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How To Tell If Your Louis Vuitton Purse Is Real Or Fake


When you've scrimped and saved and finally come up with the necessary funds to make a Louis Vuitton bag your own, the last thing you want is to accidentally get catfished with a fake one.

Especially if you're looking to get a deal or a special style via a third-party vendor, it's important to be able to tell the real deal from faux-real. 

Luckily, designer resale site The Real Real comes across tons of products with questionable pedigrees, and has produced a video that'll school you in the four signs of real LV bags to look out for and common myths that are as fake as the bags they purport to spot.

The guide, below:

SEE ALSO: QUIZ: Can You Spot The Knock-Off Handbags, Shoes, And Gadgets?

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Larry Ellison Is Selling This $28.5 Million Lake Tahoe House (ORCL)


larry ellison house

Larry Ellison is selling his 9,242 square foot Lake Tahoe home for $28.5 million.

The house sits on 2.62 acres. It has six-bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a soundproofed media room, a fitness room, and billboard room. There are two piers, a lakefront hot tub, and "230 feet of picturesque white sandy beach and shoreline," according to the listing. There is also a guest house.

Ellison is selling the property because he's building a new home elsewhere in Lake Tahoe.

He rebuilt this property "from the studs up," according to a press release on the sale of the home.

Some of the features he added are "a fully heated driveway and entry, heated patios and walkways, wall-to-wall pocket glass doors, humidifying system, security system, guardhouse, and park-like landscaping with granite boulders and water features."

We have photos of the property from the real estate agent selling the property, Jennie Fairchild.

Here's a panoramic view of the home

One of the many fireplaces in the home.

A view of the shoreline.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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PROFESSOR: Everyone Should Get A Reverse Mortgage Immediately


house picket happyIs this a good time to get a reverse mortgage? Yes -- even if you don't need one.

That's the recommendation from Jack M. Guttentag, an emeritus finance professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

On his website, The Mortgage Professor, he says homeowners old enough to have a reverse mortgage -- 62 or older -- should think about getting a reverse mortgage credit line now, even if they won't use the money for years. Reason: Today's low interest rates make reverse mortgages something of a bargain, allowing you to borrow more if you lock in before rates rise.

A reverse mortgage is a loan against the homeowner's equity, which is the current value of the home minus any debt against it, such as a mortgage or home equity loan. Like an ordinary mortgage, the reverse loan charges interest, but the borrower makes no monthly payments. Instead, the debt, plus the gradually growing interest charges, are paid off when the borrower moves permanently, sells the home or dies.

The debt can never exceed the proceeds of the home sale, so the reverse mortgage debt does not endanger the borrower's other assets. The most common type of reverse mortgage is the federally backed Home Equity Conversion Mortgage. Because there's no telling how large the borrower's debt could grow, reverse loans manage the lender's risk by providing less than 100% of the homeowner's equity at the time the loan is approved.

A key factor in this calculation is the "expected interest rate." The lower it is, the more the homeowner can borrow, and rates are quite low today.

"For example, at an expected rate of 4 percent, which has been a common rate during 2013, a senior of 62 with a home worth $300,000 can draw an initial credit line of about $174,000," Guttentag says."At an expected rate of 6 percent, the line drops to $140,000, and at 10 percent it falls to $54,000." In other words, get a reverse mortgage now and you can borrow more than if you wait until rates rise, as most experts expect over the next few years.

But wait, there's more -- a second interest rate called the "accrual rate." Like the interest rate on a regular mortgage, it is the rate charged against the loan balance. If you use the reverse mortgage to borrow a lump sum, it is a fixed rate for the life of the loan. If you take out a line of credit to draw on in the future, or select a regular monthly payment, the accrual rate is adjustable -- it will rise or fall as market conditions change.

A rising rate need not be a concern if you expect to keep the reverse mortgage for the rest of your life, because you don't have to make payments no matter how high the rate goes. (Of course, a higher rate would drive up your interest costs, cutting deeper into any home equity you might hope to leave your heirs.)

But the accrual rate has another function. Over time, the home presumably becomes more valuable, and therefore any unused portion of the borrower's credit line grows as the years go by. The accrual rate is used to determine how fast the credit line grows. The higher the rate, the bigger the credit line.

