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7 signs your relationship is failing — even if it doesn't feel like it

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drake and rihanna

Ever broken up with someone only to realize that your friends saw it coming half a year ago? Yeah. Thanks, guys.

The thing is, it can be hard to spot even glaring flaws in your relationship while you're in it. With that in mind, Business Insider rounded up seven science-backed indicators that there might be trouble in your romantic paradise.

Before you read on, we should note that if you recognize one or more of these patterns in your relationship, that does not necessarily mean you're destined for a breakup.

Keep in mind that these signs reflect general trends and might not fit your particular relationship. Plus, if you get the sense that there might be problems, it's up to you to decide how best to address them.

So don't get paranoid — but do get reflective — and check out what science has to say about the road to Splitsville.

1. You see your partner more or less as they are

Call it the "Shallow Hal" effect: A growing body of research suggests that partners who have "positive illusions" about each other are more likely to stay together. In other words, in stable, satisfying relationships, each partner somewhat idealizes the other and sees the best in them.

For example, you might rate your partner as more attractive, kinder, and smarter than they would rate themselves.

On the other hand, if you still see your partner as meh in the looks, intelligence, and kindness departments — and as totally different from your ideal mate — that's probably not a good sign.

2. You view your partner as beneath you

John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington and the founder of the Gottman Institute, has spent decades studying the science of relationship satisfaction and stability.

As Business Insider's Erin Brodwin has reported, Gottman and his colleagues have come up with four factors — known as the "four horsemen" — that can reliably predict divorce: contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Contempt, or seeing your partner as beneath you instead of as an equal, is what Gottman calls the "kiss of death" for a relationship. Here's an example of what someone displaying contempt in a relationship might say to their partner, from the Gottman Institute website:

"You're 'tired'?! Cry me a river… I've been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those idiotic video games. I don't have time to deal with another kid…just try, try to be more pathetic…"

Same goes for name-calling, mimicking, and eye-rolling — they're evidence that something is going wrong.

Woman Flirting

3. You think you have a good 'alternative' partner

If you think you'd be happier dating one of your friends, and that that person might want to date you, too ... you might be in trouble.

In one study, undergrads in relationships answered questions about their best alternative to their current relationship, their best imagined alternative, and how easily they thought they could find someone to replace their current partner.

As it turned out, participants who had more desirable realistic or imagined partners, and who thought they could find an alternative partner more easily, were less likely to be in the same relationship three months later.

4. You feel stuck in the relationship

Fascinating research suggests that material constraints — think a joint bank account or a shared lease — make it less likely that an unmarried couple is going to break up.

On the other hand, what the researchers call felt constraints — wanting to leave but feeling trapped, for example — make a breakup more likely, even within eight months. The researchers write:

"[A]lthough felt constraint likely slows down a break up because it reflects a sense that termination would be emotionally or tangibly taxing, it nevertheless predicts termination because it also reflects strong feelings of wanting out."

Bottom line: If you feel like you want out, you probably will get out eventually.

5. You or your partner are dissatisfied with the relationship 

A Norwegian study of thousands of pregnant women and their male partners found that the predictors of a breakup differed between genders.

Specifically, a woman's dissatisfaction with the relationship was a strong predictor that a relationship would end. The 20% of women in the study who reported the lowest relationship satisfaction were three times more likely to experience a breakup than the most satisfied women.

Interestingly, previous studies in the US had found that a man's dissatisfaction is a better predictor of relationship dissolution. The researchers behind the Norwegian study say it's possible that women in Norway in the early 2000s (when the study was conducted) were more independent than women in the US in the 1980s and 1990s — and therefore felt freer to end a dissatisfying relationship.

rollercoaster upside down

6. You have a lot of dramatic downturns in your relationship

Researchers recently looked at nearly 400 dating couples in their mid-20s and used their feedback about their relationships to identify four patterns of commitment: dramatic, conflict-ridden, socially involved, and partner-focused.

As psychologist and relationships expert Gary Lewandowski explains on Science of Relationships, dramatic couples showed a lot of fluctuation in their commitment to their partners over time. Lewandowski writes that they spent more time apart; they had lower opinions of the relationship; and their family and friends were less supportive of the relationship.

Partner-focused couples saw their partners positively and mostly experienced fluctuations in commitment when they couldn't spend as much time together.

Socially involved couples usually experienced fluctuations when their friends and family changed what they thought of the relationship.

Finally, conflict-ridden couples fought often and had a lot of mini-fluctuations in their level of commitment.

As it turns out, dramatic couples were twice as likely to break up than couples in the other three groups, while partner-focused couples were most likely to get more serious in their relationship.

7. You and your partner don't 'bridge' each other's social worlds

In 2013, Business Insider's Jim Edwards reported on somewhat creepy research that found it's possible to see a breakup coming simply by looking at a couple's friend networks on Facebook.

The researchers, from Cornell University and Facebook, looked at a whopping 1.3 million Facebook users who had indicated that they were in a relationship. They were looking specifically at instances when someone's relationship status changed to "single."

Their analysis found that the main predictor of whether two people are in a relationship is whether they have distinct groups of friends who are connected mostly through the couple. (You can see a cool diagram of what this network looks like in Edwards' article.) "You might expect that a cluster of mutual friends indicates two people are in a relationship but the opposite is the case: You're more likely to have cluster of mutual coworkers listing each other as friends than a couple," Edwards wrote.

"A spouse or romantic partner is a bridge between a person's different social worlds," one of the researchers told The New York Times.

When their algorithm failed to pick up this pattern, the couple was about 50% more likely to have broken up 60 days later.

SEE ALSO: 8 signs you're in a strong relationship — even if it doesn't feel like it

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53 of the most eye-catching protest signs we saw at the Women's March on Washington

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WASHINGTON — The Women's March on Washington drew about half a million people, which sources told the New York Times was three times the attendance of President Donald Trump's inauguration the day before.

Marchers from all over the country brought with them a diversity of visual protest — thousands and thousands of signs.

Many lambasted Trump for his demeaning views of women, circa 2005, that The Washington Post exposed in October 2016, namely his view that, as a celebrity, he can "Grab 'em by the p---y. You can do anything."

