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See How Much House You Can Afford For $325,000

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Each week we take a look at how much house you can expect to get at a specific price point. This week, we’re looking at homes priced around $325,000.

Augusta, GA

3249 Ramsgate Rd, Augusta GA
For sale: $325,000

house augusta brick front yard

White columns and a brick exterior create a classic look for this 5-bedroom Augusta home. Built in 1966, the 2,700-square-foot home sits on more than half an acre and has been recently renovated.

Reno, NV

3745 Brighton Way, Reno NV
For sale: $325,000

Take advantage of Reno‘s warm weather with this home, located across the street from a community pool and tennis courts. The 3-bedroom, 2-bath home has 2,564 square feet of living space.

Tucson, AZ

7770 E Calle Del Minique, Tucson AZ
For sale: $324,900

Close to schools, shopping and hiking, this one-level Tucson home offers 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in a 1,844-square-foot floor plan. Vaulted ceilings, a great room with a fireplace and a pool are other home features.

Ann Arbor, MI

2395 Dundee Dr, Ann Arbor MI
For sale: $325,000

Built in 1971, this Ann Arbor property is being sold by the original owner. Sitting on a quarter-acre lot, the 4-bedroom home has a solar-heated pool in the backyard.

Madison, WI

330 Woodland Cir, Madison WI
For sale: $324,900

Situated in the desirable Oak Bluff neighborhood of Madison, this 3-bed home includes privileges at the country club and marina. The traditional home was built in 1942 and features a new kitchen with stainless steel appliances, new cabinets and tile.

NOW READ: 20 Beautiful City Homes For Under $150,000 >

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Luxury Fashion Brands Want Nothing To Do With Amazon

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raise cache 2011, nyc, tech start ups, charity, fashion, runway, november 17 2011, bi, dng

Amazon has entered the fashion world with some fanfare, hiring an expert to set up an online store with swanky brands like Kate Spade and Rebecca Minkoff. 

But the big luxury heavyweights want nothing to do with Amazon, according to an article by Barney Jopson at the Financial Times. 

While the website is one of the most powerful retailers in the world, many of the luxury fashion brands Jopson interviewed were hesitant to get involved with the brand.

Menswear giant Hugo Boss told the FT that any of its products sold on Amazon aren't sanctioned by them and they're looking for ways to control where their brand is sold. 

Alexander McQueen's CEO wouldn't rule out future involvement with Amazon, but barbed to the FT that the brand is "increasingly aware of the importance of brand identity online and maintaining it at the highest levels."

But perhaps the worst zinger came from Louis Vuitton. 

"Amazon will never sell Louis Vuitton, because we are the only ones that sell it," said Louis Vuitton chief executive Yves Carvelle. "This is a model of direct control thay we pioneered, and I think long term it is the direction that most luxury ecommerce will take."

Amazon has made a name for itself as a place to find bargains, and that doesn't jive with luxury fashion. Still, these fashion houses can't ignore the exposure that a partnership with Amazon would bring them. 

DON'T MISS: The Most Valuable Brands In The Retail World >

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We Discovered The Best Meatballs In New York City

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meatball madness food and wine festival

Giada De Laurentiis, star of the Food Network's "Giada at Home" and "Everyday Italian," hosted "Meatball Madness" last night as part of the New York City Wine & Food Festival.

The event, which is in its fourth year, is always popular and always delicious.

The masses flocked to Mercer Street to taste and choose the best meatball in New York City.

Donatella Arpaia won the people's choice award, and L'Apicio won the judge's award for best meatballs.

When we walked in, we went straight over to The Meatball Shop, last year's winner.



The Meatball Shop guys looked like they were having a ton of fun, and their meatballs are famous here in the city.



Boqueria made "Albondigas de Cerdo," also known as pork meatballs. These did not taste like typical meatballs—they had almost a bitter taste.



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Really Cheap Business Class Fares Are A Big Waste Of Money

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business travel

Consumers aren't getting such a great deal on really cheap business class fares, according to The Flight Deal. 

Known as K-UP or Y-Up fares, these seats automatically boot fliers from coach to business class and tend to be cheaper than the full business class fare. Lifehacker loves them, and so do travel hackers who've devoted countless blog posts to tracking down K-UP/Y-UPs since most travel search engines won't show them. 