That means the homeowner who does not need to take cash out of the home right now can use today's low expected interest rate to get the largest possible line of credit to start with, and then, if the accrual rate goes up as expected, the borrower will see the credit line grow. The ideal strategy, Guttentag says, is to hold off drawing against the credit line for as long as possible. That way you could remain free of debt, but would have a rainy day fund that could be much larger by the time you need it.

SEE ALSO: Simple household tips that will save you thousands every year >

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Late Investor Martin Zweig's Penthouse Hits The Market For A Record $125 Million



Weeks after it was rumored to be headed for market, we now know that late investor Martin Zweig's legendary penthouse apartment atop the Pierre in New York City will be listed for $125 million, the New York Times' Robin Finn reports.

While the listing has yet to appear, the $125 million price tag makes it the most expensive home for sale in New York City. It narrowly beats a midtown apartment owned by Steve Cohen, which the SAC honcho is reportedly selling for $115 million.

So what does $125 million buy you at the fabled hotel?

According to Finn, the penthouse is "a triplex confection graced by a grand black-marble staircase, arched cathedral windows that replicate a Versailles chapel, 23-foot ceilings, and fireplaces embraced by mantels designed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries."

It has five bedrooms and six bathrooms, 360-degree views of Manhattan, and multiple terraces, a rarity in Manhattan real estate.

Zweig, a stock investorinvestment advisor, and financial analyst, died in February.

He paid $21.5 million for the penthouse back in 1999, setting a real estate record at the time. He tried  but failed  to sell it for $70 million several years ago, according to Curbed NY.

The New York Times has some photos of the apartment's interior; you can see them hereElizabeth Lee Sample, Brenda S. Powers, and Serena Boardman of Sothebys International Realty have the listing.

Ex-Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill's penthouse at 15 Central Park West sold last year for a record $88 million.

SEE ALSO: The Most Expensive Home Sales In NYC In 2012

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Princeton Alumna To Female Princeton Students: Find A Husband Before Graduation


Proud Princeton alumna Susan A. Patton — the president of the class of 1977 — has a message for the women of Princeton today: Find your husband now, before you are old and all of the elite men have settled for dumb, pretty girls. 

Seriously. In an editorial published in today's Daily Princetonian, Patton writes: 

Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out — here’s what you really need to know that nobody is telling you...

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Unsurprisingly, Patton's well-intended, yet mindblowingly retro, "advice" has caused quite a stir, both for its regressive understanding of male-female relationships and its preposterous Ivy League elitism. 

Patton writes: 

I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them. And, you could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you.

And for female Princeton seniors, Patton has one more "truth" that no one is talking about: 

As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?

*Editor's note: An earlier version of this post had the full text of the editorial. Unfortunately, the editorial is property of the Daily Princetonian. 

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'Dual Snowboards' Eliminate The Biggest Hassle Of Snowboarding


These are the new Dual Snowboards.

Why We Love It: Anyone who's ever tried snowboarding for the first time can tell you how annoying it is to get around when you're on the slopes. You have to detach one of your feet from the board and kind of push yourself along — eventually you get the hang of it, but it's a pain.

Which is why Dual Snowboards are such a good idea. They come in sets of two and attach to each foot independently, allowing you to walk around easier than with a regular snowboard. It still lets you do all of the tricks you'd normally do with a traditional board, plus a bunch of new ones, too.

Each one measures roughly 16 inches long and works with any brand of foot bindings you prefer. The boards are made of bi-axle fiberglass and finished with a PU coating.

Dual Snowboards


Dual Snowboards

Where To Buy: Through the Dual Snowboards website

Cost: $299.

Want to nominate a cool product for Stuff We Love? Send an email to Megan Willett at mwillett@businessinsider.com.

SEE ALSO: Flavored Sea Salts Add A Hint Of Garlic, Jalapeno, Or Truffle To Your Meal

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Nissan's CEO Shows How To Get A Wheelchair Into One Of NYC's New Taxis


At the New York Auto Show this week, Nissan showed off the wheelchair-accessible version of the NV200 Taxi, better known as the "Taxi of Tomorrow."

The new vehicles are designed to be safer, more fuel-efficient, and more comfortable than those in use today. The taxis are supposed to enter service this year, but have faced delays.

Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Nissan and Renault, was on hand at the show to show just how easy it is to load a wheelchair-bound passenger into the van.

It actually requires a bunch of steps, but it's pretty straightforward.