Others brought up issues related to women's rights, civil rights, and more acute policy issues, such as the Trump administration's positions on environmental conservation and climate change.

Here are just a few dozen signs we photographed among the masses on January 21, 2017.

SEE ALSO: Here's where Trump stands on abortion and other women's health issues

DON'T MISS: Trump's call for a nuclear 'arms race' is the most dangerous thing he's said yet







See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Sonos with Tidal is the best high-end, user-friendly wireless audio setup I've ever used

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Sonos Tidal Review

I spent almost two years researching a new audio setup for my house. By way of background, I don't own any TVs and although we pay for a variety of video-steaming services, I don't watch them all that much (everybody else does, on laptops, tablets, and iPhones).

However, I do listen to a lot of music. Before I moved from Los Angeles a couple of years ago, I had a kind of evolving hybrid old-school/new-school audio setup. At any given time, there was a component hi-fi stereo plus a Wi-Fi streaming rig and of course the car radio. There were CDs and even some survivors from my once-vast vinyl record collection. There were cassette tapes. There were iTunes libraries and a stray iPod or two.

When I came back to New York, I decided to commit to a simple Bluetooth setup. So for a while, it was iPhone + Bluetooth speaker. But it wasn't a very good Bluetooth speaker. I missed the old component configuration I had lugged around for two decades, in the 1980s and 1990s. I realized that I wanted to listen to music and have it sound good.

So began the quest. Fortunately, I wasn't in a hurry. And I had reference points. It boiled down to whether I had in mind a static or dynamic listening experience. Or perhaps better stated as stationary or ambient. 

A key point of reference was my father-in-law's budget audiophile arrangement, with NAD components mated to a pair of excellent Ohm speakers. Good sounds!

But to really enjoy that setup — which I was familiar with from my own systems — you have to commit to sitting in a chair or on a couch, figuring out how to best position the speakers, and in this day and age go for an amplifier-turntable-speakers rig and start rebuilding the vinyl. It's also a wired system, so there are, you know ... wires.

The listening experience is unparalleled, of course. But as I worked through my options, I realized that I don't listen to music that way anymore — unless I'm in a car, where I get to sample no end of multi-speaker, high-end audio systems.

We listen to music holistically, and we want to fill our house with it. So you can probably guess where I'm heading here.

Yep, we took the Sonos plunge. But what an odyssey it was before we finally made that decision!

SEE ALSO: The best audio system I've ever heard in a car also sounds amazing at home

We have a kind of medium-sized, three-story house, with small and medium-sized rooms. Acoustically, the living room or family room is quite good, but it's also not an ideal place in which to locate an elaborate audio system.



We had been making do with a group of Bluetooth speakers. We had some old component systems and some refugee speakers, but they weren't going to work as the main rig.



I used to own about 500 vinyl records. But I sold them and made the switch to digital, not always with great results, audio-wise. So I explored setting up a new, vinyl-centric system.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

This tech company is bringing an AI personal trainer to your headphones

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LifeBEAM photo 2

If you're trying to figure out how best to measure human performance under extreme conditions, the skies are a great place to start.

Not much pushes the body harder than space travel or extreme flight. Successful missions depend on knowing precisely how astronauts and pilots respond to huge physical strain, and that requires a level of real-time biometric tracking way beyond your average heart-rate chest strap. That's where wearable innovator LifeBEAM comes in.

Founded in 2011, the New York-based business has spent years developing cutting-edge solutions that give NASA and the US Air Force mission-critical insights.

LifeBEAM perfected the capture of environmental data like elevation, temperature, and weather — along with more complex biometrics such as oxygen blood level, blood flow, and heart-rate variability — to help inform life-saving in-flight decisions.

Now LifeBEAM has brought its aerospace tech down to Earth, paired it with bleeding-edge artificial intelligence, and created the LifeBEAM Vi (pronounced "Vee"), a Kickstarter-record-breaking fitness wearable.

Why Vi is different

At first glance, Vi looks a lot like a regular set of premium earphones; they're anything but. With a heart-rate monitor, activity tracker, enhanced voice recognition mics, quality headphones, personal music integration, and your personal trainer all in one, Vi is out to revolutionize the way we all get fit.

LifeBeam 2Vicombines highly accurate, aerospace-grade biosensors that measure important vitals — highly accurate heart rate, motion, elevation — with an artificial intelligence engine. The result is the Holy Grail of fitness technology, the first true AI fitness trainer.

Think of Vi as intelligent personalized coaching for people who can't afford a running coach. You get motivational insights, adaptive training advice, and companionship, all based on what the AI learns about your unique goals, physiology, and fitness habits.

After a few runs, Vi's friendly persona offers actionable, coaching tips to help you run better, train more effectively, avoid over training and ultimately reach your goals.

“Fitness and running seemed a brilliant place to start, but we didn't want to just create another piece of hardware," says Omri Yoffe, CEO, LifeBEAM. “We wanted a product that could prove the real potential of AI, connecting people with experiences that had real, meaningful value."

He says one of the biggest challenges was creating a persona that was human, compelling, emotional, and fun. A "creature" who really understands the user and can relay things in the right way.

“That meant 10 months of extensive research, pinpointing not only the right voice, but also the context of when interactions should take place," he says. "The end result is a female voice that's human enough to trust, vulnerable, and even a little random and sarcastic. It's not just a robot."

How Vi works

Every time you run, Vi learns more. Layers of data like heart rate, cadence, elevation, weather, and pace are all used to paint a detailed picture of your current fitness and what's needed to reach any goals you've set.

Let's say you're doing your weekly fast 5k run and Vi spots that your cadence isn't at your usual 180 BPM. She'll ask if you'd like a metronome sound played to encourage the right foot strike rate.

She might spot that your heart rate during a training run is above your norm — a sign that you might be over training or about to get a cold. So, she'll suggest an alternative pace or activity for that day and recalibrate your training plan to reflect this. She can keep you in the right heart-rate zone to burn fat or build speed endurance; spot weather influence on your training; or when you're getting fatigued.

