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Why getting drunk is so important in Japanese business relations


japan drunk

Sharing meals is a meaningful tool for trust building in nearly all cultures. But in some cultures, sharing drinks — particularly alcoholic drinks — is equally important.

I once conducted a training program for a German couple moving to Japan, assisted by Hiroki, a wise and entertaining Japanese culture specialist. The German asked Hiroki how to get his Japanese colleagues to tell him what was really going on: "They are so formal and quiet. I worry if I am not able to build the necessary trust, I won't get the information I need from them."

Hiroki thought quietly for a moment and then responded with only a small trace of humor in his eyes: "Best strategy is to drink with them."

"To drink?" the German client questioned.

"Yes, drink until you fall down."

When Hiroki said this, I thought back to my first-ever ride in the Tokyo metro, when I saw several groups of Japanese businessmen stumbling through the station as they traveled home after a long evening of well-lubricated socializing. I now realized they were following Hiroki's advice — quite literally.

If you look at Japan on the Trusting scale, you will see that it is a relationship-based culture, though not as far to the right as China or India. During the day, the Japanese generally take a task-based approach — but the relationship building that happens in the evening can be critical to business success.

In Japanese culture, where group-harmony and avoiding open conflict are overriding goals, drinking provides an opportunity to let down your hair and express your real thoughts. Drinking is a great platform for sharing your true inner feelings (what are called honne rather than tatemae feelings) as well as for recognizing where bad feelings or conflict might be brewing and to strive to address them before they turn to problems. Under no circumstances should the discussions of the night before be mentioned the next day. Drinking alcohol is therefore an important Japanese bonding ritual not only with clients, but also within one's own team.

Many Japanese use drinking to forge connections, as captured by the bilingual expression nomunication, stemming from the Japanese verb nomu ("to drink"). Japanese salespeople frequently woo their clients over drinks, knowing that although explicit deal making is never done during this type of socializing, a deal is rarely won with- out it. Of course, drinking to build trust is not just a Japanese custom. Across East Asia, whether you are working in China, Thailand, or Korea, doing a substantial amount of drinking with customers and collaborators is a common step in the trust-building process.

Many people from task-based cultures don't get it. "Why would I risk making a fool of myself in front of the very people I need to impress?" they wonder. But that is exactly the point. When you share a round of drinks with a business partner, you show that person you have nothing to hide. And when they "drink until they fall down" with you, they show you that they are willing to let their guard down completely. "Don't worry about looking stupid," Hiroki reassured our German manager, who had begun wringing his hands nervously. "The more you are willing to remove social barriers in the evening, the more they will see you as trustworthy."

Alcohol is not the only way to build a business relationship. If you don't drink, you can certainly find other ways to partake in the fun; in Japan, a round of karaoke or a trip to the spa can do wonders. And in Arab cultures, where alcohol is avoided, you can forget beer and relax instead over a cup of tea.

This excerpt adapted with permission from "The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business" (2014) by INSEAD professor Erin Meyer, from PublicAffairs.

SEE ALSO: The truth about British irony, Americans on planes, and Russia's attitude toward leadership

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NOW WATCH: 14 things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do

Take a tour of the luxurious Italian villa where the Obamas are reportedly vacationing



The Obamas have been vacationing in plenty of amazing destinations since the 44th president left office in January. From Richard Branson's private Necker Island to Marlon Brando's former hideaway in Tahiti, it's been mostly tropical.

After a stop in Milan, Italy, for a sold-out speech on climate change, the former president is reportedly making his way to the Tuscan countryside. According to La Repubblica, Obama is heading to Borgo Finocchieto, a luxurious hilltop villa in Buonconvento, where he will be joined by his wife, Michelle. 

Ahead, take a look around Borgo Finocchieto. 

SEE ALSO: A photographer spent 25 years documenting rich people — here's what she learned

Borgo Finocchieto is a private village made up of five houses that can house up to 44 guests.

It sits on a property of six acres.

The village's long history goes back to 1318, but by the 1980s, it was abandoned.

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Bill Gates tweeted out some advice for new college grads — here's what he had to say


bill gates harvard commencement

Bill Gates took to Twitter this morning to offer some words of wisdom to the class of 2017.

Here's what he had to say: 

SEE ALSO: This is the 'safest' age to give your child a smartphone, according to Bill Gates

Like most good commencement speakers, he started out with some levity.

But he made a quick pivot and shared an interesting piece of information: The field he would pursue if he were just beginning his career in 2017.