First, open the rear doors and fold down the ramp:

carlos ghosn nissan taxi of tomorrow new york auto show 2013

Looks easy:

carlos ghosn nissan taxi of tomorrow new york auto show 2013

Roll the passenger in, and secure the chair:

carlos ghosn nissan taxi of tomorrow new york auto show 2013

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg approves:

michael bloomberg carlos ghosn nissan taxi of tomorrow new york auto show 2013

Here's a more comprehensive, video view of the process:

SEE ALSO: The Crazy Ways Automakers Got Our Attention At The NY Auto Show

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The Most Expensive Homes You Can Buy In New York City


60 Million Dollar Penthouse NYC

The New York City real estate world is abuzz over two properties reported to be hitting the market for well over $100 million in the past couple of days.

One belongs to SAC Capital honcho Steve A. Cohen; the other was owned by late investor Martin Zweig.

In light of these two blockbuster properties, we're taking a look at the 10 most expensive homes that are currently for sale in New York City, based on publicly available listings.

#10 A 7-story townhouse on the Upper West Side is on sale for $50 million.

This townhouse on West 86th Street was built in 1900 in the Beaux Arts style.

It was gut-renovated in 1998, and has eight bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, and a roof garden. 

#9 A duplex penthouse on the Upper East Side is on sale for $50 million.

The penthouse at the all-new 135 East 79th Street has six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, and multiple terraces.

The apartment, a duplex, is 8,987 square feet, and is located on the 19th floor of the building.

#8 The penthouse atop the Mandarin Oriental in Columbus Circle is listed for $50 million.

The penthouse at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Columbus Circle's Time Warner Center has bounced on and off the market for more than a year. It was previously listed for $42.5 million, according to Curbed.

The 4,825-square-foot condo has a 30-foot gallery and a wine cellar, as well as access to the hotel's concierge service and amenities.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Chinese Designers Sent Some Absurd Looks Down The Runway At Beijing Fashion Week


China Fashion Week 2013

China's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week AW 2013/2014 was held in Beijing this past week, and the clothing was equal parts intricate, beautiful, and absurd.

While some of the 30-plus participating designers sent relatively tame outfits down the runways, fashion students from Maogeping Image Design Art School and Minzu University of China took some bigger risks.

Attended twice yearly by China's wealthy elite and movie stars, China's Fashion Week has been growing in popularity since it first launched 15 years ago in 1997.

From gorgeous face appliques to wearing an elaborate bag over one's head, here are some of the most jaw-dropping moments from the past week in Beijing.

Last minute adjustments are made to this crazy space lieutenant's outfit.

Alien couture is also hot right now.

The most intricate, expensive way to wear a bag over your head.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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10 Stunning Views From Hotel Room Windows


gorgeous view from hotel bermudaDuring our travels around the globe, we have stayed in some pretty gorgeous rooms.

But a beautiful room means nothing if it looks out at a brick wall.

On the other hand, a drab room can be seriously lightened up by an amazing view.

So we rounded the 10 best hotel room views we’ve ever seen.

Hotel Duquesne Eiffel, Paris

Hotel Duquesne is a comfortable 34-room hotel in the 7th Arrondissement within walking distance to Left Bank tourist sites, such as the Musee d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower. Some rooms even boast exceptional views of the iconic structure, built in 1889 by on the occasion of the World’s Fair in Paris.

Villa la Estancia, Los Cabos

Villa la Estancia is the high-end hotel in a cluster of three sister resorts, and offers a nice reprieve from the crazy, party hotels Cabo is known for — the grounds are pristine, the pool isn’t teeming with underaged partiers, and the rooms are large. Some rooms look out over the crystal-clear ocean towards Land’s End, a rock formation located right where the Sea of Cortes and the Pacific Ocean meet. Seals and sea lions can be seen sunbathing in the area.

Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Hole

Set in a wildlife refuge more than 700 feet above the Jackson Valley, the Spring Creek Ranch is a great choice, during all seasons, for an outdoor getaway. Winter activities include sleigh rides and snowshoeing across the properties vast grounds, and summertime brings horseback riding and hiking. But no matter the season, the views from the condos of the majestic Tetons are jaw-dropping.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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'Game Of Thrones' Fans Will Love This NYC Exhibit


iron throne game of thrones"Game of Thrones" has come to New York. 

HBO and Time Warner Cable partnered to put together a free exhibit of the hit series before its season 3 return. 