Vi also learns when you're not running. An seven-hour battery life (in full sensors-working mode) means it can be worn all day to collect useful insights when you're not training. For example, the company is currently working on a near future software release (set mid 2017) whereby if you miss a Tuesday training session once, Vi will clock it and adjust your training plan. Miss every Tuesday regularly and she'll stop putting sessions in at that time.

“Vi really listens to the user, better understands who you are, and provides much more personalized insights," says Yoffe. “By improving a person's awareness of their own behaviors, environment, and real-time physiology, she provides an inspiring and truly smarter workout experience."

For more information about Vi, click here.

This post is sponsored by LifeBEAM

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An inside look at the most luxurious airport lounge in New York

A couple who saved $50,000 to travel the world talks earning, spending, and working their way through nearly 50 countries

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The World Pursuit_Hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa

Two weeks before graduating college and leaving for a months-long backpacking trip through Europe, Natasha Alden met someone.

And after two dates, they decided he would go with her.

More than three years later, Alden and Cameron Seagle are still traveling together. They've backpacked Europe, Southeast Asia, and now, they're spending a year driving across Africa.

In all, the 20-somethings have been to about 50 countries. You can follow their adventures through their site, The World Pursuit, and their Instagram.

Below, they told Business Insider how they saved up about $50,000 to fund their travels, why they're driving across a continent, and what it's like to travel the world together.

SEE ALSO: A 31-year-old who's been traveling the world for 5 years explains how she affords it

On that first post-graduation trip abroad, Alden and Seagle met in Norway and traveled together for two months, using money they'd saved from weekend and summer jobs throughout college.

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In Norway. 



Then, Seagle returned home to the US as Alden kept at it. After six months at home, he flew back out to meet her again in Southeast Asia.

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Backpacking through Bangkok, Thailand.



They spent two months together in Asia, then moved to New York City to fill their coffers for longer-term travel.

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At Storm King sculpture park in New York. 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

How to decide where you should retire

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older couple traveling

Let's say you've made all the right financial decisions. You've built up a cushy nest egg, you've managed to pay off the mortgage, and you're ready to kick the 9-to-5 and ease into a very comfortable retirement. Congratulations! You're doing better than most Americans.

But now you face another crucial decision: Where to put down your retirement roots. 

Depending on your passions, health, climate preferences, and family situation, a great city to retire in can take on many forms, says Michael Solari, a certified financial planner with Solari Financial Planning who has expertise in retirement. 

"It’s a personal choice of what’s going to make you happy," Solari told Business Insider. 

How do you know whether a community will make you happy before you get there? Here are the four questions you should ask yourself to discover the perfect place to retire.

1. How do you want to spend your time during the day, now that you're not tied down with work?

It may seem an obvious question, but it's also one of the toughest to answer. "People who are retiring have a very, very hard time visualizing what the heck they're going to do in retirement," Solari says. "[They were] spending 8 to 12 hours a day at work, and now they're trying to fill that void." 

What are your hobbies and interests — what haven't you been able to do that you've always wanted to try? Once you've narrowed this down, finding a place that accommodates your passions will be easier.

For some people that's travel, in which case the precise home location might be less important than proximity to a great airport, like in Denver, Dallas, or San Francisco.

2. How active of a lifestyle do you want to lead?

"I have a lot of clients who are in their late-50s or early-60s, so they're retiring before medicare. They're retirement age, but they're still very active. Look for a community that's going to be active," Solari advises. 

Florida's laid-back vibe works wonders for some, but if you've still got the itch for adrenaline, and a double-black diamond ski slope entices you more than a beach chair and a tiki drink, you may want to look toward the Pacific Northwest — where many of America's most active cities are located.

Solari sang Colorado's praises.

"If you go to Colorado, they have tons of hiking and biking and skiing ... as well as a diverse community you can be involved in."

3. What's your ideal climate?

couple on the beachThe Northeast is a great fit for many retirees, according to Solari, who's based out of New Hampshire. High standards of living are coupled with low crime and access to major metro cities with cultural amenities. But it also means contending with brutal winters, and navigating an icy climate can be a challenge even for the young and spry. 

"People automatically think Florida, but other places that are just as good and offer quite a bit are North and South Carolina," Solari says. "You're not in 80- and 90-degree weather all the time, and it's better than zero degrees up here."

The other benefit to those warm, southern locales: A dollar tends to stretch a lot further, so you can budget more trips to visit your family up North when the frozen tundra has thawed.

"If you're down South, nine times out of 10 you're probably going to be looking at a lower cost of living," Solari says.  

4. How often do you want to see your family?

"Being away from family is an important piece to think about," Solari says.  

Some retirees opt for far-flung homes, expecting to lure children and grandchildren over for frequent visits on the promise of abundant sun and beach access. It doesn't always work out that way, Solari says. He knows from personal experience. 

"My parents are snow birds and they fly to Florida, and they're down in Florida for three or four months. The expectation, at least initially, was that we'd come down a lot. We have one child right now, and as he gets older we'll definitely do the Disney World thing ... but we're not down as often as they had hoped," Solari shared.

If you're the type that doesn't want to miss any seminal family moments — birthdays, graduations, holidays — you may want to take a pass on a permanent home in a far-away state. 

"It's hard and life is busy. So don't have the expectation that [your kids] are going to come twice a year or every year, because sometimes it might just not work out." 

Get out and experiment

This isn't a question, but it's the overarching advice that Solari returns to. A great way to discover the answers to these four questions with certainty is to travel around and test the waters. If you want to spend the hours that you used to spend at work trying out new restaurants and experiencing new food instead, you'll want to give a culturally vibrant place like Portland a visit first to ensure the rainy weather doesn't phase you. 

"I think that's very important: To experience it without jumping all in and putting a down payment on a home," Solari advises. "I tell people to go travel where you've always wanted to be. Feel it out and find a place after a while, once you feel comfortable." 

SEE ALSO: 7 questions to ask yourself before buying a second home

Join the conversation about this story »

15 crazy facts about the outrageous LA mansion that just listed for $250 million

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$250 million bel air house

A new home built on speculation in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles is asking an earth-shattering $250 million.