Gates, who dropped out of Harvard University after his sophomore year, said there are a number of things he wishes he had known when he left.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

One of the rarest watches in the world just sold for $5 million and became the most expensive Rolex ever


Rolex Bao Dai

An exceptionally rare and unique Rolex watch just became the most expensive ever sold.

Known as the "Bao Dai" watch, this piece was sold to the last emperor of the Nguyen dynasty in Vietnam in 1954.

It just sold for over $5 million at auction at Phillips in Geneva. The buyer has not been identified

The Bao Dai is a Rolex reference 6062 — the most expensive and rarest watch model the brand sold at the time it was made. The gold case and black dial were the rarest configuration of the 6062 model.

Only three models to this specification are known to have existed, according to Hodinkee. This particular model is the only one to have had diamond markers on the even hours, making it completely unique and unlike every other watch in the world.

It was sold by the Nguyen family for $235,000 in 2002, meaning that the watch has only changed hands once. Though that price may seem low compared to today's standards, it was also the most expensive Rolex ever sold at the time.

While the watch's auction estimate was only $1.5 million, collectors expected it to go for much more than that. 

The Bao Dai handily beat the previous record holder, the Rolex split-seconds chronograph reference 4113, which sold for $2.5 million last year.

SEE ALSO: You can now bid on Rolex watches on 'the stock market of things'

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NOW WATCH: These are the watches worn by some of the most powerful men in finance

11 things you think are healthier than they really are


granola bowl

A lot of what's in your grocery's "health foods" aisle doesn't really belong.

In fact, many of the products we've come to associate with health are only categorized this way thanks to a combination of good timing and clever advertising.

Here's a look at a few products you might assume are good for you that really aren't so healthy.

SEE ALSO: 16 facts that show why bottled water is one of the biggest scams of the century

DON'T MISS: Juice is the biggest con of your life, whether it's squeezed by hand or a $400 machine


The problem: Juice has been portrayed as a healthy addition to any meal, but that ignores the fact that juicing removes the fiber in fruit, the key ingredient that keeps you feeling full until your next meal. As a result, you get a high-sugar, low-protein beverage that would be better swapped with water.

How it happened: Shortly after biochemist Elmer McCollum gained notoriety by warning against the dangers of vitamin deficiency, the California Fruit Growers Exchange created a campaign painting orange juice as the easiest way to get these nutrients.


The problem: Many popular cereals are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates (the stuff that gives you quick energy but can lead to later mood swings and hunger pangs) but very low in protein (which keeps you feeling full and helps strengthen muscles). Not exactly the best way to start the school day.

How it happened: It all started with Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, writes Jaya Saxena for Serious Eats. Kellogg, of Kellogg cereal, was a Seventh-day Adventist health resort manager who encouraged his followers to avoid meat in favor of yogurt, nuts, and grains. C.W. Post of Post cereal was a former client of Kellogg's.


The problem: Close to half of American adults take vitamins every day. Yet decades' worth of research hasn't found any justification for them, so long as we eat a balanced diet. Studies also suggest getting vitamins from food makes them easier to absorb and are less risky than pills.

How it happened: Biochemist Elmer McCollum warned against vitamin-deficient diets in the 1920s, and juice companies as well as vitamin manufacturers hopped on the bandwagon to peddle their products.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The 9 biggest misconceptions everyone has about cologne and perfume


Spraying money 4x3

Fragrance is incredibly misunderstood.

Even the name confuses people. Many think cologne is for men and perfume is for women, but those terms merely refer to the concentration of scent oils in the fragrance, which is itself the basic, gender-neutral term.

There are many other misconceptions, so we decided, with the help of fragrance expert Marlen Harrison, Art of Manliness, and Fragrance.net, to bust as many as we could with helpful graphics.

Go forth and smell better.

SEE ALSO: Yes, cargo shorts really are that bad — here's what you should wear instead

BI Graphics_Stored in bathroom

While fragrance never "goes bad," it will start to smell differently than the perfumer intended.

BI Graphics_Paper and skin

It's actually impossible to tell by sniffing a piece of paper how a fragrance will smell when mixed on your skin. Additionally, a fragrance can and will smell slightly differently on different people's skin.

BI Graphics_Scent cloud

Apply to naturally warmer body areas like your neck and chest, as this will allow the scent to dissipate evenly throughout the day. Cardinal rule: Don't overdo it.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

This abandoned Disney water park has been rotting for over 15 years


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When Disney River Country opened in 1976, visitors flocked to Orange County, Florida, to ride the winding slides and traverse the wooden bridges.

The park closed down 25 years later. After leaving the park empty and abandoned for 15 years, Disney finally drained and filled River Country's 330,000-gallon pool in 2016.