The event is part of a five-stop traveling exhibit in five international cities including Toronto, Sao Paulo, Amsterdam, and Belfast. 

From costumes, to set pieces, and the Iron Throne itself, the exhibit features more than 70 original items from seasons one and two, and a few from the upcoming season as well. 

The free event runs from March 28 through April 3.

If you're in the area, here are the details on where and when to go:

3 W. 57th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenue)

Weekdays: 10:00AM - 8:00PM

Weekends: 11:00AM - 7:00PM

Easter Sunday: 10:00AM - 4:00PM

If you can't make it, we headed over to the exhibit to see what's inside. 

The "Game of Thrones" exhibit is being held in midtown on 57th in between 5th and 6th avenues.

Before the exhibit opened at 10 a.m., the line was already running down the block.

4,800 people showed up yesterday for the opening of the exhibit.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Larry Ellison Is Selling His $28.5 Million Lake Tahoe Mansion – Because He's Building One 3 Times Its Size


larry ellison lake tahoe mansion

Billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is selling one of his many mansions. But it's not because he's become practical. It's because he's building a property that's three times bigger, says the WSJ.

Ellison's 2.62 acre, 9,000+ square-foot Lake Tahoe home is on the market for $28.5 million. It took him three years to build and includes a sound-proof screening room and Japanese soaking tubs in the master suite. There are six bedrooms and 8.5 baths.

The new house will be a 7.6 acre property. 

Larry Ellison is known for collecting mansions. He has a few on Malibu's Carbon Beach, one in Newport, Rhode Island, and of course Porcupine Creek.

Here's his real estate portfolio, and here are big, gorgeous photos of his $28.5 million home that's on the market.

SEE ALSO: Larry Ellison Is Selling This $28.5 Million Lake Tahoe House

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What 12 Now-Famous Tech Executives Looked Like When They Were Young

The Overly-Attached Girlfriend Explains How To Become A Viral Internet Star By Age 21


Laina is only 21, but she has a knack for making content go viral.

While on a leave of absence from school, she posted her first-ever YouTube video. It was in response to a Justin Bieber contest. Bieber asked fans to turn lyrics for his hit song "Boyfriend" into "Girlfriend." Laina, who aspires to be a comedian like Kristen Wiig, wrote it from the perspective of a stalker.

She woke up the next morning and found her video had been viewed over 1 million times. Shortly after, someone on Reddit took a screen shot of her face from the video and turned her into a hilarious meme, The Overly Attached Girlfriend.

Laina tells us her secret to creating viral content, how she's turned being an Internet meme into a business, and what goes through her mind when she's making that ridiculously creepy face.


SEE ALSO: The Overly-Attached Girlfriend Explains What It's Like Being A Wildly Popular Internet Meme

SEE ALSO: What 6 Viral Internet Meme Stars Actually Look Like

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Go Inside The Factory That Makes 2 Billion Marshmallow Peeps A Year


Screen Shot 2013 03 26 at 3.43.04 PM

Peeps marshmallow candies are as much a part of Easter as egg hunts and ham.

The sugar-coated chicks and bunnies have been made by Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born for decades, and these days, the factory churns out 2 billion Peeps a year.

PBSrecently took a tour of the factory as part of its series on seasonal manufacturing. Just Born's plant may look like a standard factory, but it smells a whole lot sweeter.

Peeps are made by the millions at the Just Born factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

This is where the marshmallow-making process begins, in giant vats.

The sugar that coats the peeps is dyed yellow, and air is used to create a "sugar tornado," explains Mark Wright, Just Born's director of operations.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Justin Bieber Owns A Potentially Dangerous Monkey


capuchin monkey

Canadian pop-star Justin Bieber's monkey was quarantined at Munich Airport this week, after Bieber didn't produce the necessary paperwork for the animal to enter the European Union.

Bieber is reportedly quite close to the the monkey and the relationship is reminiscent of Michael Jackson's friendship with his chimpanzee Bubbles.

It may worry Bieber, however, to learn that the monkey he owns is potentially dangerous.

Bieber's monkey is believed to be a capuchin monkey, given to the singer by a friend on his 19th birthday earlier this year. The friend, music producer Jamal Rashid, has posted numerous photos of the monkey on his Instagram.