And it's a doozy. Full of splashy art and high-end furniture, the home is truly unlike any other property on the market. It was built by the luxury developer Bruce Makowsky, whom the release refers to as the "spec king." He was also the mastermind behind the $70 million Beverly Hills house sold to Minecraft founder Markus "Notch" Persson in 2014.

Here are some of the most outrageous facts about the home that, according to a press release from the developer, is the most expensive to ever be listed in the US.

 

SEE ALSO: This outrageous $250 million mansion in LA comes with a 4-lane bowling alley and an entire collection of cars

DON'T MISS: See inside the $5.3 million Washington, DC, home that the Obamas will move into after they leave the White House

1. At $250 million, the home is the most expensive ever offered for sale in the US, according to a press release announcing its listing.



2. It took four years and 250 people to build.



3. It covers 38,000 square feet — that's over 14 times larger than the average new home constructed in the US in 2015.

Source: AEI



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Silicon Valley billionaires are preparing for the apocalypse with motorcycles, guns, and private hideaways

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Vivos Bunker

The Silicon Valley elite may be among the most active — and potentially successful — doomsday preppers, according to a riveting new essay in The New Yorker.

Leaders of industry from Silicon Valley to Wall Street are joining the survivalism movement, The New Yorker's Evan Osnos writes. That list includesSteve Huffman, cofounder and CEO of Reddit; Marvin Liao, a former Yahoo executive and a partner at 500 Startups; and Robert A. Johnson, a managing director of hedge fund Soros Fund Management.

reid hoffman vc vestReid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn and a notable venture capitalist, told the New Yorker he estimates more than 50% of Silicon Valley billionaires have bought some level of "apocalypse insurance," like an underground bunker.

Fortified shelters, built to withstand catastrophic events from viral epidemic to nuclear war, seem to be experiencing a wave of interest in general as hints of a new Cold War ramp up.

But billionaires are channeling their inner Bear Grylls for a number of reasons. Hoffman told The New Yorker that some rich people fear a backlash against Silicon Valley as artificial intelligence takes away an increasing number of jobs from humans. The CEO of a large tech company cited Russian cyberattacks as evidence of risk that the US might fall into disorder.

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Some members of the Silicon Valley elite are wasting no time in preparing for the apocalypse.

Huffman, the Reddit CEO, who lives in San Francisco, bought a couple of motorcycles, guns, and ammo, so that he can "hole up in my house for some amount of time" in case of a disaster. In 2015, he had laser eye surgery because he thought it would improve his odds of surviving.

Antonio García Martínez, a former Facebook product manager who also lives in San Francisco, shelled out for five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest where he can ride out Armageddon in peace. His island home features generators, solar panels, and weaponry.

Liao, of 500 Startups, took archery lessons so he could protect his family.

The Hunger Games 4

In an interview with The New Yorker, Hoffman, the billionaire LinkedIn cofounder, recalled a time when he thought of visiting New Zealand, and a friend asked him if he planned to buy apocalypse insurance. The small island nation has become a top destination for preppers.

"Saying you're 'buying a house in New Zealand' is kind of a wink, wink, say no more. Once you've done the Masonic handshake, they'll be, like, 'Oh, you know, I have a broker who sells old ICBM silos, and they're nuclear-hardened, and they kind of look like they would be interesting to live in,'" Hoffman told The New Yorker.

The New Yorker's Osnos writes that private Facebook groups serve as forums where wealthy survivalists trade tips on the best equipment to buy and locations to hide out in.

Vivos E1 Ventilation Equipment 2

"The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely," Yishan Wong, an early Facebook employee and the former CEO of Reddit, told The New Yorker. "They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this ... is a logical thing to do."

You can read The New Yorker's doomsday prepper story in full here.

SEE ALSO: This luxury condo development featuring 'DEFCON 1 preparedness' is built for the apocalypse

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: These doomsday shelters for the 1% make up the largest private bunker community on earth

The 25 coolest new businesses in New York City

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coolest new businesses in nyc

New York City is known around the world for its diversity in food, culture, shopping, and recreation. But what truly makes it a standout city are the small businesses that bring its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit to life.

We've scoured the city to spotlight some of the coolest small businesses founded within the last three years.

From a pencil collector's paradise to a hip coworking community space to a chromotherapy spa, here are 25 of New York's coolest new businesses:

DON'T MISS: The 50 coolest new businesses in America

App of Joe

Select locations around Manhattan

What it is: An app for scoring $1 coffee around the city.

Why it's cool: Frequent visits to your local coffee shop for a $2 or $3 coffee can add up — especially if you're ditching the commercial chains for indie spots. The folks behind App of Joe, an iOS and Android app that launched in June, offer a membership-free solution: You can order tea and drip coffee for a flat fee of $1 and "fancy drinks" like a latte, macchiato, or cappuccino for $2 from indie coffee shops — currently about 20 — around Manhattan.



Archestratus

160 Huron St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn

What it is: A combination cafe and bookstore that only sells books about food.

Why it's cool: Inspired by her Sicilian grandparents, Paige Lipari, a former rare-books seller, wanted to open a shop that combined her love of books and food. In fall 2013, she opened Archestratus.

The book selection at Archestratus — named after an ancient Sicilian poet — includes cookbooks as well as fiction and nonfiction books inspired by food. Its cafe offers Sicilian-inspired pastries and dishes like rice balls. Archestratus also holds a number of workshops, cooking classes, and other weekly events.



Common

Williamsburg and Crown Heights, Brooklyn

What it is: A co-living community with full amenities.

Why it's cool: Common opened its first shared living space — dorm-style living for working adults — in Crown Heights last fall and has since opened two more locations in Brooklyn as well as one in San Francisco. In the past year, the company has received over 5,000 applicants looking for a room in one of its community-minded residencies.

Rent commonly runs upward of $1,500, though that includes all fees and utilities. The houses also come fully furnished and fit anywhere from 19 to 50 people.

But it's not just about finding a living space — Common encourages its members to build a strong community and get to know their roommates. Each household has member-led events like potlucks, wellness events, and book clubs.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Japan's vending machines tell you a lot about the country's culture

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japan vending machines

Last weekend, I returned from a trip to Japan to help Business Insider launch its latest international edition, Business Insider Japan.