As the Orlando Sentinel reported, the Upstream Plunge pool was filled with concrete, since standing water can attract mosquitoes — a growing concern because of the Zika virus. Disney said that the work was not related to Zika and that it didn't plan to reopen the long-closed park, the rest of which is still decaying.

A Cleveland-based photographer who works under the pseudonym Seph Lawless documented the abandoned park in his photo series "Dismaland." (This is also the name of Banksy's 2015 art exhibition, a fake apocalyptic theme park near Bristol, England.)

Lawless captured ghostly portraits of the once busy attraction. Take a look.

SEE ALSO: The National Park Service turns 100 today — and Obama just protected 87,000 acres of Maine land

River Country in Orange County, Florida, was Walt Disney World's first water park.

It is one of just two Disney parks, along with Discovery Island in Orange County, to close permanently. Both parks were left to deteriorate.

Lawless took about 150 photos of the decaying park, he tells Business Insider.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

San Francisco is so expensive, the city is spending $44 million so its teachers won't be homeless


brightworks maker school 4685

San Francisco teachers are some of the worst-paid educators in the state, despite living in what is by far the most expensive rental market in California, according to an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2016.

Now the city is ponying up $44 million for San Francisco's first teacher housing development, so public school teachers can afford to live in the city where they work.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee picked a site in the Outer Sunset and committed the money to bulldoze the existing property and build 130 to 150 rental units of teacher housing. The apartments — which will likely be priced below market rates — could be move-in ready by 2022, the Chronicle reported.

The announcement comes days after the Chronicle published a profile on Etoria Cheeks, a math teacher at a San Francisco public high school who is homeless. Despite having a master's degree and making about $65,000 a year, Cheeks lost her home in a foreclosure in December and has bounced between hostels, a homeless shelter, and a retired teacher's guest room since.

The average rent of a one-bedroom in San Francisco tops $3,300 a month. That figure has been steadily rising over the last six months, according to real-estate search engine Rent Jungle.

Teachers like Cheeks are struggling. Some teachers rent cramped spaces in other people's homes, drive for Uber, or commute from the far reaches of the East Bay, the Chronicle reports.

The mayor's proposal still requires the support of the city school district and the Board of Education to inch the project forward.

san francisco painted ladies housing

San Francisco is not the first city to consider such a measure. School districts in cities including Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Asheville, North Carolina, have built teacher housing facilities to help educators stay put. These developments are often small and unable to accommodate everyone who wants a spot, however.

A public school district in Los Angeles created three below-market-rate apartment complexes for teachers — more than any other district in the state. But not a single tenent is a teacher. The teachers made too much money to qualify for the units under federal rules, so the lower-earning district employees, including cafeteria workers and school bus drivers, scooped them up.

A highly publicized mixed-use development in Newark, New Jersey, brings the schools to the teachers. The project contains three charter schools, 65,000 square feet of retail space, and more than 200 apartments, which the developer leases with preference for educators. More than half of the residential units at Newark's Teachers Village have been completed, and 70% of those are occupied by teachers and other educators, according to NJ.com.

The teacher housing solution in San Francisco is long overdue, according to Mayor Lee.

"I am disturbed as anyone to have a teacher who's homeless," Lee told the Chronicle.

SEE ALSO: San Francisco is considering a once unthinkable measure to offset the threat of job-killing robots

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Only in San Francisco — inside the 232-square-foot micro apartment that sold for nearly $425,000

A cocktail that was forgotten for almost 50 years is suddenly taking over city bars


eben klemm

When it comes to cocktails, Americans' tastes have evolved quite a bit over the last decade.

Few people know this better than Eben Klemm, a scientist turned mixologist who curates cocktails for New York's Knickerbocker Hotel. He also collaborates with various restaurants and bars — like Le Diplomate and Uptown Brasserie — through his consulting company, Cane & Maple.

According to Klemm, drinkers aren't sticking to sweet concoctions anymore.

He said there has been "a general movement" toward "acceptance of strong, complex, and bittersweet drinks."

"Almost any place I put them on the menu, they're one of the top sellers," he said.

By strong and bittersweet, Klemm means the Old Fashioned and, to a lesser extent, the Negroni.

"Any decent bar or restaurant in almost any city in this country now can and will sell Negronis and Old Fashioneds," he said. "These were unsellable a decade ago."

The Old Fashioned was popular in the 1960s, but it was nearly forgotten as the years passed. But Klemm says an evolving drinking culture gave rise to new bars with inventive, imaginative cocktail lists — even the most basic of bars have added cocktail menus.

