bill Nye taught you something

You’d have a cassette tape in the radio so you could record your favorite song when it came on

You wanted to find Carmen Sandiego AND Waldo

Surge was your idea of an energy drink

Warheads and Tongue Splashers were a key contributor to your cavities

You predicted your future with one of these:

You told someone The Blair Witch Project was real

You knew every detail about each Saved By The Bell character

Your goal was to be on American Gladiators if becoming a professional athlete didn’t work out

You had a stance on whether you liked Ice Ice Baby or U Can’t Touch This better

You thought gas was expensive when it was over $1

You (or someone you know) wore Jelly Shoes, the Crocs of the 90s

This list is far from complete, please post your additions in the comments and we’ll add to the post!

20 Things You Didn’t Know About the Beatles

Written by Subhajit Banerjee

1. Impossible as it may sound there are still Beatles songs unreleased – the most notable ones being Carnival of Light (an experimental piece recorded on 5 January 1967 for The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave) and a 27-minute jam of Helter Skelter. A John Lennon composition the three surviving Beatles worked on in the early ’90s prior to the Anthology release called Grow Old with Me also remains unreleased.

2. The Beatles (or at least half of it) sang for the Rolling Stones: Lennon and Paul McCartney provided backing vocals to the 1967 single We Love You.

3. Besides writing hundreds of songs for the Beatles, Lennon and McCartney also wrote dozens of songs for other artistes such as From A Window (Billy J. Kramer with The Dakotas), One and One Is Two (The Strangers with Mike Shannon), Step Inside Love and It’s For You (Cilla Black), Come and Get It (Badfinger) and Woman (Peter and Gordon).

4. The Beatles’ third studio album A Hard Day’s Night is the only one to exclusively contain Lennon-McCartney compositions.

5. Paul is not McCartney’s first name, James is. Lennon changed his middle name from Winston to Ono after marrying Yoko Ono in 1969.

6. At the end of Strawberry Fields Forever, Lennon is heard mumbling what sounds like "I buried Paul", which helped fuel the ‘Paul is Dead’ rumours. He’s actually saying "cranberry sauce".

7. The only Beatles single to ever feature another musician on the credit is Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down (credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston). Preston, recruited by George Harrison to ease the growing tensions in the band, played the Hammond organ on both songs.

8. Two days after Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band released, Jimi Hendrix opened his set at London’s Saville Theatre with the title track, something McCartney considers his "single biggest tribute".

9. The final version of Strawberry Fields Forever was created combining two takes of the song in two different keys and speeds – a remarkable achievement considering the equipment and technology of the time – but still failed to fully satisfy Lennon.

10. The only Beatles track to be credited to Lennon and Harrison is an early instrumental called Cry for a Shadow recorded in 1961 when the band was backing Tony Sheridan. Flying and Dig It are the only two tracks to be credited to all four Beatles.

11. The BBC banned several Beatles songs – I Am the Walrus (for the use of the word ‘knickers’) and Fixing a Hole, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and A Day in the Life (all for alleged drug reference).

12. The working title for the film Help! was Eight Arms to Hold You.

13. For the Sgt Pepper album cover, cutouts of Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, and Jesus Christ were requested by Lennon, but ultimately they were left out, though a cutout of Hitler was made for use.

14. Ringo Starr was the first to actually leave the group, walking out in 1968 during the acrimonious White Album sessions. As a result, the remaining Beatles all took turns on the drums for some of the tracks. When Starr finally returned he found his drum kit covered in flowers.

15. The closest the Beatles came to reuniting was at Eric Clapton’s wedding to Patti Boyd in 1979, where McCartney, Harrison and Starr played. Lennon did not attend.

16. The last time Lennon and McCartney played together was at the Los Angeles Hit Factory studio in 1974. The abysmal (and possibly drug-fuelled) session, which also featured Stevie Wonder and Harry Nilsson, was of such bad quality that the bootleg recording was released as A Toot And A Snore In 74.

17. Lennon and McCartney each recorded demos called India which remain unreleased. Each of them also recorded a version of Fats Domino’s Ain’t That a Shame for their rock and roll albums (called Rock ‘n’ Roll and ????? ? ???? respectively).

18. The first song ever written by Lennon was called Hello Little Girl. McCartney’s first was I Lost My Little Girl.

19. Lennon was charged with plagiarism by Chuck Berry’s publisher over Come Together which resembled Berry’s 1956 song You Can’t Catch Me. The case was settled out of court. George Harrison faced and lost a similar lawsuit over his solo hit My Sweet Lord which resembled the Chiffons’ He’s So Fine.

20. Lennon’s number 9 connection: Lennon was born on 9 October 1940, his son Sean was also born 9 October, 1975. He wrote the songs #9 Dream (part of Lennon’s ninth solo album Walls and Bridges which was released in the ninth month of 1974 and peaked at number 9 in the US charts) and with the Beatles – One After 909 and Revolution 9. He lived in apartment number 72 on 72nd Street in New York and was killed in the evening of December 8 when it was already early morning of December 9 in his birthplace of Liverpool.

Top 10 Anime movies that surpass Disney by lightyears

Written by screenhead

Disney is forever synonymous with cartoons and animation, and while the recent Pixar films (Pixar is owned by Disney) have gathered critical acclaim, they’re still a far cry from some of the best Anime movies ever made. During the late 80s and the 90s, Anime went from a niche viewership that was rarely available in the Western world, to almost mainstream it is today, mainly because of a few films that changed the way the Western audience looked at animes. Here are ten anime movies that surpass virtually anything Disney has made, including the Pixar films.