After spending two weeks in Tokyo, one aspect of the city continued to strike me after I returned: the overwhelming abundance of vending machines.

The proliferation of vending machines is impossible to ignore. They are on nearly every block in Tokyo — down alleyways, in front of convenience stores, in areas both residential and commercial.

At slightly over 5 million nationwide, Japan has the highest density of vending machines worldwide. There is approximately 1 vending machine per every 23 people, according to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association. Annual sales total more than $60 billion.

And they are marked by an incredible variety. The machines sell any number of types of soft drinks, coffee, tea, cigarettes, candy, soup, hot food, and even sake and beer.

The pervasiveness and variety of Japan's vending machines isn't an unexplored topic. If there's one thing Americans returning from Japan appear to like to write/read about, it's the wild and strange products sold in vending machines.

Among the first results on a Google search for "Japan vending machines": "12 Japanese vending machines you won't believe exist," "18 things you can buy in Japanese vending machines," "25 things you'll only find in vending machines in Japan," "9 crazy Japanese vending machines," and "The 7 weirdest Japanese vending machines."

What interested me, however, was what the vending machines say about Japan's unique culture. An obvious answer stuck out: Japanese people, and Tokyoites in particular, work a lot and therefore value convenience. But so do New Yorkers, as well as any other number of city-dwellers, and still vending machines are not nearly as popular.

So why are they ubiquitous? Sociologists and economists have offered a few potential answers.

1. The cost of labor

Japan's declining birthrate, aging population, and lack of immigration have contributed to make labor both scarce and costly, according to William A. McEachern, an economics professor at the University of Connecticut. 

In his 2008 book on macroeconomics, McEachern points to Japan's vending machines as a solution to this problem, by eliminating the need for sales clerks.

Robert Parry, an economics lecturer at Japan's Kobe University, also pointed to high labor costs as a reason Japanese retailers have so enthusiastically embraced vending machines in a 1998 essay on the subject

"With spectacular postwar economic growth, labor costs in Japan sky-rocketed ... Vending machines need only a periodic visit from the operator to replenish the supplies and empty the cash," wrote Parry.



2. High population density and expensive real estate

With a population of 127 million people in a country roughly the size of California, Japan is one of the most population-dense countries in the world, particularly when you consider that about 75% of Japan is made up of mountains.

93 percent of the Japanese population lives in cities.

The population density has unsurprisingly led to high real estate prices for decades, forcing city-dwellers to live in apartments that would make New York apartments feel spacious. Though urban land prices dropped during Japan’s economic decline in the 1990s, they’ve gone back up since.

High population density and high real-estate prices has meant that Japanese people don’t have a lot of room to store consumer goods and that Japanese companies would rather stick a vending machine on a street than open up a retail store.

“Vending machines produce more revenue from each square meter of scarce land than a retail store can,” Parry concluded.



3. A lack of crime

Japan has long been known for its exceptionally low homicide rate, but that’s not the only crime statistic in which the country excels. According to a United Nations 2010 crime report, Japan ranks as having one of the lowest robbery rates in the world.

While there has been some debate over why Japan’s crime rate is so low, one thing that is readily obvious is that vandalism and property crime are rare. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, vending machines are “seldom broken or stolen,” despite having tens of thousands yen inside and being frequently housed in dark alleyways or uncrowded streets.

Comparatively, in the US, as Parry writes, “American vending machine companies don’t even consider operating stand-alone, street-side units” due to fears of vandalism and property crime.

In Japan, street-side units are the norm. It doesn't hurt that many vending machines have cameras installed and a direct line to police if any irregularities are reported, like a machine being pried open, according to The Japan Times.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

15 tricks to get a quicker start in the morning

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sleeping dog

You have better things to do than linger in front of your closet deciding which shirt to wear, or race around your house looking for your sunglasses.

And we know it.

So we consulted productivity experts and scoured the internet for the best ways to cut out the silly stuff and save time in your morning routine.

Read on for practical and creative strategies you can use to get out the door faster — starting tonight.

SEE ALSO: 11 things you can do today to get up earlier tomorrow

The night before

Place your alarm clock across the room

This simple strategy comes from Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of books including, most recently, "Better Than Before." That way, you'll have to get up and turn it off, decreasing the temptation to go back to sleep.

Leave your keys, wallet, sunglasses, and cell phone in the same place

Here's another tip from Rubin. You don't want to waste time scrambling to find all your essentials.

Check the next day's forecast

It'll help when you plan your outfit (see below). Plus you'll know about any potential delays — if there's going to be a snowstorm the next morning, you should get out the door sooner than usual.

Decide on your outfit while you brush your teeth before bed

That way, Rubin said, "you don't have to take the time for inner debate in the morning."

If you're traveling, decide exactly how you'll spend your time in the morning

Chris Bailey, author of "The Productivity Project," pinpoints this tip as his favorite strategy for saving time in the morning.

Because he travels a lot, he says, "I unfortunately don't have the ability to carve out a consistent daily routine for myself — but I find that laying out a few intentions for how I'll spend my time the next day helps me accomplish what I want to quicker."

Coordinate schedules with your partner

When he's home, Bailey says, "my girlfriend and I also make sure to tie our morning routines together — so we eat breakfast together, take alternating showers, and hit the gym by a certain time, to start the day off on a more productive note."

Alternatively, you and your partner could stagger your morning routines so you don't end up fighting to get into the closet or use the toaster.

Pack lunch

Prepping lunch for you and/or your family saves time and money — going out for lunch every day costs you about $1,000 each year.

Chug a glass of water before bed

Multiple Quora users recommend drinking water before going to sleep so you have to relieve yourself in the morning.

"After some trial and error, I realized that drinking 300 mL of water before going to bed would wake me up exactly at 7 a.m," one anonymous user writes.

You can do your own experimentation to figure out how much water you need to drink to wake up at the desired time. You'll get the added bonus of hydrating your body, which is important because, according to psychologist and sleep specialist Michael Breus, your body gets dehydrated overnight.