Capuchin monkeys are native to South America, and have a long history of interaction with humans — they are often known as "organ grinder" monkeys, for example, and in the 1930s, there was reportedly a trend in Florida for keeping the monkeys as "Greyhound jockeys" and having them ride dogs in races.

The breed has been displayed positively in popular media — in the NBC comedy Friends, Ross Geller keeps a capuchin monkey as a pet for a number of episodes, although the monkey is eventually sent to a zoo. The animal was also featured prominently in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Night at the Museum."

Due to their fame, high intelligence and small size, the monkeys are somewhat popular as pets, and they can be owned without permits in a number of states. One estimate suggested there could be up to 100,000 capuchin monkeys being kept as pets in the United States.

However, adult capuchin monkeys can be dangerous. A 2010 Associated Press article warned that when the monkeys "reach sexual maturity around 5 years old, they can turn dangerous and destructive".

"Can you imagine going into the jungle, grabbing a monkey out of a tree and taking him home? He'd rip your face off as he should, as he should," Lynn Cuny, founder and chief executive of a sanctuary, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Inc. in Kendalia, Texas, told the AP.

Even those who have generally positive experiences with the monkeys report some problems. In a 2003 interview, a former organ grinder who owns four capuchin monkeys and was running an advice website for monkey owners said that one monkey had attacked her recently.

"You never know which ones will grow up and attack and which ones won't," Sony Rickson toldNational Geographic. "I have one that I worked with for seven years and I'd go everywhere with her—and all of a sudden one day she just turned on me. I have another one that I raised from a baby who wouldn't even think of biting me."

Bieber, who appears to be having a difficult time coping with his fame recently, should probably be careful around his pet.

On the other hand, Bieber could gain hope if he looks to Jackson and Bubbles.

Chimpanzees are notorious as bad pets as they can turn suddenly violent — a brutal chimpanzee attack on a woman in Stamford made headlines around the world in 2009. However, Bubbles was not reported to be violent during his time with Jackson, and was described by the owner of the sanctuary he lived in after Jackson's death as "a very sweet and nice chimp."

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Colleges Have Found A Hidden Way To Raise Tuition


vassar collegeAt the University of California Santa Cruz, where tuition runs to nearly $35,000 for non-residents, students every year pay more than 30 additional fees 2014 including a small charge for what's billed as "free" HIV testing. Students at Oklahoma State University pay a handsome sum to attend one of the state's flagship schools, but they are also responsible for covering 18 different fees, including a "life safety and security fee."

The $100 "globalization fee" at Howard University is listed 2014 without explanation 2014 in the school's tuition and fees brochure. A school spokeswoman said the fee "supports internationalization initiatives" such as study abroad. Students pay the fee even if they have no intention of studying abroad themselves.

Worcester State University in Massachusetts, however, might have one of the most arresting fees. Students fortunate enough to be admitted face the challenge of paying the required tuition. But before they step foot on campus, they also will be hit with a fee to, well, step foot on campus. A portion of the school's "parking/pedestrian fee" goes to the upkeep of the sidewalks on campus.

Student fees have been something of a known irritant for years, often criticized as a kind of stealth, second tuition imposed on unsuspecting families. But such fees are still on the rise on many campuses. And though their names can border on the comical 2014 i.e., the "student success fee" 2014 there's nothing funny about how they can add up.

"It's a way for colleges to increase the cost that may not be as apparent to as many students," said Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and the founder of finaid.org and fastweb.org. "You focus in on tuition and when you get the bursar's bill, there are lots of little lines for all these fees, but because each is a relatively small amount, you may not notice it as much. You focus in on the big figure but not on these little figures that collectively add up to a lot."

This week, anxious high school seniors will be opening letters and emails of acceptance or rejection. For them, there will be a mix of joy and disappointment. But for those students and their parents, there will also be an initial reckoning with the expensive, often opaque issue of college fees.

Lauren Vaughn, a senior at UMass Amherst, is also an organizer for the UMass Students Against Debt coalition. She said appreciating the collective cost of additional school fees is often critical to determining whether any particular school is, in fact, affordable.

"It does seem as though we are not informed about these fees often until it is too late," Vaughn said, noting that such fees "can be the thing that puts some students who are financially strained over the edge."

The federal government has made efforts in recent years to make true college costs more transparent. U.S. Department of Education data shows that in more than half the states across the country, degree-granting institutions reported that fees comprised a greater portion of combined tuition and fees in the 2010-2011 school year than they had in 2008-2009.