10: 5CM Per Second (2007, IMDB link)

Probably one of the most visually stunning animated movies (not just animes) to be released this decade, 5CM Per Second is comprised of three stories, which deal with love between people with a great distance between them. It’s not for everyone, especially young kids who won’t understand much of it, but the sheer beauty of the animation of Makoto Shinkai is some of the most artful visions you’ll ever see – both in animation and live action movies. Just search the title on Google Images and indulge yourself in a few frames.
9: Cowboy Bebop (2001, IMDB link)

Based on the hit tv-series Cowboy Bebop, the movie continues the neo-noir, jazz infested action following the bounty hunters who get a job to track down a terrorists. Cowboy Bebop has had a cult following ever since it was first aired in Japan, then in the US, and the movie is a great introduction to newcomers to the franchise.

8: Tokyo GodFathers (2003, IMDB link)

Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers is, more than anything, a social comment on Tokyo and the minorities of one of the largest cities in the world. The story follows three homeless friends, a young girl, a homeless man and a transvestite who find a baby in a dumpster and embark on a journey to return it to its parents. Pitch that to Pixar.

7: Princess Mononoke (1997, IMDB link)

Hayao Miyazaki, often referred to as the Walt Disney of Japan, has made plenty of genre defying anime movies (there are a few more on this list), and although he had done numerous movies before, Princess Mononoke was his breakthrough movie in the Western world. It was the highest earning movie at the Japanese box office before Titanic, which not only shows Japan’s love for anime, but just how popular the movie was in its home country.

6: Paprika (2006, IMDB link)

A visual feat for the eyes, Paprika shows just what a storyteller with a vivid imagination can do. A “dream machine” – which allows doctors to see a patient’s dreams – is stolen by a thief who uses it to enter people’s dreams, and it’s up to Paprika and her team to find the reclaim the machine. The movie shifts between reality and dreamworld continuously, and it welcomes a second viewing to get all the details.

5: Howl’s Moving Castle (2004, IMDB link)

The second Miyazaki film on the list, Howl’s Moving Castle, developed from the book by Diana Wynne Jones, centers around a girl who is cast with a spell that makes her look old, her only hope of becoming young again is with a wizard and his giant, walking castle. It features all the Miyazaki trademarks, from stunning artwork to graceful animation, and is widely considered one of his best films to date.

4: Ghost in The Shell (1995, IMDB link)

It was one of the first films to popularize Cyberpunk as an art style and vision of the future. The movie has not only been a visual inspiration to countless Hollywood action movies over the years, but a direct influence to The Matrix. The Watchowski brothers reportedly showed Ghost in The Shell to producer Joel Silver and told him, “We wanna do that live action”. There are countless references to Ghost in The Shell in the Matrix, from the way they’re plugged into the Matrix to the virtual world itself. It’s a must see for any sci-fi fan, whether you’re into anime or not.

3: Grave of The Fireflies (1988, IMDB link)

It was a movie that one can never imagine being made by Western animators or storytellers, Grave of The Fireflies was the film that made everyone realize, including the Japanese, that anime can be used to tell serious, heart felt stories. It centers on a boy and his young sister who struggle to survive in WW2 Japan when their mother dies during US firebombs of their city. Roger Ebert called it “the most powerful anti-war movie of all time”. And it’s just that.

2: Akira (1988, IMDB link)

With Akira, the West finally woke up to the power of the Japanese animes. It’s the movie that defined the whole genre, from its art style, to its realistic portrayal of violence, to its ability to tell several stories at once. The world of Neo Tokyo and it’s lawlessness, the motorcycle gangs and the technology introduced all contribute to making Akira the hallmark of anime for the past 20 years.

1. Spirited Away (2001, IMDB link)

Miyazaki’s masterpiece, the story of a girl who ventures into the land where witches, Gods and spirits rule, where she has to fight to keep her spirit, and fight to release the spirits of the ones she loves. The film was hailed by critics all over the world, and won dozens of awards, including an Oscar for best animated feature. The movie even surpassed Titanic to become the highest grossing move of all time in Japan.

Top 10 Apps for Scheduling a Meeting Online

Written by Steven Walling

meetingroom.jpgMeetings suck. But if there’s one thing worse than meetings, it’s playing email tag to schedule them. Is your company still sending out mass emails to ask for preferred meeting times? It’s the pits, isn’t it? Yes, Outlook has a hack whereby you can solicit responses for scheduling, but it’s not much of an improvement. There’s a better way, and it’s a ridiculously simple concept. A Web app lets you pick a range of dates on a calendar and then notify your colleagues so they can pick the times and dates that work for them. You then view the responses and you’re done.

Just as wikis solved the distributed document collaboration problem (that we used to use email for), this class of online tools solves our scheduling problem. Here’s our rundown of the ten best scheduling apps to be found, in order of preference. Most of them operate on a freemium basis or are fairly cheap.



The first thing you’ll notice about good apps is that many of them have ridiculous names. Tungle is no exception. But ignoring the silly branding, Tungle is my pick for the most innovative of the bunch. Its Web interface is quite nice, and it has support for the broadest range of integration including: Outlook, Google Calendar, iCal, Xing, LinkedIn, Facebook, Ning, and your blog. Why so many? Tungle is all about sharing your calendar as broadly as possible after you’ve published it.



Doodle doesn’t have the social Web love that Tungle does, but it’s dead simple. If your coworkers can’t figure out how to use this, you may need to find a new career quickly. We covered Doodle launching branded versions for continuing use by a company. But if you just want to try it out once, then you don’t even need an account.