Keep the blinds open while you sleep

It's hard to stay asleep with sunlight streaming across your face, writes Mike Fishbein on Quora. "The sun also reminds our mind and body that it's daytime and that we should be awake and energized."



In the morning

Lay off the 'snooze' button

It's tempting to doze for just a few more minutes, we know.

But as sleep expert Timothy Morgenthaler told Business Insider's Jessica Orwig, "Most sleep specialists think that snooze alarms are not a good idea."

That's partly because, if you fall back into a deep sleep after you hit the snooze button, you're entering a sleep cycle you definitely won't be able to finish. So you'll likely wake up groggy instead of refreshed.

Take a cold shower

Once you're up and out of bed (congrats!), hop into a cool —but not freezing — shower. According to Breus, cool showers are invigorating because they lower your body temperature.

Save the hot showers for the evening, when you'll want to relax your body into sleep.

Don't burn your breakfast

Quora user Christoph Krenn has a creative technique for speeding up his morning routine:

"First thing in the morning, I put some rolls in the oven to heat up right before I head over to the bathroom. When I'm not ready after 10 minutes or so I will burn my breakfast.

"This really motivates me to finish my shower and get dressed quickly. Afterwards I enjoy my rolls with a quick coffee and get ready to leave the house."

Krenn helpfully notes that you'll only want to use foods that don't catch fire quickly.

Have a nutritious breakfast readily available

If you're not into the burnt-rolls thing, keep some healthful breakfast staples on hand. Registered dietitian Lisa DeFazio told Business Insider's Rachel Gillett that solid options include instant oatmeal (fiber!) and smoothies (protein!).

You can always take them on the go if you're running late.



In general

Buy several pairs of the same socks

"So you never have to hunt for a mate," Rubin said.

Wear the same (or almost the same) outfit every day

"Give yourself a work uniform," Rubin said, "so you have very few choices to make when dressing."

Barack Obama says he does it; so does Mark Zuckerberg. The idea is to save time as well as mental energy for the things that really matter.

"You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits," Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012. "I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make."



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Members of a private club for 'elite' millennials want their money back

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With the promise of access to the hottest clubs, most difficult-to-score tickets, and cultural events like Fashion Week and Art Basel, Magnises markets itself as the ultimate social group for "elite" young professionals.

But three years after the company's launch, some members are complaining that the service hasn't delivered on what was advertised.

Business Insider spoke with seven current and former Magnises members, all in New York City, who recounted similar stories of not receiving tickets on the timeline promised, of having to rearrange plans multiple times because of the startup's scheduling snafus, and of trips being canceled outright — sometimes the day before they were scheduled to take place. Several of the members said they received unwanted charges to their credit cards from Magnises, which in some cases took more than a month to refund their money.

Magnises members pay a $250 annual fee that allows them to attend happy hours and other events. The company works with concierges who can arrange restaurant reservations, book travel, or make suggestions for things to do in your city.

Members make all these arrangements through an app called Magnises NOW.

Since its inception in 2014, the New York-based startup has expanded to Washington, DC, and San Francisco. It now has nearly 40,000 members. Though roughly 60% of those members are still in New York, it's a large increase from just 12,000 members in February 2016.

Founder and CEO Billy McFarland said the startup has raised $3.1 million in venture capital since its founding, and it has been cash-flow positive for the past year. It has 25 employees.

According to accounts from current and former members, Magnises' customer-service reps generally blame the company's shortcomings on its being a fast-moving startup that's constantly responding to customers' requests for new features.

"We've hit some roadblocks along the way, and that's what happens when you grow really quickly, and that's on me," McFarland said.

From the beginning, a place to party

When Magnises launched in 2014, operations were based in a West Village townhouse where the company would host parties and networking events. To join, prospective members would fill out an online application that was reviewed by the Magnises team.

"I brought friends to the townhouse for happy hours and that was really fun," said one former member, who wished to remain anonymous. "People worked all across the board — marketing and finance, or they were entrepreneurs. It was definitely a young professional crowd."

Magnises was originally known for a black card that would be linked with a member's bank or credit card for payment purposes. By flashing your Magnises card, you could get discounts at restaurants, bars, or clubs and reserve experiences like private concerts and luxurious getaways.

"We're building a complete platform that connects millennials with new businesses, online and offline. One thing that everyone carries with them at all times is their debit or credit card," McFarland told Business Insider in July 2015. "So we tied it to that." Since then, the company nixed the black cards in favor of the digital app.

Magnises

Magnises moved out of the West Village townhouse and into a penthouse at the Hotel on Rivington. Though it still uses that penthouse space for summer happy-hour events, Magnises bases most of its operations out of the Jue Lan Club in Chelsea. Over the years, the company has offered plans that give members access to everything from coworking facilities to the most exclusive nightclubs in New York.

Last year, Magnises started to shift its focus from a club for networking and happy hours to one that could get its members tickets to the coolest events in town. It started offering hard-to-come-by tickets to concerts by artists like Rick Ross, Ja Rule, and, later, bigger names like Beyoncé, Adele, and Kanye West. Magnises would purchase these tickets from a third-party vendor and resell them to members.

For many of those who decided to join Magnises in the spring and summer of 2016, easy access to these in-demand tickets was a major draw.

"We've sent 5,000 of our members to concerts or shows like 'Hamilton' since May," McFarland recently told Business Insider.

Ticket hiccups

But it seemed as more people signed up for Magnises, it became more difficult for the startup to fulfill its ticket requests.

One former member, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that they bought several tickets for several events — including Beyoncé's concert at Citi Field, one of Adele's shows at Madison Square Garden, and a performance of "Hamilton" — soon after joining Magnises in February 2016. This member claims to have had logistical issues with nearly every event for which they had purchased tickets.

Each time, just before the show (often the day before the event or even the day of) a representative for Magnises would send an email explaining that the startup would no longer be able to provide the purchased ticket and offer to help reschedule the seat for another date.

"They send the same email for every problem, but it's like fill-in-the-blanks for what the problem is," the person said.

Just before Beyoncé's concert at Citi Field in June, the same member said they received the standard email explaining that Magnises would no longer be able to provide the tickets as promised and offered to switch the tickets for a show the following day. After complaining, the member did end up getting tickets to the original show they had planned for, but they were surprised to see that the tickets they were given had someone else's name on them.