But fees for specific programs and courses typically get left out of that data. The same goes for fees that apply to specific pockets of students, such as honors students or international students.

Many school officials say they do their best to make sure the necessary information about tuition and fees is clear to students and their parents. But there's no one definition that schools stick to when deciding what's covered by tuition and what falls under fees, and the very structuring of tuition and fees can vary wildly between different schools.

"It's all smoke and mirrors in some ways, the issue of tuition and fees," said Terry Meyers, a professor of English at the College of William and Mary. "It seems to be one area of the academic world where no one is looking and no one wants to look too closely."

To best appreciate how confusing 2014 even upside-down 2014 the world of college costs can get, consider this: At state schools in Massachusetts, where the state board of higher education has held tuition flat for more than a decade, "mandatory fees" wind up far outstripping the price of tuition. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the flagship of the UMass system, mandatory fees are more than six times the cost of in-state tuition.

And that isn't the end of it: Students are then hit with still more charges 2014 the $300 "freshman counseling fee," the $185 "undergraduate entering" fee, and several hundred dollars more if your parents or siblings attend freshman orientation. Honors college and engineering students face still more fees.

A number of forces are driving fees upward. For public institutions, declining state support has left many schools scrambling to find other types of revenue. As well, since the notion of straightforward tuition hikes is often politically toxic, there is considerable appeal to using fees to make up shortfalls.

But it has all required ever-greater attempts at creativity. In the last few years, a number of public colleges across the country have added fees with vaguely pleasant names 2014 "academic excellence and success fees," or "student enhancement fees," for instance.

Some school officials admit openly that these fees aren't all that different from tuition.

Since 2009, students at Georgia's public colleges have been paying hundreds of dollars a year in what are called "special institutional fees," separate from tuition. The fees vary, depending on the campus; at the Georgia Institute of Technology, which charges the most, they now top $1,000 a year. All of it goes straight into schools' general funds.

"The special institutional fee goes to the exact same things your tuition goes to," said John Millsaps, spokesman for the state Board of Regents.

The charges are simply called "fees" instead of "tuition," he said, because at a time when the state slashed funding, several classes of entering students had already been promised that their tuition would be locked in at the same rate as part of a "guaranteed tuition plan." Calling any increase "tuition" would break that promise. The intent was also that the fee would be temporary, Millsaps said. Instead, the fees have grown on every campus.

College administrators also acknowledge that sometimes a "fee" is easier for students to stomach than a "tuition" increase 2014 even if the difference is more about semantics than substance.

"Unfortunately, the word tuition is a little bit of a lightning rod these days," said Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget at the University of Virginia. "And not just here, but in other places as well."

This year, the university began imposing two new charges on students taking engineering courses or enrolled in the nursing school in order to better reflect the higher costs of running those programs. But rather than take the step of raising tuition on certain students, the school opted to implement the new charges as fees, as many other schools have already done. For an engineering major, the new fee typically adds up to an extra $750 per year, Sheehy said.

Within the 23-campus California State University system, six schools have adopted some form of what's called a "student success fee" since the beginning of 2011. The annual fees, which different campuses have been using to cover a broad array of things from technology to mentoring programs to athletics, range from as little as $162 to as much as $430 a year depending on the school.

At Auburn University in Alabama, mandatory fees have been steadily increasing for several years. They now make up 16 percent of an in-state student's combined tuition and fee costs. Part of this increase stems from self-imposed fees that students voted for because they wanted a new recreation center, said Mike Reynolds, executive director of student financial services.

But a major component of the increase is Auburn's new $400 "proration fee," also introduced in 2011 to make up for a loss of state support. Reynolds said the charge was labeled a fee because it was intended to be temporary.

"That fee could go away. Whether that will happen, I don't know," Reynolds said.

Critics suggest that some schools likely keep their fee costs fuzzy as a way of seeming more financially attractive to prospective students. But if students are still paying for the additional costs in the end, any marginal marketing benefit on the front end may engender bad feelings after the bill arrives.

"It is hard not to feel a little misled," said one parent of a student at UMass Amherst who did not want to be quoted by name. "Yes, they are on the web somewhere, but they are not always easy to find. Unless you dig out the list and closely analyze it, you don't realize there are all these extra expenses. Schools don't go out of their way to publicize it."

School spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said in an email that the school makes an effort to be clear about total costs.