TimeBridge is another app that syncs well with the standard set of both cloud-based and desktop calendars. As we mentioned in our initial review, the cool thing about TimeBridge is that the "Yes/No/Best" answer that can be provided by those you invite makes it really easy to get a response even from those who might be reluctant to use this kind of app.



Setster is a little more complex to navigate, but that’s because it’s probably better suited to more complex scheduling jobs. If you need a persistent SaaS calendaring tool that has good collaborative characteristics, Setster is probably your best bet. Read our full review from March here.



Congregar doesn’t waste any of your time, and that’s to be admired. You can create a new event to schedule right from the home page, preview what the emailed poll will look like, and then move immediately to inviting people. Done, end of story.



Presdo is pretty slick looking, but the interface is slightly less intuitive than many of the other apps in the list. If you need something with a decent feature set that’s really going to look more impressive to the boss, then Presdo would be a great choice.



Diarised has got the simple process of online scheduling down pat. But it has one of those annoyingly long sign-up forms, and there doesn’t seem to be much integration with Outlook, GCal or iCal. Diarised would be just fine for a quick and informal job, but if you’re looking for something to use in the enterprise I’d pick something else.

When is Good


When is Good is probably the most bare bones of these apps on the list, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like Doodle there’s no sign-up required. It’s got a highlighted calendar grid for choosing a range of dates, and it works the same whether you’re setting up the poll or responding.



Meet-o-Matic has got a really old school UI, with check boxes for choosing the dates you want to propose to coworkers. But it’s free and there’s absolutely no sign-up required for the basic version. The "advanced" version is a little under $20 a year, but I would suggest you hunt around for something with a better UI and more features if you’re willing to pay.

Meeting Wizard


Meeting Wizard is going to come up high in search results if you’re looking for this kind of thing. It’s been around for quite some time, and it has more of a corporate look than I would like. But it still definitely works fine and could be the ticket for you.

Photo by ghindo

Top 10 Meals That Gamers Enjoy

Written by Aaron R.

Gamers are a very busy bunch; there isn’t much that can be squeezed into our busy schedule. There are a few things we have to squeeze in though; toilet breaks, drink breaks and of course meal breaks. So what makes a good gamer meal? Well we have to enjoy it so taste is important, and it can’t cut too much into our game time so it must be quick to prepare.

You don’t have to be a Hell’s Kitchen contestant to prepare these meals; they are quick, easy and delicious. Here is the Koku Gamer: Top Ten Meals For Gamers.

10. Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich

It doesn’t have to be Peanut Butter and Jelly; it could be any variety of sandwiches. Usually the first thing that pops into your mind when thinking of something quick to eat is a sandwich. These are simple to prepare and handy when you’re in a rush. While it may be lacking in terms of culinary status nothing has been consumed more than the humble sandwich. It deserves a spot in the Top 10 simply because everyone eats them and eats them often.

9. Meat Pies

Yes, it’s true. Meat pies exist. While not too popular in the USA, Meat Pies are a delicacy in other parts of the world and are almost considered a staple diet in countries like New Zealand and Australia. With varieties varying from Steak and Mushroom to Bacon and Egg, Meat Pies are also very cheap. All that is required is 2 minutes in the microwave and voila! Hot steaming Meat Pie ready to eat!

8. Nachos

This is one of the quickest meals to prepare. Just get some Doritos throw some cheese on top of them, throw it in the microwave for about 45 seconds and you have hot steamy Nachos. Throw some salsa on top and you have a tasty meal ready to go. A fan favorite since the beginning of time, gamers craving a savory treat will find no substitute that satisfies quite like Nachos.

7. Pop Corn

Pop Corn is more of a cinema food, but heck if you’re playing Metal Gear Solid 4 why not throw some Pop Corn in the microwave and enjoy the cut scenes? With games moving more towards a cinematic experience Pop Corn is not only easy to prepare but is delicious too. Just a few minutes in the microwave or even on the stove and your Pop Corn is ready to eat.

6. Ramen Noodles

Not to be confused with the restaurant variety Ramen, or instant noodles, are one of the quickest and easiest meals to prepare. You have more chance burning water than you have of stuffing up Ramen noodles. Just add hot water and flavoring and you’re done. Let sit for two minutes while you beat some noob at Street Fighter 4 and your meal is hot ready to go. With flavors varying from country to country Ramen noodles are a fan favorite everywhere around the world.

5. Pop Tarts

Whoever invented Pop Tarts is a genius. You just pop them in your toaster and presto, hot food ready to go. Pop Tarts come in a wide range of varieties like frosted, unfrosted, splitz and limited editions and flavors like Blueberry muffin, Vanilla Milkshake and Hot Fudge Sundae. If you have a toaster handy Pop Tarts are a must have. When it’s late at night and you need a sugar fix to keep awake while playing Call Of Duty 4, a Pop Tart hits the spot. If you’re craving something sweet Pop Tarts are hard to beat.

4. Hot Pockets

How could you have a Top 10 Gamer Meals without Hot Pockets? Even in South Park’s “Make Love, Not Warcraft” episode they kept a microwave oven close to their computers to constantly eat them. With Hot Pockets coming in Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner varieties you could easily stock up on these little bad boys. With more than enough variety between them Hot Pockets never get old. With their ingenious crisping sleeve and wide variety of flavors, Hot Pockets are considered by some “The Gamer Food.”

3. Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Mac ‘n’ Cheese is amazing. The first time I tried it I was a little skeptical; I am a massive fan of traditional Macaroni and Cheese. For me packaged food doesn’t substitute real food very well. However one mouthful and I was converted. This is the best microwave prepared meal you can get. You can even add your own little things to it to give it that customized flavour. As long as you have Mac ‘n’ Cheese in your cupboard you would be hard pressed to find a more convenient food. Kraft are on to a real winner with this one. Gamers around the world are forever grateful for Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

2. Indomie Mi-Goreng Noodles

While still technically instant noodles this variety, Indomie Mi-Goreng, is by far the best available to the consumer. They are so good they deserve their own spot in the Top 10. It requires a little more preparation than other kinds but the end result is worth it. With spicy chilly, soy sauce, fried onion and flavoring to boot this is a staple food of anyone who lives life on a busy schedule. Instant noodles have never tasted so good, and most likely never will. Quick to prepare and absolutely delightful, a box of Mi-Goreng noodles will never look out of place in a gamer kitchen.

1. Last Night’s Pizza

Could there be anything better? I wanted Mi-Goreng noodles to be number 1, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Why is that? Because last night’s pizza is so freaking delicious and easy to prepare that nothing can beat it out.  It can be from your local Pizza Parlor or even from Pizza Hut. It doesn’t matter because it is all good. One piece of pizza requires about 40 seconds to microwave and you can enjoy everything you enjoyed about it the night before. This is the ultimate gamer food.

While certainly not endorsed by health boards around the world, this list was compiled together on the grounds of taste, preparation and convenience. Koku Gamer encourages gamers to exercise regularly and we don’t mean just your fingers. Diet and regular exercise contribute to a healthy lifestyle,meaning more time spent playing video games.

What foods do you normally consume while playing or between breaks?  Comment below no registration required to comment.

Special Mention to “Queenmom” for coming up with the idea.

5 Secrets Restaurants Don’t Want You to Know

Written by Gwendolen Fairfax

Five Secrets Restaurants Don't Want You to Know

Who doesn’t love eating out? It’s great not to have to cook for yourself, but it can also be anxiety-inducing to think about someone else cooking for you. Just what happened to the food before it arrived on our table? Was the meat handled correctly? Did the cook wash his hands? Frankly, some of the common practices of the food service industry might surprise the average customer. I talked to some seasoned industry professionals to discover what words of wisdom they had about the behind the scenes at their favorite spot. It’s helpful advice, but best not to read on a full stomach. 

1. Don’t Be the Last Table of the Night
Most servers complain about the party who walks in at five minutes ’til closing time, but what makes late-night dining ill-advised isn’t the inconvenience. Besides being a pain, it’s doubtful that the food will be very good. By the end of the night, the kitchen is in full clean-up mode, so entrees are more likely to be haphazardly thrown together than carefully prepared. They’re using ingredients that were prepped hours ago, and cooking them in ovens or fryers that contain the accumulated buildup of an entire night’s service. Sometimes chefs cook and clean at the same time, increasing the likelihood of your steak being sprayed with drain cleaner or particulates from the bleach they’re using to mop the floor. Photo: Cedric’s Pics (cc)

2. Vermin Happen
Any place where food is stored is going to attract pests, and in large cities with older infrastructure (like Boston or New York), vermin are simply an unpleasant fact. Most restaurants battle against it every day, but it’s inevitable that sometimes customers are going to see a roach or a rat. Rare is the restaurant where they’re not at least an occasional problem. Even clean restaurants can attract pests, so seeing one isn’t an indictment against the restaurant’s cleanliness. Usually, if it doesn’t seem like the kind of place that would have bug problems, it’s probably a more-or-less isolated incident. Sadly, though, there are indeed restaurants where the pests seem right at home. Ben, from New York, says, “Customers should try not to freak out if they see something, and if they can subtly point it out to a manager or server, they’ll probably get a freebie or two.” Photo: Big Fat Rat (cc)

3. Be Wary of Fish
Although a restaurant might list a given fish on its menu, there’s no guarantee that the snapper listed on the menu isn’t a cheaper fish like tilapia. It’s not always the restaurant’s fault, as seafood distributors do most of the mislabeling. Unfortunately, restaurants themselves do engage in fishy business, like selling endangered or threatened species like bluefin tuna or Chilean sea bass under different names like “toro.” Most customers don’t even know the difference.

Very rarely do restaurants get food deliveries on the weekend, so anything served on Sunday night has probably been in the cooler for a few days at least, and might not be at the peak of freshness. Ben*, the former manager of a restaurant in New York, says, “Be wary of anything that needs to be very fresh on a Sunday, especially fish. Probably best to stay away entirely from a Sunday fish special.” Putting things on special is how many restaurants clear out merchandise that would otherwise go bad. A weekend fish special is basically saying, “Please eat this today because we can’t sell it tomorrow.” Photo: John and Keturah (cc)

4. Hygiene Isn’t Perfect
Most restaurants have high cleanliness standards, but truthfully, sanitation isn’t always perfect. “The kitchen can be a gross place,” says Angie, a pastry chef in San Francisco. “I have seen servers and chefs come back from the bathroom or a cigarette break, not wash their hands, and go back to handling food.” Restaurants are busy places, and many times the workers just don’t take the time to be sanitary. Although state boards of health set strict rules for restaurants, some rules (like wearing gloves) are only followed on inspection day, because following them all the time would slow down production. The truth is that chefs handle food with their bare hands, bartenders touch your garnish after wiping down the bar, and servers are touching menus and utensils used by other patrons without washing their hands in between tables. Also, if it’s flu season, you can be sure that at least a few employees on duty will be sick. Since restaurant employees aren’t usually paid for sick time, they have no choice but to come to work when they’re ill, no matter how sniffly or sneezy they might be. Image: Stewf (cc)

Of course, not all restaurants are cesspools of filth. As a general rule, cleanliness depends on the standards set by the owner, and high-end or family-owned restaurants tend to have better hygiene than chain restaurants or diners, because the owners have more personal accountability and a reputation to preserve. To gauge a restaurant’s cleanliness, look around the dining room. If the ketchup bottles have crusted nozzles, the bathroom is foul, or the floor looks like it hasn’t been swept all week, chances are that the kitchen is a reflection of those same standards. Restaurants with high standards pay attention to small details.