According to accounts from several Magnises members, the startup will often try to placate those affected by cancellations by offering them tickets to future events. And though the members we spoke with did say their issues were ultimately resolved, it was often only after days of rescheduling and back-and-forth with the company. Three of the former members we spoke with said they were asked to delete negative tweets by customer service reps who explained the mix-ups by saying that Magnises was still a startup working out the kinks of its business.

Problems escalated last year when Magnises started promoting tickets to "Hamilton" online and through its concierge app.

"Signing up for it was seamless. I bought four tickets for an October show," Pearce Delisle, a former Magnises member, told Business Insider. "I checked in [with Magnises] multiple times to confirm where the seats were and if they were together. They told me they couldn't confirm the seats until the day of. The friend who I had bought the tickets with had moved away, so they needed to fly in.

"Two days before the show I got the email to cancel," Delisle said.

Magnises' terms of service do warn about the possibility of cancellations: "All tickets for concerts, shows, and sporting events purchased through Magnises are subject to availability. Magnises cannot guarantee that groups of two or more will be seated together ... Magnises is not liable for the cost of travel arrangements or accommodations made as a result of ticket purchases. Tickets may be canceled and the cost refunded in full up to 10 days before the ticketed events, after which time all sales are final." 

Several members have said that the point of paying $250 for an annual membership is to bypass the challenges that consumers sometimes face in gaining access to popular events. Some said their tickets have been rescheduled two or three times as a result of various problems Magnises encountered in planning. 

Delisle, for example, had to reschedule his October tickets for a December showing of "Hamilton," so the friend who needed to fly in for it rescheduled his flight. The day before the show, Delisle received an email that was nearly identical to the first, saying that Magnises would no longer be able to provide the four tickets he had purchased (for a total of $1,200). 

"The whole value proposition is providing access to these events and twice they failed to deliver," Delisle said.

He rescheduled his tickets for a third time and made plans for his friend to visit for the show on January 6. By 3 p.m. on the day of the show, he had yet to receive his tickets from Magnises, which said it would send his tickets by email to print out. After waiting at a FedEx location for an hour, Delisle was told his tickets would be at the theater's will call. When he went to the theater, the tickets weren't there.

The Magnises concierge then helped coordinate a drop-off at the restaurant where Delisle would be eating dinner just before the show.

"I did have a good experience talking with the VP of customer service at that point," Delisle said. "She was very professional and sympathetic and said, 'We'll prioritize yours.'

"It's just so stressful because once you start involving other people, the pressure is on you to deliver." 

Delisle did end up enjoying the show, as did fellow member Victoria Reitano, the founder and CEO of the social media marketing agency CreatiVix Media

"I will say they were a little scattered," Reitano said. "But the tickets were great seats, and it was a great experience." 

McFarland, for his part, doesn't seem thrilled with the way the ticket service has worked out for his customers. While he said that most of the ticket sales have been a success, he still wants to make things right for those who have had a bad experience, which he said is about 5% of members.

"Our system was amazing when we had 18,000 members or 20,000 members, but once we got up to 40,000, we ran into some roadblocks scaling with our vendor," he told Business Insider. "We need to figure out a better relationship so that we can get to what we promised. We're having growing pains and it's tough, and we have to get through it." 

Going abroad

At the same time customers were experiencing issues with Magnises' ticket vendors, the startup was advertising even more special deals for members.

Two years ago it launched a feature called Magnises Air, which was primarily focused on shuttling members from New York City to the Hamptons on SR-22 planes. McFarland said that 175 of these flights between Manhattan and the East End have taken place.

But last July, Magnises started advertising a new set of private flights, most of which would take members much farther than the Hamptons.

"Introducing Magnises Air: All Access — serving private flights to and from six of the most exciting experiences of the year. Flights are $1,650 each or any four for $4,000," the email read. "You'll be traveling in the SR-22, aka the 'Ferrari of the Sky.' Its size and versatility allow us to access hard-to-reach locations and smaller airports closer to your destination."

cirrus sr 22

According to the promotional email, private flights would be offered to six destinations: New Orleans for a Ja Rule and Ashanti concert, Cuba for Columbus Day weekend, the Outer Banks for a weekend of kitesurfing, Miami for Art Basel, Lake Placid for a weekend of skiing, and a trip for NBA All-Star weekend.

Robert Egan, a former Magnises member who works in private wealth management, decided it was a good enough deal to buy two tickets for two different trips: to Cuba in October and to Miami for Art Basel in December. The four tickets totaled $4,000. Egan said it took several months for Magnises to charge his credit card.

"When they did finally charge me, there were no details at all about the trip — where we were flying to exactly, where we would meet, or anything like that," Egan said. "It was one week before the trip to Cuba, and I still had no information. But then we get an email that the trip was canceled because of Hurricane Matthew, and that it would be rescheduled for the same weekend as the Art Basel trip. They said it wasn't deliberate, and they refunded my $2,000 for the Miami trip within 24 hours."

Then, a month before the trip, Egan said he received an itinerary so detailed that he stopped asking questions about the logistics of the flights. According to the itinerary, the Magnises group would visit the Parque Morro, tour Ernest Hemingway's home, and explore the Viñales Valley by Jeep. 

But then, the day before the rescheduled Cuba trip was set to take place, Egan received another email that the trip would be rescheduled yet again, this time because Cuba was in a mourning period after Fidel Castro's death. A representative for Magnises told Egan that there was no travel allowed to Cuba at all during that period.

"I called them out on it, since I knew people who were going to Cuba that week. I told them, 'For me to believe you that this trip was actually going to happen, send me a copy of our visas, or even our visa applications. There should be some kind paper trail,'" Egan said. "And they said, 'We'll provide you with confirmation when it's rescheduled.'"

Around the same time, Magnises charged Egan $250 to renew his membership for the following year, even though it was December, and his membership would not have reached the one-year mark until February.

"That's when I lost it. They said the refunding would take 10 days. I work in finance, and I know no transaction that small would take that long. I reported it to AmEx, and they immediately credited my account," Egan said.