"The ubiquity of good cocktail menus has kind of made everyone more aware of good cocktails. If you walk into a cocktail bar and see a menu item with 20 ingredients on it ... the Old Fashioned is the safe space. They recognize it," Klemm said. "People will order things that they know because they will understand the flavor profile of it, more or less."

In a survey of 100 bars in 2016, Drinks International magazine found that three-quarters of bartenders ranked the Old Fashioned among their top 10 best-sellers, while a quarter said it was their No. 1 best-seller. The Negroni, a similarly strong and bitter cocktail, came in second.

old fashioned cocktail

That doesn't mean there isn't room for creativity, however.

"The Old Fashioned is, by definition, not a specific cocktail, but a collection of ideas," Klemm said. "I've put spins on it that are definitely unique."

Klemm also said more people have begun to enjoy high-quality liquors, especially whiskey. A cocktail that's stirred, like the Old Fashioned, lends itself to that enjoyment, he said.

"Stirring shows off alcohol better. If you're spending on brands, it tends to bring appreciation more," he said. "If you're shaking up a spirit with juice, you have sort of diminishing returns in terms of recognizing the spirit used in it.

"The only thing that's going to slow down the enjoyment of whiskey is the availability of whiskey."

If you want to make an Old Fashioned at home, here's one recipe to try:

Old Fashioned

SEE ALSO: There's a 'secret society' of wine experts that meets every Tuesday morning to drink at the world's best restaurant

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here's how to make the perfect Old Fashioned cocktail

IKEA is building micro-apartments for employees that are like an IKEA catalogue come to life


IKEA employees happy clapping

In the summer of 2017, IKEA employees living in Reykjavik, Iceland may come home to apartments that look just like the retailer they left.

The Swedish furniture giant announced in April that it is building housing for a lucky few employees so that they have an affordable place to live near work. The 34-unit apartment building will be partially furnished with products straight from the IKEA showroom, and will be located within walking distance of the IKEA store in Reykjavik.

Thor Aevarsson, country manager of IKEA Iceland, tells Business Insider that the apartments will be tiny, ranging from 269 square feet to 613 square feet.

"Since IKEA is the king of small-space living, we decided to walk the talk and show people that we could replicate the small apartments that you will see in any IKEA store [around] the world," Aevarsson said.

The company is putting its interior designers to work creating the apartments, each of which will feature a full kitchen, living room, balcony, and a washer and dryer. Most units will be fully furnished with IKEA furniture, except a few to serve those who already have their own stuff.

"Our interior designers have gotten the challenge of making sure that no two apartments will be the same," said Aevarsson, adding that the paint colors, flooring, lighting fixtures, and furniture will vary in each apartment. "The total look and final result should speak strong IKEA language."

ikea iceland apartment employee housing 2

The cost of buying or renting a home in Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital, has skyrocketed in the last several years. Thanks in part to a boom in tourism, property prices shot up 14% in 2016. The red-hot housing market has made it difficult for some IKEA employees to find decent accommodations at reasonable prices, according to Aevarsson.

Most Icelandic employees live within one hour of travel from the store. But many of them share small spaces with large groups of people, Aeversson said. Some live in housing originally built for commercial or light industry facilities and are located in non-residential areas.

The three dozen units at IKEA's apartment will go for as little as 100,000 krona ($889) a month, which is little more than half the average rental price for a one-bedroom flat in Reykjavik's city center, BBC reports.


The company is able to price the apartments below market rate in part because they are so small. Aevarsson said he hopes the apartments, which he calls high-end even though IKEA makes budget furniture, will inspire other housing developers to embrace the micro-apartment movement.

"We have set the benchmark high for others to follow, which hopefully leads to a higher standard of housing," he said.

The news comes on the heels of a highly publicized investigation from BBC in March that found truck drivers moving goods in Western Europe for IKEA are living out of their cabs for months at a time. The drivers worked for subcontractors, rather than the furniture company itself, and were paid well below the minimum wage in many of the European countries where they drove.

Aevarsson sees affordable housing as a no-brainer for the company.

"As in any IKEA business, our coworkers are our most important asset," Aevarsson said. "If you have happy coworkers and low staff turnover, half the battle is already won. Proper housing, being one of life's core essentials, plays a major role there."

SEE ALSO: The 12 most popular IKEA products of all time

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: IKEA is making their furniture even easier to put together

Here's what a typical day is like at the New York Stock Exchange, which turns 225 years old this week


New York Stock Exchange

There are few places as important to American business as the New York Stock Exchange. 