5. Don’t Look Behind the Scenes
I once worked in a restaurant where the service stations were in view of the customers, and many people were shocked at some of the tasks we performed. We refilled the ketchup bottles from a giant plastic bladder, dirty buspans were stored next to fresh food, and the floor was covered in debris. What they witnessed wasn’t criminal or negligent; it was just part of the inner workings of a restaurant, which can be shocking for someone who’s never worked in one. Sometimes it’s better to stay in the dark, so if you have the chance to peek into the kitchen or the staff-only area, don’t.

Once your food is in front of you, don’t let it out of your sight, because you never know what could happen to it. When entrees are boxed up to go or sent to the kitchen to be cooked further, sometimes the staff cuts corners. Kim, a former server and bartender from New York, advises, “Always wrap up your own food. I’ve seen too many pizzas picked out of the garbage and breadsticks roll under the counters.” Photo: FlySi (cc)

It’s easy to feel squeamish about restaurants because they prepare our food, and we feel like even the smallest infraction could potentially endanger our health. While some restaurant stories disgust or repulse, the uneventful truth is that most restaurants are highly professional establishments that just want to serve good food and make their customers happy. Outrageous displays of bad hygiene are the exception, not the rule, and customers should feel totally confident when eating out. Just be sure to check the ketchup and carpets first.

*Names have been changed

How 20 Popular Websites Looked When They Launched

Collected by telegraph

Remember the days when the word Google was not interchangeable with internet? Or when every site seemed to have a Netscape icon on it? Or when Flash was still something you cleaned your floor with? Then you were clearly using the web in the mid to late 1990s when pages were rudimentary affairs containing lists of links and information.

Thanks to the waybackmachine internet archive, we’re still able to see some of the Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 pioneers looked in their earliest incarnations.


1. – launched in 1996

2. – launched in 2004

3. – launched in 2003

4. – launched in 1994

5. – launched in 2005

6. – launched in 2001

7. – launched in 1995

8. – launched in 1987 (screenshot from 1996)


9. – launched in 1997

10. – launched in 1995

11. – launched in 2006

12. – launched in 1994

13. – launched in 1995

14. – launched in 1995

15. – launched in 1997

16. – launched in 1996

17. – launched in 2000

18. – launched in 1994

19. – launched in 1999

20. – launched in 2004

The Article Cash4Gold Doesn’t Want You To Read

Written by Ben Popken and Meg Marco

If you have any broken, ugly jewelry lying around in a drawer somewhere, you’ve probably taken notice of a company called Cash4Gold that promised to pay “top dollar” for your not-so-precious precious metals. If you’re like us, you might have even seen a post on by a former employee exposing Cash4Gold.

The whistleblower’s post appeared on ComplaintsBoard last November. We featured it this February, as part of our ongoing coverage of Cash4Gold, after the company raised its public profile with a multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad. The post was indeed written by an ex-employee, Michele Liberis, who is now being sued by the company for defamation. Recently, Cash4Gold added Consumerist and ComplaintsBoard as co-defendants in its lawsuits (PDF) against Liberis and another former employee, Vielka Nephew (PDF), in an attempt to force us to take the information down. Liberis and Nephew have chosen to stand up to Cash4Gold’s legal attack, and so have we.

We believe citizens, consumers, and employees should be able to exercise their free-speech rights online โ€“ and journalists should be able to report on those efforts โ€“ without fear of intimidation. That belief is at the core of what makes Consumerist tick. And it’s what keeps the internet from being just a brochure with hyperlinks. Below, more about this episode and what goes on behind the public faรงade of a company that bills itself as “World’s #1 Gold Buyer.”

Why did Michele Liberis โ€“ a 28-year-old single mother of two โ€“ decide to blow the whistle on a company that has a history of taking actions to silence its critics? It all started last fall when she learned that a friend was considering selling some jewelry to Cash4Gold. As it happened, Liberis had recently been fired from her job in the customer service department with the Pompano Beach, FL-based company. In its lawsuit against her, the company says she was fired in part due to “chronic absenteeism without adequate excuse” and a “disruptive attitude.” Liberis says the only blemish on her record that she is aware of is that she parked in a reserved area on one occasion. Whatever the case, while there from early June to early October 2008, she got a first-hand look at how the company manages to pay customers a fraction of what their gold is worth and Liberis wanted to help her friend avoid what she saw as a mistake. As she told Consumerist:

“She [the friend] knew something was odd but it just sounded so good โ€ฆ When I sat down and told her everything that we did, you know, it was like, โ€˜Wow.’ Like, she would have never thought, you know. So I was like, “Well, if she would have never thought, who else? Who else would have never thought?”

That’s when she discovered ComplaintsBoard, a Web site that specializes in hosting consumer beefs.

“I thought this was a fair site, you know, for me to write down what I need to write down on what I know โ€ฆ I’m not a blogger, I’ve never blogged. I didn’t even think what I was doing was blogging. I just kinda did it because it’s a place where you could put your complaints. So I wrote down everything I did and I saw.”

We were unaware of the post when it went up, but Cash4Gold was already on our radar. We wrote about them in October, after Rob Cockerham’s Cockeyed blog posted an item about Cash4Gold offering an individual $60 for gold that a local pawnshop valued at $198. When the gold owner called Cash4Gold to complain, the company rep immediately nearly tripled the offer to $178.