According to The New York Times, it's common practice for organizations planning travel to Cuba to provide those in the group with the necessary tourist cards. When asked whether the paperwork for the Magnises group to visit Cuba had indeed been completed, McFarland told Business Insider, "Yes, the visas exist. We work with a travel-guide company who gets the visas for us."

Magnises did end up refunding all of Egan's money, though the membership-renewal charge took nearly a month to get back. The startup's website is still promoting private flights to Miami and the Bahamas for 2017.  

magnisees

McFarland explained that the trips are being arranged by several Magnises members who are pilots and operate their own planes.

"The Cuba trip is going to happen," he said. "It's in the members' hands now. They just have a list of dates they have to pick."

Early charging of renewal fees

Another member, Elise Omaits, ended up filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau after Magnises charged her five months early to renew her membership. She didn't receive a refund until a month after contesting the charge with Magnises. Three other former members Business Insider spoke with reported similar experiences.

"I basically wasn't planning to renew because it wasn't really my flavor," Omaits told Business Insider. "Two hundred and fifty dollars is a lot for me — it's basically an entire month's budget of going out. Plus, this was right before Christmas. I'm mad because I didn't feel like I had the great experience that was advertised to me."

In a follow-up call, Magnises told her that about 100 people were affected by early charges because of a problem with Stripe, the payments system that the startup uses to process its memberships. Magnises' customer-service team requested that Omaits take down her Better Business Bureau complaint and added that the startup is growing is so quickly that it didn't have the time to offer proper apologies to each of its members.

The Better Business Bureau lists three resolved complaints on Magnises' profile from the past year.

The startup's terms of service do include a section about membership fees. It reads: "Unless a cancellation request is made ahead of your renewal date, the annual fee, subject to change, will recur in the last week of the month prior to your renewal month. There is no year-to-year cancellation fee."

McFarland blamed the error on technical difficulties: "We've been slowly switching our processors over the last few months since we've grown. We're growing super fast, and we fix things when they go wrong."

What's next

Despite the hiccups it has faced, Magnises continues to expand the perks it offers members. In December it launched SportsPass, which offers members lower-level tickets for events at the Barclays Center, including Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders games. It recently announced a partnership with Glam & Go, which aims to give members discounted pricing on blowouts as well as other wellness perks like discounts at Cyc Fitness and personal training at Equinox.

Its planned events in December included a shopping experience with Shinola, and McFarland said the team is working with Lululemon on what he described as a wellness kickoff to 2017.

"Our general theme now is how we can impact the member on a daily basis," McFarland said.

Of course not all services offered by Magnises have caused headaches for members. Reitano, for example, has attended a number of the startup's free events, and Delisle did use Magnises' concierge service to book restaurant reservations. But he said that Magnises typically uses the booking app Resy to make these reservations, and even asked Delisle for his login information so they could do it for him.

"There's really no added value there," he said.

If you have a story to share about Magnises, email life@businessinsider.com.

SEE ALSO: The fabulous life of Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, the world's youngest self-made billionaire

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NOW WATCH: Millennials are paying $40 a night to live in these tiny 'pods'

These are the 40 most eligible people in New York City, according to dating app Hinge

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One thing New York City never gets accused of is being a place where people are too eager to settle down.

Still, for many New Yorkers, life eventually reaches a point where the time comes for a more serious relationship. And dating app Hinge, which has gone through some changes of its own, wants to help.

Hinge, which initially existed as a Tinder for your friends-of-friends, launched a new app in late 2016 that is supposed to focus more on relationships (versus hookups). That means less swiping, a more social media vibe, and a $7-a-month fee for the full feature set.

To show off the new app's potential, Hinge has put together a list of the 40 most eligible people in New York City. Hinge based the list on how much interest each person's profiles received, coupled with success in career and formal education.

Here are the top 40 singles in New York City, according to Hinge:

SEE ALSO: These are the Ivy League schools with the most attractive people, according to Tinder

No. 40: Tyler McCaine

Work: Analyst at HFF  

Education: Colgate University 

Hometown: Westchester, NY

Neighborhood: Flatiron District

Meet him on Hinge



No. 39: Nicole Diamond

Work: Manager, Global Special Events at Ralph Lauren  

Education: University of Miami 

Hometown: Brookville, NY

Neighborhood: Chelsea

Meet her on Hinge



No. 38: Josh Shapiro

Work: JPMorgan Chase   

Education: Colgate University 

Hometown: New York, NY

Neighborhood: Lincoln Square

Meet him on Hinge



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The Trumps' family church explains everything you need to know about Donald

Nearly 500,000 people marched on Washington for women's rights — here's what it was like to join the crowd

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WASHINGTON — Nearly half a million people showed up to the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017, making it one of the largest demonstrations in US history.

I was one of the tiny specks in aerial photos, which helped estimate the crowd at 485,000 souls, and the experience was unlike any other in my life.

To be clear, I'm not a woman; I'm a white, heterosexual, cisgender man who's also a husband, father, photographer, and journalist — and I recognize the many privileges that American society affords me. (If you want to read a woman's perspective on attending the march, a story by my talented colleague Leanna Garfield is a great place to start.)

I also support women's rights, among other egalitarian causes I saw on thousands of signs during the march, and contemplated walking alongside my wife and baby daughter in support and solidarity.

However, I felt it important to go as an observer and document some of the myriad marchers and their convictions.

Here's what I saw and heard at the Women's March on Washington.

SEE ALSO: 'Grab America Back': The most eye-catching protest signs we saw at the Women's March on Washington

DON'T MISS: This chart shows which stage of fetal development a new Ohio law will ban abortions

Train tickets costed an arm and a leg, so my wife, daughter, and I drove to Washington DC on Friday, January 20. We somehow avoided gridlock traffic on account of President Donald Trump's inauguration.



Hotels were also expensive, so we stayed with a relative in Arlington, Virginia — just west of the Potomac River. As we settled in, we watched coverage of the inauguration, parade, and related events.



It was more than a little concerning for us to see reports of protesters throwing rocks at police ...

Source: Reuters/Business Insider



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