"In publications and [on] our website, extensive details about the tuition, fees and the estimated overall cost of attendance are shared with students in advance," Blaguszewski said. "Our Admissions and Financial Aid staff believe prospective students are well informed about cost, and the info is publicly posted."


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The 11 Most Miserable Cities In America


girl walking in charleston west virginia

Gallupis out with its latest batch of "well-being" data, and a new city has fallen to the lowest spot in the rankings.

This year, Charleston, W.Va. ranked lowest on the pollster's index of well-being in metropolitan areas. It displaced Huntington-Ashland, W.Va.-Ky.-Ohio, which came in last place the previous two years.

The index ranks well-being by averaging scores in six categories: Life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities.

No.11 Utica-Rome, N.Y.

Overall score: 63.4/100

The metro area ranked 176th overall, four spots higher than its place at No.180 in 2011. It scored highest in healthy behavior (at No.65), which measures lifestyle habits like smoking, exercise frequency, diet, and consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Results are based on phone interviews with a random sample of 353,563 adults in the U.S. Metro areas are based on the Metropolitan Statistical Areas defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Source: Gallup Well-Being Index

No.10 Spartanburg, S.C.

Overall score: 63.4/100

Spartanburg was not ranked in 2011. It ranked No.176 of 189 metro areas in terms of life evaluation, a self-evaluation of one's current personal wellbeing and expected personal well-being in five years.

Results are based on phone interviews with a random sample of 353,563 adults in the U.S. Metro areas are based on the Metropolitan Statistical Areas defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Source: Gallup Well-Being Index

No.9 Rockford, Ill.

Overall score: 63.1/100

Rockford dropped 26 spots to No.181 this year. It fared best in terms of physical health — which measures sick days, obesity, rest, health problems, energy, flu, colds, and headaches — coming in at No.129.

Results are based on phone interviews with a random sample of 353,563 adults in the U.S. Metro areas are based on the Metropolitan Statistical Areas defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Source: Gallup Well-Being Index

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Sex Toy Vendor/Pioneer: 'It's A Weird Job But Someone's Got To Do It'


Tom NardoneIn Troy, Michigan, an affluent city just north of Detroit, there is a 14,000-square-foot warehouse full of hemorrhoid creams, vaginal tighteners, anal bleachers, home enema systems, lots of vibrators, and a special room, where those vibrators undergo what may be the most scientific testing in the world of sex toys.

"Trying to separate out the junk from the nice," says sex toy vendor/pioneer Tom Nardone (above), the king of this palace. "It's a weird job, but someone's got to do it."

Nardone never intended to get into the sex toy business, but he ended up transforming it. He first founded ShopInPrivate.com in 1998, an e-commerce site for all the things that a person may blush to buy in person. Then in 2008 he acquired Vibrators.com, which sells around 100,000 vibrators a year. But his real innovation came in 2009, when Nardone -- a former test engineer for a helicopter company -- founded the Vibrator Institute and developed specialized equipment to measure a vibrator's properties.

While other sex toy sellers advertised their wares with a manufacturer's description or personal reviews, Nardone wanted to provide a more objective, standardized way to help customers choose their most intimate of accessories. "As a retailer, Tom is kind of on the front lines," says California Exotic Novelties spokeswoman Desiree Duffy. "He knows what women and couples want." 

Nardone's company uses a sound pressure meter to calculate each vibrator's volume, and an accelerometers to determine the intensity of its pulse. He then translates the results into customer-friendly labels: sound on a spectrum from "whisper" to "thundering," vibration on a scale from "gentle" to "unrelenting."

More: Sex Toy Testing: Can You Actually Turn It Into A Career?

Sex toy makers have responded. Inspired by Nardone's research, California Exotic Novelties, one of the country's largest sex toy manufacturers, came out with a "Jumpin' Gyrator," with a deeper and more rumbling vibration. It sold so well that the company's expanding it into an entire line.

Pickin' Up Good Vibrations

Few household appliances are advancing at the rate of the vibrator. Just 15 years ago, most Americans would buy their erotic accessories behind the tinted windows of an adult specialty store. Most vibrators had little science, or sense of female anatomy, behind them, and were often sold with a porn star on the package, to better seduce the usually male buyer.