A few weeks afterwards, Cockerham got two emails from a marketing consultant working with Cash4Gold. The consultant wanted to know if Cockerham would agree to a “financial arrangement” to “de-optimize” his post so it wouldn’t appear so high on Google – or just take the post down for “a few thousand dollars.” Cockerham didn’t take the consultant up on the offer, but did post both emails on his site. Various media outlets, including ours, ran the story.

Cash4Gold’s previous tv ad

Back then, Cash4Gold was just another company promoting deals of dubious value on late-night TV and the Web. That all changed in February, when Cash4Gold ran a 30-second commercial on the Super Bowl. The ad, reported to have cost $2.4 million, featured M.C. Hammer and the late Ed McMahon. The two celebs appeared to sell off valuables, including a solid gold toilet, to make ends meet. Gold fetched over $900 an ounce at the time, and the ad attracted public and media attention.

Cash4Gold’s Super Bowl Ad

The day after the game, we found Michele Liberis’ anonymous whistleblower post. Liberis’ allegations were detailed enough to be credible. Moreover, they were supported by a pattern of statements about the company that could be found on the Internet and in the media, ranging from low-ball offers with little time to respond to allegations of lost jewelry. For example, in one report by an ABC affiliate from November 2008, a reporter said she waited two weeks to get a Cash4Gold check, and then got the company to nearly triple its original offer. The final offer was still less than half of what the reporter said a local pawn shop offered her. We felt Liberis’ post was newsworthy, and we published it under the headline “10 Confessions of a Cash4Gold Employee.”

We weren’t the only news organization with questions about Cash4Gold. In February, the Los Angeles Times published a report titled “Beneath’s shiny veneer, a dull reality.” Yahoo! Tech warned readers that Cash4Gold customers are likely “getting the short end of the stick.” In March, CEO Jeff Aronson told ABC’s Good Morning America that Cash4Gold was a “service business” that doesn’t pay the highest price for gold but offers “convenience and ease.”

Less than two weeks after we ran Liberis’ anonymous “10 Confessions,” we received our first letter from the company’s lawyers. (The company also sent letters to Yahoo!, the LA Times and reportedly a number of blogs โ€“ including some that had linked to or referenced Liberis’ post.) The letter to us asserted that the post by Liberis was “false and defamatory” and that we should “immediately remove” our coverage of it, and “block further posting.”

We decided not to remove the post, and instead replied with a 2,400-word request for additional details that might back up Cash4Gold’s claims. Reason: we felt that killing a post we deemed to be both credible and newsworthy would be a disservice to our readers and a betrayal of our responsibility as consumer journalists.

In that letter, and in several follow ups, we’ve asked Cash4Gold and its lawyers for evidence to support their broad assertions of falsehood. We’ve also lauded the company for starting its own blog, and pushed it to continue to join “the public debate” about these issues.

Instead, Cash4Gold has pursued a take-no-prisoners approach against Liberis and her former colleague Nephew. The company sued both women, who, until recently, had no legal representation. Both now await the outcome of court cases that could lead to escalating fines and perhaps even jail time based on contempt charges. For our part, we’ve continued to research the story. Since Cash4Gold’s original challenge, we’ve talked to Liberis and Nephew, Cash4Gold customers, the Better Business Bureau, the Pompano Beach fire department and the U.S. Postal Service, among others. We’ve dug through numerous web sites, legal documents, complaints to the Florida Attorney General and public records. We’ve also tried to interview Cash4Gold’s Aronson, though without success. Bottom line: the available evidence from the time Liberis was working at Cash4Gold provides ample and compelling support for her 10 points. Here’s why.


To understand the basic deal that Cash4Gold offers, we turned to Consumer Reports’ “mystery shoppers” โ€“ the nationwide team of anonymous consumers who help buy the gear that our parent company tests. The mystery shoppers sent 24 identical gold pendants and chains to Cash4Gold and some of its national competitors. The necklaces were purchased for $175 each. We calculated their “melt value” โ€“ meaning how much the raw gold was worth โ€“ as about $70 each, based on the market price for gold when the necklaces were received by the companies (during the test period, the price of gold fluctuated, but never dropped below $900 an ounce).

Our tests โ€“ which lasted from May through early July โ€“ found that Cash4Gold and its competitors offered simple and relatively transparent service. Online tracking systems were updated promptly, the companies generally mailed out checks within a day or two, and customer service reps were courteous and professional. The actual offers, however, were miserly. Cash4Gold sent back checks ranging from $7.60 to $12.72 (or 11% to 18% of melt value), the lowest amounts of any firm. But others weren’t far behind: GoldKit offered $7.81 to $20.59, and GoldPaq $8.22 to $13.11. Each of those deals was worse than what our mystery shoppers could get at local jewelers and pawn shops, which offered anywhere from $25 to $50. The results reinforce advice we’ve offered before, which is that consumers should not use these highly marketed services because the payments they offer are too low. No matter how nice the person is who gives it to you, a bad deal is still a bad deal.

Cash4Gold declined to discuss the test results, but other news reports suggest lowball checks are typical. CEO Aronson has said the company pays from as little as 20% to as much as 80% of the gold’s value. And in an interview with Good Morning America, he suggested that customers who want more money should take their business elsewhere. “If all you care about is the net dollar, and you’re willing to go to the seedy part of town, and you’re willing to travel around … I want you to go there,” Aronson said.