The exchange is celebrating its 225th anniversary this week, and a multimillion-dollar renovation completed in February pays homage to its past in every conference room. Walking around the exchange's many rooms above the trading floor, you'll see historical artifacts like a signed letter from Thomas Edison, a gift from Czar Nicholas II of Russia, and a signed guitar from Jimmy Page. 

We recently took a tour of the stock exchange floor and its newly renovated rooms to see what a typical day is like inside the New York Stock Exchange. 

SEE ALSO: A look inside Twitter's New York office, where employees enjoy rosé on tap, a basement café, and a fully-stocked kitchen run by a top chef

California-based real estate development company Five Point Holdings held its IPO on the morning of our visit. Excitement filled the floor as the opening bell rang and the executive team cheered.

After the bell, traders worked during the price discovery process on the exchange floor.

Just behind that commotion, CNBC anchors were on set for "Squawk on the Street."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Shake Shack will soon serve breakfast at its original NYC location — here's what it's like


Shake Shack Breakfast Menu 3

Shake Shack will start serving breakfast at its original Madison Square Park location, Gothamist reports.

Starting May 22, the burger joint will serve its breakfast menu from 7:30-10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8:30-10:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

According to Gothamist, in addition to its three egg sandwiches, Shake Shack's original burger stand will also serve coffee cake and apple turnovers, which we have yet to try.

We have, however, sampled the rest of Shake Shack's breakfast menu. Here's what it's like.  

SEE ALSO: A definitive ranking of everything on Chick-fil-A's breakfast menu

The Shake Shack breakfast sandwich menu is small and simple: sausage, egg and cheese sandwich; bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich; and an egg and cheese sandwich. You can order one or two eggs on each, with two eggs costing a little extra.

First off, the egg and cheese. Perhaps the most humble of all breakfast sandwiches, the egg and cheese holds no pretense or airs — it merely... is. I notice that the bun is just that: a bun. Using the classic potato bun also used on the burgers and chicken sandwiches is an interesting move.

And it ends up being a good move, at that — the soft potato bun translates to breakfast flavors remarkably well. One bite in, and one immediately realizes that this is a step above any normal fast-food breakfast sandwich. The fried egg is real — that's right, a real egg, no glutinous swatch of pale yellow. The yolk reaches the sweet spot between runny and firm, and the cheese is rich and velvety.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The 10 hottest neighborhoods in America for 2017


Eliot Oregon

Move over, New York and San Francisco.

Real estate company Redfin recently released its list of the hottest neighborhoods of 2017, and locales in city-adjacent towns such as Oakland, California, and Bellevue, Washington, dominated over their urban counterparts.

The ranking looked at neighborhoods that experts expect to become up-and-coming hotspots, and highlights a growing trend: Homebuyers want the amenities of both suburban and city life. They're looking for big, renovated houses minus the price tag a place in the heart of a major city would bring. 

"While many of 2017's hottest neighborhoods come with longer commutes, Redfin agents say they offer homebuyers the best balance of everything: quick access to public transit, trendy shopping and dining options, plus larger move-in ready homes with charm and price tags that are a little easier to bear," the report states.

To predict what will be the hottest neighborhoods of 2017, Redfin measured neighborhood growth by analyzing the number of pageviews from visitors to Redfin.com and the number of homes favorited by users on the site. Redfin also consulted local agents to confirm which areas are heating up in popularity. 

From turn-of-the-century homes outside New Orleans to Silicon Valley-adjacent pads in Sunnyvale, California, read on to see the hottest neighborhoods for 2017.

SEE ALSO: The 25 most expensive ZIP codes in America

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10. Tremé — New Orleans

Median sale price: $199,200

Median number of days on the market: 261

Average sale-to-list percentage: 89.3%

Redfin agent Caren Morgan says:

"Tremé is definitely becoming an 'it' place in New Orleans. It's right on the border of the French Quarter, but somewhat less expensive and historically not as trendy. The neighborhood boasts a lot of turn-of-the-century homes with beautiful architectural details, which are generally very popular, especially among out-of-state buyers."

9. Greenfield — Aurora, Colorado

Median sale price: $455,000

Median number of days on the market: 42

Average sale-to-list percentage: 97.6%

Redfin agent Stephanie Collins says:

"Greenfield has a community pool, a playground, tennis courts, a fishing pond and many trails for people wanting the outdoor, active Colorado lifestyle. Located in the highly rated Cherry Creek School district, it's a prime location — just five minutes away from the Southlands Mall District, with its retailers, movie theater and many restaurant options."