More: How To Make $39,000 A Year By Testing Sex Toys At Home

But in the last decade, designer manufacturers and boutique sellers, many female-owned, have helped the vibrator shed its stigma, and given birth to an industry of innovation. Rubber has given way to silicon, and wall plugs to microchips. California Exotic Novelties is currently investing heavily in toys chargeable by USB.

"Everything you see in the non-sex toy world," says Anne Semans, who's worked for sex toy seller Babeland for 10 years, "will eventually find its way to a sex toy."

Nardone never set out to be part of this movement. His business is privacy, not sex. But after years of retail experience, he says that he wants the customer to get what she wants, and will go to great lengths to do it. Nardone is already braving the next frontier: the personal lubricant.

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What It's Like To Share Someone's Home Without Ever Meeting Them


airbnb bedroomALL WE KNOW of Maya S. is the back of her head. Her thumbnail indicates she is blonde with a bun and a floral-print shirt. There are no photographs of her face in the apartment even though it’s otherwise lived-in, cozy. Just as her Airbnb ad described it. When I borrow a pair of mittens that hang from her coatrack, I hope to whomever that she doesn’t accidentally catch me wearing them around the neighborhood, masquerading as Maya S. on the cobbled streets of Copenhagen.

We touch other things around the apartment too, not just the mittens: a DVD set of My So-Called Life, knit blankets she hadn’t left out for our use, shampoos and conditioners in languages we can’t read. We flip through her coffeetable books and watch her copy of Party Monster during an unanticipated snowstorm. I marvel over the magnetic strip on her kitchen wall that holds all of her gravity-defying knives, and once I use her shoddy internet connection to email her: “How much for the mirrored Michael Jackson Bad magnet?” She writes back, “I’m glad you like it, but I love it too much to sell. Sorry!” I love it too, and am also sorry.

Maya S. has a shower I would never think to call a shower. Here, there are no glass doors or mounted showerheads. Instead, it goes like this: Enter the tile-floored bathroom. Unfold the shower curtain — which hangs from a circular rod on the ceiling — until both the door and the toilet are hidden from view. Stand in front of the sink, where you stood earlier to wash your hands and where you’ll stand later to apply your makeup. Find the handheld showerhead, which dangles limply from the wall. Apply water as needed. Our first few days, we consult with one another on how to best avoid drowning Maya’s foreign elixirs and spare toilet paper rolls but soon it becomes intuitive, like how else would one shower?

We share Maya’s life, even though we’ve never met her.

Many things go this way — lighting the stove, restarting the wireless router, making the coffee. There is no abundance of empty outlets; when we need one we have to be very particular about what deserves to be unplugged and what doesn’t. But by Day 3, we know where the wireless signal is strongest (the intersection where hallway meets living room, on the right-hand side) and which room is most suitable for blow-drying our hair (the bedroom).

Coming home after a long day of walking and shopping and drinking becomes a routine we quickly adapt to. This key opens that gate, and this one opens the door facing the courtyard, and this last one lets us into our third-story apartment. Her third-story apartment, we know, but for now it’s ours. We have rituals: Take off the shoes, turn on the lights, adjust the heat. Then we put away our bounty — dishware shoved in suitcases, goat cheese thrown in the refrigerator, bottle of wine in hand. One of us opens the wine and readies the DVD player while the other cooks, then we gather on the couch and screen the night’s selection from Maya’s collection of DVDs. Each of us has our own blanket to warm our feet.

The two of us are used to living together, just not here. In college we shared bedrooms and once we got places of our own, we shared our couches with one another — hers in Chicago, mine in Brooklyn. In Copenhagen, we share morning coffee and long walks along Nyhavn and beers in dark taverns where everyone smokes indoors. We share meals of cheese and bread, falafel from the restaurant down the street, and train rides we don’t know how to pay for. We share the not-shower and the floating knives and the coffeetable books. We share Maya’s life, even though we’ve never met her.

We do try to meet her, though. Maya tells us she is staying in Copenhagen, in someone else’s home, while we have our visit. By Day 5, we have stared at her bookshelves and closets and lotions long enough to decide that we like her and want to experience her Denmark. We ask her out to a drink and she politely declines, referring us to a bar she likes in the neighborhood instead. We drink in every bar on our street before we fly back to our respective lives.

A year later, I will search deep in my inbox for information on Maya’s apartment that was ours for 10 days and find that it is no longer listed. Perhaps she’s moved or grown tired of sharing her life with people like us.

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