Nightline interviews Cash4Gold CEO Jeff Aronson

All this stands in contrast to Cash4Gold’s advertising claims. While its website acknowledges that a jeweler or a pawn shop might offer more, one TV ad boasts “With gold, silver and platinum at their highest value in decades, is able to give you top dollar for your unwanted jewelry.” The same ad goes on: “Because we own our refinery, we can cut out the middleman, which means more cash in your pocket.” But we have trouble squaring that “top dollar” claim with the offers we got, suggesting that Liberis was justified in warning her friend โ€“ and alerting the internet.


We also delved into Liberis’ specific allegations. At one point, for example, her post asserted that Cash4Gold “was temporarily closed recently due to health and code violations.” In its blog, Cash4Gold says this is “entirely false.” Yet a check with the Pompano Beach Fire Prevention Bureau turned up numerous citations (PDF) at Aronson’s business location at 1701 Blount Rd., where Liberis worked. These included having no fire alarm system, fire extinguisher violations, blocked exits, exposed wiring, compressed gas cylinder violations, and items stored too close to electrical panels. Fire inspector Aaron Efferstein adds that they had three fires at the location, including one that set the roof ablaze.

Police report on Cash4Gold’s 10/03/08 shutdown by city inspectors

Each of these issues was eventually remedied, Efferstein says, except for the sprinkler system. He says Aronson and the building’s owner couldn’t agree on who was going to pay for it, and so after repeated delays the fire department shut down the site. Cash4Gold is now in a new Pompano Beach location, 2800 Gateway Drive, where Efferstein says there’ve been no compliance problems. “I gather they’ve learned their lesson because they’ve been pretty good where they’re at,” he said.

Another of Liberis’ statements: Her post said that “although the payment (check) for your item is dated within 24 hrs of testing your jewelry, we SOMETIMES DO NOT actually send out the check until up to 3-4 days later.” On its blog, Cash4Gold countered that an audit showed that 100% of the company’s checks are dated the day they’re sent out.

Our mystery shopper test turned up no problems with mailing time, at least now. But there are many indications โ€“ aside from the aforementioned ABC affiliate report โ€“ that the company’s performance hasn’t been so good in the past. In fact, Brodie White, President of the Better Business Bureau of Southeast Florida and the Caribbean, says delayed checks, low payments and lost packages are among the most common complaints he’s received about Cash4Gold. Why were late checks a problem? “When [the customer] got the check, the time to execute the refund policy was either over or about to expire.” The BBB currently rates Cash4Gold a C on its A+ -to-F rating scale, but White said the company has been rated as low as a D-, and that the BBB revoked its membership.

Complaints about late checks, which also turn up in the Florida Attorney General’s files, suggest that Liberis was right that there were at least occasional delays in getting checks out during her time at the company.

Other Liberis statements are verified by Cash4Gold’s own blog. The first of the “10 Confessions” refers to the fact that the “refiner’s pack” โ€“ the prepaid envelope used to ship gold to the company โ€“ is insured for up to $100, based not on an actual appraisal, but on a description provided by the customer. In its action against Liberis, the company included this statement among those it deemed “false and defamatory.” Cash4Gold’s blog, however, declared: “This is correct.”

Another statement pointed out that, at the time Liberis was employed there, Cash4Gold customers would have to pay a shipping charge to have items Cash4Gold didn’t want returned to them. Suit against Liberis: “False and defamatory.” C4G blog: “…Cash4Gold did charge for returns at one point. …”


Liberis paystub showing bonuses

Finally, Liberis outlined a bonus system where customers who objected to tiny checks were immediately offered two to three times as much cash. As she describes it, reps got a $15 bonus for getting a customer to accept less than double the first check. And they got $10 for keeping the payout under three times as much. Liberis provided paystubs showing her earning as much as $815 in bonuses over two weeks โ€“ nearly doubling her pay of $906 for the period. Nephew also confirmed details of the system.

The company’s blog disputed these claims, saying that, “… customer service representatives have received bonuses, but they are based on the number of calls, abandon rate and customer satisfaction.” However, in the Nightline interview, Aronson admitted the company used to negotiate with dissatisfied customers. “It was something that I would do to make the customer happy,” he said. “And if it came off negatively, we have stopped it completely at this point.” Despite this assertion, a Cash4Gold rep did offer one of our mystery shoppers a slightly higher price when she complained, which would have brought the total of the company’s best offer to 29% of melt value.

We think Liberis’ and Nephew’s descriptions are credible. The logic of such a system is this: If the customer simply accepts the original check, the company can make a hefty margin โ€“ as much as 80%, based on our tests. If, on the other hand, the customer complains, such a system would reward reps who managed to offer just enough to keep the customer from demanding his/her valuables back, and no more, up to whatever limit the company allowed. Remember that even at triple the initial offer, our estimates suggest the company would in some cases still earn about a 60% margin.

Cash4Gold Customer’s video showing the checks he received

We don’t begrudge Cash4Gold the right to make a profit. And the company does have some major expenses, such as advertising, that must eat into its margins โ€“ and make it harder to offer consumers a higher price. Earlier this year, Florida Trend magazine estimated that Cash4Gold needs to “knock, on average, $155 from the metal value on which it pays per transaction to consumers” just to cover its marketing costs. Consumer Reports Money Adviser recently noted that gold buyers with lower marketing costs, such as Red Swan, may be able to make higher payouts to customers; a recent NBC Today Show report found that Red Swan’s offers could be more than double those of Cash4Gold.


4-14-09 Motion for entry of a default (PDF)

4-14-09 default entered (PDF)

6-11-09 Verified Motion for Temp Injunction and Motion for Default Final Judgment (PDF)

6-25-09 Order on Verified Motion (PDF)

Meanwhile, the legal documents filed by the company present several puzzles. In its original lawsuit against Liberis (PDF), the company asserted that her statements were “false and defamatory.” Yet a later order against her (PDF) prohibited her from publishing “confidential and proprietary information” as well. Obviously a statement can’t be both proprietary (hence true) and false at the same time. We’ve asked Cash4Gold to clarify which part of Liberis’ statements were which, but it has refused.