8. Hollywood Park — Sacramento, California

Median sale price: $345,000

Median number of days on the market: 9

Average sale-to-list percentage: 100.2%

Redfin agent Matt Jones says:

"As people get priced out of other neighborhoods near city center, I've seen an increase in interest in Hollywood Park in particular. It's one of the few neighborhoods that's in really close proximity to downtown and yet still has some affordable homes available. A lot of the buyers I've worked with appreciate the unique older homes there and they are willing to sacrifice certain other amenities (like higher Walk Score ratings) in order to have charming homes with character that are still affordable and just a ten minute commute to some of the hippest areas in Sacramento."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

I was so excited, and so disappointed, by Google Home (GOOG, GOOGL)


Remember when Google announced Google Home? Yeah, you probably don't — it was back in May 2016 at the company's annual developer event, Google I/O. Almost exactly one year ago.

Google Home

I remember it distinctly, both because I was covering the event and because I was so excited by the product. An Amazon Echo-esque speaker/mic combination, powered by Google? That's literally exactly what I wanted.

My only hesitation with buying the Echo — other than the whole "voluntarily buying an internet-connected listening device for my home" — was the lack of deep Google integration.

Google is my internet backbone. I use Google Contacts to move my contacts from phone to phone, I use Google Messenger for text messaging, Google Voice for work, Google Keep for notes. We use Google Calendar here at Business Insider for meetings, and I use it in my personal life as well — the same goes for Google Docs. I chat with colleagues from other publications throughout the day using Google Hangouts (sorry, boss!)

So when Google Home was announced, I was ready for it. 

Google Home receipt

The product re-emerged five months later alongside Google's new Pixel phone, packed with Google Assistant and ready to ship in November. I immediately plunked down $140.45 (with tax — it costs $129), and received a unit a few weeks later.

It had problems right from the start.

I downloaded the Home app to my Nexus 5X and expected a seamless experience. Not only was I using an Android phone, but I was using an Android phone made by Google. It's not the new Pixel, but it came out in 2015 — not exactly eons ago. 

What I encountered was a frustrating setup process that only worked when the app seemingly felt like working.

Google Home (app setup)

Over and over, the WiFi broke, rendering the device entirely useless. And if it's not connected to your home WiFi network, you can't do anything with Google Home — no Google requests, no music, nothing.

This happened repeatedly across two weeks. I have a standard home WiFi network, with a highly-rated dual-band Asus router and an Arris Surfboard modem (that I own/don't rent from my ISP). I live in a small-ish Brooklyn apartment — the Home sits about 15 feet from my router. At any point, there are a maximum of six wireless devices in my home connected to the internet (and, more commonly, two or three). I even contacted Google's press line for help (the company also sent me a review unit, which I experienced the same problems with) to no avail. 

Google Home

When Google Home did work, it's worryingly limited.

  • It couldn't set reminders ("Sorry, create reminder is not yet supported.")
  • It couldn't give directions or transit warnings ("Sorry, I can't give directions for public transit yet.")
  • It seemingly has no idea that I have a personal or work calendar ("Sorry, I'm not sure how to help with that yet.")

This is all stuff that Google Now does on my phone. In fact, Google Now is part of why I continue to use Android. 

Every time it tells me something useful before I even realized I needed to know it — my boarding gate for tomorrow's flight, for instance, and then if there's traffic on the way to the airport — I marvel at its usefulness. Google Now is a strong argument for an entire phone OS.

Google Home

Instead, Google Home is powered by a new AI assistant from Google called, "Google Assistant." The sell point with Google Assistant is it can do conversation-like stuff. Ask it, "Ok Google, how far is Mars from Earth?" and it gives you the answer. Then you can ask, "How about Pluto?"

Presumably, if all goes perfectly, Google Assistant will keep the conversation going with an answer, passively understanding all the context in between. But in reality, this is something I rarely use. I need Google Home to do stuff for me — set appointments in my calendar, warn me that my train is going to be late so I should leave earlier, tell me about that concert I might've forgotten about. I need it to do stuff that Google Now already does successfully — at bare minimum.

In this respect, it's a terrible assistant.

Google Home

The other thing it's supposed to do — be a speaker — is just okay. I have a Sonos Play 3 speaker, which is really, really good. It's loud, and has stunning bass depth considering how small it is. It's also significantly more expensive than Google Home ($299 compared to Home's $129). With that price comes a gigantic increase in quality — Home sounds tinny and cheap by comparison. 

In the end, I returned my Google Home soon after buying it.