But "while it's great to get a business class ticket for less than refundable coach prices, we would not buy K-UP/Y-Up fares in most cases," The Flight Deal told Business Insider in an email.

"K-Up/Y-Up fares are usually available only for domestic routes, so with the exception of a few transcontinental routes (e.g., New York — Los Angeles/San Francisco), you are getting a glorified coach seat (e.g., 6 inches more legroom and 2 inches more width), priority boarding, alcohol and maybe food." 

In fact, some of K-UP/Y-Up fares cost as much as two to five times the normal discount coach fare; not exactly a savings. 

"One of our readers just recently asked about a K-UP fare from Ft. Lauderdale to Honolulu," Flight Deal explained. "It was $2,000 compared to $650 coach fare on sale." 

To their mind, it's better to splurge the money on other amenities for the stay, say, a nice hotel, pampering at the spa or a tasty meal at a local restaurant. But if you're still bent on booking those coveted fares, check ITA's Matrix Software, the only travel search engine that shows them.  

SEE ALSO: 23 secrets to booking cheap flights > 

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Hermès' Latest Line Of Ties Is Inspired By Computer Nerds

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The latest Fall/Winter 2012 ties from Hermès are fusing fashion with the world of tech.

The collection, called "8 Ties," was designed with the help of French digital projection artist Miguel Chevalier. The patterns include keyboard keys, cables, and Apple power buttons.

There are even ties that are printed with binary code for the truly tech-savvy.

It was more than just ties for Chevalier, as the artist also made two animated installations based on the collection for Antwerp's MoMu Fashion Museum. The first was an interactive wall projection and the second a book with drawings of the tie designs themselves.

But though it took a step into the digital world, Hermès remains old school when it comes to luxury. Each tie is still hand-cut and stitched with heavy twill silk in the classic Hermès style.

The ties retail for $195 and can be purchased through the Hermès online store, or boutiques.

Some of our favorites were the microchip:

Hermes Tie

the keyboard...

Hermes Tie

and the on/off button.

Hermes Tie


Don't Miss: Go Inside The Hermès Factory Where $10,000 Purses Are Made By Hand

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There's Actually No Real Strategy For Pricing Ultra-Expensive Mansions

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former spelling manor

Most multimillion-dollar mansions are so unique that it's pretty much impossible to have a formulaic pricing strategy when listing them.

According to Candace Jackson of The Wall Street Journal:

Pricing homes at the extreme high end of the market is a somewhat subjective, and often irrational, process. Because there are so few similar properties for sale, and the homes are often unique, it's difficult to set a standard for a pricing scale, brokers say. For a home priced above $30 million, a "reasonable" price may be in the eye of the beholder."

Most of these homes are custom-made, have had millions of dollars of renovations put into them, and can have over-the-top amenities. They are hard to appraise since they are so unique and rare, making pricing essentially a crapshoot after the value of the land is accessed.

The hard-to-value mansions have led to an interesting trend: some homes that aren't selling actually get a price increase rather than a deduction.

Jackson notes that according to Zillow, 436 New York area listings over $1 million had raised their prices in the past 12 months, compared with 266 for the same period two years earlier.

Raising the price creates a mystery factor among potential buyers, who inquire to find out what changed about the listing to warrant the higher price.

"In the end, sanity usually wins the day and the price comes back down to reality," Donna Olshan, a New York-based broker told The WSJ. "You can't trick the market."

DON'T MISS: The 9 Neighborhoods With The Most Million-Dollar Listings

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: A TriBeCa Penthouse With Striking Views Is On Sale For $16.5 Million

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tribeca chambers street property $16.5 millionA TriBeCa penthouse towering 30 stories high is on sale for $16.5 million.

This unique property is in the prestigious PH200 building on Chambers Street.

The apartment has four bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, and spans 4,700 square feet.

The condo has three exposures; to the west there are views of the Hudson River, to the east the owners will have views of lower Manhattan, and to the north views there are views of Midtown.

Welcome to the penthouse on Chambers Street.



The apartment is selling for $3,510 per square foot.



The living room showcases the custom milled dark Oak flooring.



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YACHT OF THE WEEK: Spread Out In Style On The $55 Million 'Harbour Island'

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harbour island luxury yacht sales

For a real luxury cruise, you need a lot of space. The 'Harbour Island' provides it, and more.