In April, the company managed to get a default entered against Liberis. That one-sentence statement, signed by a court clerk, was obtained because Cash4Gold’s lawyers assured the court that Liberis hadn’t responded to its lawsuit. Yet Liberis had submitted detailed answers (PDF) to questions Cash4Gold had served on her with the suit, and those answers had been filed with the court. In an interview with us, Liberis made it clear that she felt she had complied with her legal obligations by responding to the company’s questions.

In June, the court granted Cash4Gold’s request for a default judgment against Liberis on the merits of the case and issued a temporary injunction (PDF), giving Liberis one day to “remove any and all postings on the Internet regarding Cash4Gold.” At Cash4Gold’s request, the order added at least one charge that wasn’t in the original suit against Liberis: the aforementioned claim that she had disclosed “confidential and proprietary” information. And the injunction then required Liberis to stop publishing confidential information or risk being held in contempt. Yet the company had never included those charges in their lawsuit, never described the supposedly confidential information at issue, and never gave Liberis a chance to respond to those new claims. The injunction was received by Liberis on or about its June 26th deadline, according to the company. In the order, the company repeated its claim that the default judgment against Liberis was justified by her “failure to serve any paper as required by law” โ€“ despite the fact that Liberis’ detailed written response to the company’s questions had been, at that time, on file with the court for about two months.

The contradictory statements and mixups have not stopped Cash4Gold from prevailing in the Broward County, Fla. courts, at least so far. On August 18th, the judge postponed determining whether Liberis should be held in contempt for violating a court order, but issued a new order giving her 10 days to ask ComplaintsBoard to delete her post, which in any event had already been replaced with a link to another site. In a separate hearing that same day, a different judge declined to hold Nephew in contempt, instead granting her two weeks to find counsel, and said the court would review her entire case then. Both women now have an attorney.


Just to be clear about the Consumerist’s position, we consider this a legitimate and even important news story. One core mission of a consumer-oriented news site is to alert its readers to bad deals. Everything we’ve learned about Cash4Gold’s offer so far places it in that category, in our view. That’s why we have resisted the legal efforts to silence our reporting, and why we’ve continued to dig into the story, despite the company’s lack of cooperation.

As part of that effort, we reached Aronson on Aug. 12. In a brief phone conversation, Ben asked the Cash4Gold CEO if he’d be willing to talk to us about “some of the questions people are raising, to clear things up.” Aronson said, “Sure,” and told us to contact his office for an interview. The public relations contact instead referred us to the company’s general counsel. A couple of hours later, Cash4Gold’s law firm told our attorney that we were being sued, and that all further discussion should be lawyer-to-lawyer.

The company appeared to relent last week, saying Aronson would be willing to do an in-person interview this Wednesday. But yesterday, it canceled the interview – which is why this article cannot represent Cash4Gold’s position beyond what the company has already said on its blog and in earlier interviews with other news outlets.

But as you can tell from this lengthier-than-usual post, we’re continuing to report on the story anyway, and still hope to bring you Cash4Gold’s side of it if whenever they’re willing to talk. So, Jeff, we take you at your word that you’d like to get together, and look forward to speaking soon.

UPDATE: After this post went live, Cash4Gold said the following in our comments section:

On the advice of legal counsel, Cash4Gold was unable to offer specific comments to the Consumerist for this article. It would have been highly inappropriate given the pending litigation concerning Consumerist’s refusal to remove a false and defamatory posting about Cash4Gold from its website, even after the person who authored the comments requested that they be taken down.

The “person” Cash4Gold refers to is Michele Liberis. And when Cash4Gold says she requested that we take down her posting, this is what they are referring to (PDF). This letter from her new lawyers says that Liberis continues to stand behind all of her statements and believes that the injunction the company obtained against her was improperly entered. Although she is seeking “dissolution” of the injunction, in the meantime she’s playing by the rules and is complying with its direction to send this request.

Regarding Cash4Gold’s claim that it couldn’t comment for our story because it had sued us, we note that we had requested detailed information from Cash4Gold for many months before the company sued us โ€” since February in fact โ€” without getting any response. The company added us as a defendant only in August.


Complaint against Liberis, Consumerist, ComplaintsBoard (PDF)

Complaint against Nephew, Consumerist, ComplaintsBoard (PDF)

ComplaintsBoard post

Cockeyed post 1

Cockeyed post 2

Cash4Gold’s old TV ad

Cash4Gold Super Bowl Ad

10 Confessions of a Cash4Gold Employee [Consumerist]

Beneath’s shiny veneer, a dull reality [LAT]

Beware Cash4Gold and other gold-buying ripoffs [Yahoo! Tech]

Good Morning America [GMA]

Cash4Gold’s Public Relations Companies Attorney Accuses Me of Defamation [FMD Consumer Blog]

Nightline interviews Jeff Arononson

Cash4Gold customer video about low checks

Cash4Gold’s blog response to ComplaintsBoard post

Cash4Gold’s Fire Bureau citations (PDF)

Police report on Cash4Gold’s 10/03/08 shutdown by city inspectors

Cash4Gold BBB Report

Cash4Gold’s Rush [Florida Trend]

Original lawsuit against Liberis (PDF)

Order against Liberis (PDF)

Liberis’ responses to Cash4Gold’s questions (PDF)

Temporary injunction against Liberis (PDF)