Google Home (return)

If I can't trust it to consistently work, what's the point? It was already a luxury purchase — a lark on a brand new type of technology — and ended up being one that I couldn't justify spending $140 on.

If I had stuck with Home, it's possible I'd enjoy it much more nowadays. Google Home now supports multiple users, interacts with Google Calendar, and does other (necessary) stuff it didn't do near launch. Still, I'm skeptical. There were major problems with Google Home even staying connected to my home internet, to say nothing of its inability to recognize my commands with consistency.

Maybe I'd like the Amazon Echo much more, and maybe I'll give it a shot eventually, but in the meantime I'm going to wait for AI-facing consumer technology to improve dramatically. Perhaps Google has a big surprise for me this week at Google I/O 2017.

SEE ALSO: I bought Google Home instead of Amazon's Echo — here's why

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 7 places you can’t find on Google Maps

The 21 most expensive cities around the world to rent a 2-bedroom apartment



Housing costs likely eat up the biggest share of your paycheck, no matter where in the world you live.

But looking at the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the world's largest cities, that number can range dramatically from about $300 in Bangalore, India, to more than $3,400 in San Francisco, according to a report by Deutsche Bank.

The report sources prices from Expatistan, a site that tracks cost-of-living expenses in over 200 countries, for "monthly rent for mid-range two-bedroom apartment" in nearly 50 cities.

Below, check out the 21 most expensive cities in the world to rent an apartment.

All prices are average and in US dollars.

SEE ALSO: Here's how big a home you can buy for $400,000 in the 25 biggest cities in America

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21. Toronto, Canada — $1,377

20. Chicago, United States — $1,441

19. Frankfurt, Germany — $1,463

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

13 kid expenses that are not worth the money, according to real parents


child with an iphone 6

There's no way around it: Raising kids — even just one! — is expensive. 

The average American family pays over $11,000 just in the first year of a child's life, and nearly $250,000 by the time they're 18. And while most of the incurred expenses prove worthwhile, not every toy, class, or experience warrants its price tag. 

Business Insider asked parents with children of all ages to weigh in on the financial side of having kids. While they concluded that several expenses are well worth the money, myriad others proved unworthy of the cost, from trendy gadgets to designer clothing.

Not every parent went into their reasoning, but every family is different, and it makes sense that every expense would be valued differently, too.

Below, we've anonymously included 13 things they say aren't worth spending on: 

SEE ALSO: Real parents reveal 16 kid expenses that are worth the money

DON'T MISS: 13 unexpected costs of having a kid

Too much/too nice clothing

• "For older kids, I would say clothes. Kids can be picky about their clothes and will end up wearing the same 5 shirts over and over anyway. So just get clothes they like and will wear and replace as needed. And I always accept hand-me-downs."

"Fancy clothes when they were young. They outgrew them too quickly."


• Trendy toys

• "Any electronic gadgets for kids less than 13." 

• Going overboard on Christmas

• Over-the-top birthday parties

Expensive vacations with young kids

• "It's not worth it to do 'big vacations' when they are younger; they just forget. It's been more worth it to do things like visit major cities or travel across Canada now that my son is old enough to appreciate it and learn from it."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The organizers of the doomed Fyre Festival are now facing a lawsuit from lenders who allege they're missing millions


fyre festival

In the days and weeks leading up to the spectacular disaster that was Fyre Festival, organizers Billy McFarland and Ja Rule allegedly borrowed up to $7 million as they scrambled to get the event set up in time, according to a new report by Bloomberg.

Ezra Birnbaum, who is associated with lender EHL Funding LLC, is now suing the pair of organizers for defaulting on a $3 million loan. The complaint alleges that Birnbaum's firm was supposed to be reimbursed in part after Fyre Media received credit-card payments from festivalgoers who had loaded funds onto their "Fyrebands."

These RFID bands were the only method of payment allowed at the "cashless" festival. Attendees were encouraged to have money available on the bands for extra perks they might want to buy while on the festival's grounds in the Bahamas. The festival sent multiple emails to ticket holders prior to the date the event was supposed to take place, recommending that they each add several hundreds of dollars to their bands.

Fyre Media allegedly received over $700,000 in payments from festivalgoers via their Fyrebands, but it's not clear what has happened to that money, according to the complaint. Attendees were promised beforehand that unused funds would be returned (minus a $10 "handling fee"), but several subsequent lawsuits have alleged that that hasn't been the case. As the festival was cancelled as soon as many guests arrived on the island, it's likely that very little of the cash on the bands was spent by wearers.

Birnbaum's suit says that though Fyre did make a payment on the loan, it was not enough.  The promissory note states that 40% of the loan should have been repaid from revenue gained from festivalgoers putting money on their bands, according to Bloomberg.

Fyre Media had also taken out a second, $4 million loan that was connected to Carola Jain, wife of Millennium Management Co-CIO Bob Jain.

McFarland, Ja Rule, and Fyre Media have been named in at least seven lawsuits stemming from the Fyre Festival, with most claiming that the organizers defrauded festivalgoers by promising a luxury premium experience they knew they could not deliver.

SEE ALSO: The organizer of the disastrous Fyre Festival told employees they would no longer be paid but were welcome to stay and 'help out'

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Fyre Festival expectations vs. reality — here's what attendees thought they were getting when they bought $12,000 tickets

10 of the best American cities to live comfortably on $40,000 a year


Canon City, Colorado

Much of America's charm is predicated on small-town life. It's community-oriented, nostalgic, and generally more affordable than living in a big city.

In its October-November print issue, AARP The Magazine highlights 10 great hometowns for anyone on a modest budget of $40,000 a year. (See the shorter online version here).

To create the list, the magazine teamed up with Sperling's Best Places, which focuses on quality-of-life research, to determine a livability index, factoring in metrics on housing affordability, access to work and recreation, transportation, healthcare, and safety. Each city on the list has a score above the average livability index score of 50.

Read on to check out 10 US cities where life is robust and affordable.

DON'T MISS: 15 of the most fun American cities that are actually affordable

SEE ALSO: The 25 cities with the best quality of life in the US

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Livability index: 65

Population: 115,300

Median housing price: $127,300

Sunny days per year: 188

Just one hour north of Milwaukee, you'll find this distinctly Midwestern town on the shores of Lake Michigan at the opening of the Sheboygan River, the area's main draw and a hotspot for surfing and sailing. Residents laud Sheboygan's free and affordable events and activities, including the annual Brat Days festival, a celebration of the city's most famous culinary export.

Eugene, Oregon

Livability index: 59

Population: 358,300

Median housing price: $222,000

Sunny days per year: 155

Nestled in the lush Willamette Valley, Eugene has "carefully cultivated its image as an outdoor-lover's paradise," according to AARP The Magazine. Its high concentration of nature mavens — including the area's college students and retirees — frequent farmers markets, vineyards, hiking and biking trails, museums, and galleries.

Cleveland, Ohio

Livability index: 56

Population: 2 million

Median housing price: $124,000

Sunny days per year: 166

Situated on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland has experienced a cultural renaissance of late, led by growing populations of baby boomers and millennials alike. The city's robust art and music scene is complemented by lively nightlife and award-winning restaurants, not to mention a renewed excitement among NBA fans with the return of hometown hero LeBron James.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

You're probably sitting all wrong — here's the simplest way to correct your posture


Woman Sitting in Apartment

Thousands of Americans work in jobs that afford them the privilege of sitting for the majority of the day. But being on your rear all day comes with some health concerns.

Unsurprisingly, the best way to counteract these issues is to get up and move — as frequently and for as long as you can.

When you do have to be in your seat, however, good posture is key to preventing the sore muscles, strained eyes, and poor circulation that frequently accompany a desk job.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, which is considered one of the world's top hospitals, there's an easy way to find a healthy sitting position. It involves four basic steps that, assuming you're reading this on a tablet, phone, or computer screen, you can try right now:

First, sit at the end of your chair (that's right, don't rely on your backrest). Let your body go into a slouching position. Now, try to sit up straight, accentuating the curve of your back as much as possible. Hold this position for a few seconds. Next, release the position a little bit — Cleveland specifies that you shouldn't move more than about 10 degrees. This should be your sitting position!

Now that you've got it, make sure the rest of your body is in the proper alignment to ensure you're not cutting off your circulation or straining any other joints.

Make sure your body weight is evenly distributed across your seat. Then, check your knee position. They should be bent at roughly a right angle, uncrossed, with your feet flat on the floor.

If you're in an office, you can adjust your chair height and desk so that you sit fairly close to your screen. Your elbows and arms should rest either on your desk or your chair's armrests, and your shoulders should be relaxed. If you're on a rolling chair, you should avoid twisting at the waist and pivot your whole body instead, the Clinic adds.

Doing this every day will help protect your joints, ligaments, bones, and muscles, and can also help you feel more energized throughout the day, since your muscles are being used more efficiently.

SEE ALSO: The easiest way to undo the harms of sitting all day

DON'T MISS: The single best type of exercise for your brain, according to scientists

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NOW WATCH: The best way to sleep on a flight — according to a posture expert

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