At 180 feet long, it features three decks and five levels, with room for 14 guests, including two master suites and two VIP suites.

There's also a skylounge, a split level sun deck, a large living room, and space for a crew of 14 to keep everything running.

The yacht, to be displayed at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show later this month, is on sale by Ocean Independence for $54.9 million.

The yacht has five levels.



A split level sundeck features an infinity pool.



The 180-foot yacht has room for 14 guests in six staterooms.



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This $41,500 Fridge Almost Eliminates The Need For A Kitchen

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A new, state-of-the-art fridge that does almost everything but wash the dishes, has been released by United Kingdom-based Robey's, a home goods manufacturer.

The price of this do-it-all fridge is a whopping $41,500.

The Meneghini La Cambusa unit can be custom-fitted to match a home's decor. It can also be outfitted with your choice of gizmos ranging from a coffee maker, ice-maker, temperature controlled pantry, and even a flat-screen television, according to The Daily Mail.

This would be the perfect accessory for all of those tiny apartments popping up, but Robey's at that price, Robey's is definitely seeking out a high-net-worth client.

The base price for the fridge is $26,000, before you pick one of the 500 color options. Then, the brass handles, steam oven, coffee makers, and other amenities jack up the price.

The three-door option is 8.2 feet wide, weighs 1,100 pounds, and has 26.6 cubic feet of storage space.

Take a look at the design:

$41,000 fridge

 

$41,000 fridge

 

$41,000 fridge

 

DON'T MISS: The Incredible Transforming Apartment In London

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SPOTTED: A Gold, Glittering Boxster In China

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A Boxster S looks good on its own; it is a Porsche, after all. But one driver in China decided their ride needed a nice gold paint job, with plastic crystals on the side mirrors, door handles, and wheels.

The photo of this luxury ride, spotted in Beijing, was posted on Car News China, which shared it with us.

The question is: Does the paint job make the car better, or worse?

Have you spotted a rare or unusual way of getting around in your travels? Did you take a photo? Do you like sharing? Let me know via e-mail: adavies@businessinsider.com or on Twitter: @adavies47.

porsche boxster s gold glitter china

See More: What It's Like To Be A Member Of New York's Incredible Classic Car Club

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Incredible 'Photoshopped' Images From Before Photoshop Even Existed

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"Faking It"

Manipulating a picture is pretty easy to do nowadays.

A sepia filter is just a push of a button away on Instagram. Scores of iPhone apps let you do things like make people look old, get rid of red eye, and add a handful of effects.

But in a dark room? That's a whole different animal. 

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York opened its newest exhibit, Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop.

The images are a testament to what is photography is capable of, even without 21st century technology. Its pretty incredible — some of the effects that these photographers labored over in the darkroom are way beyond the capabilities of the average Photoshop user.

A postcard shows a German soldier crushing members of the Triple Entente together during World War I.

Unidentified German artist

A Powerful Collision, 1914

Gelatin silver print

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twentieth-century Photography Fund,

2010 2010.296,193

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art



This double portrait shows a man as both artist and model, each regarding the other with cool irony.

Maurice Guibert, French, 1856–1913

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model, ca. 1900

Gelatin silver print

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art



The photographer managed to put a woman in place of the stem of a lamp.

Grete Stern, Argentinian, born Germany, 1904-1999

Dream No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home, 1948

Gelatin silver print

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 

2012 2012.10

Courtesy of Galería Jorge Mara - La Ruche, Buenos Aires

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art



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An Off-Season Guide To The Best Food, Wine, And Spas Of The French Alps

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Rhone-Alps Castle France

When one thinks of the Rhone-Alps region of France, the vision of snow-capped mountains and exceptional skiing come to mind. It’s a true assessment—the 

Check out the best places to treat yourself in the Rhone-Alps >

But the second-largest region in France is also one of the country’s best year-round destinations, home of Cote de Rhone and Beaujolais wine, Evian water, and more than 65 Michelin-starred restaurants.

Known as the country’s top area for spas and wellness, the region is ideal for an add-on to a Paris trip, a combination journey from Switzerland, or a stopping point on the way to Provence, St. Tropez, or even Monaco.  

Here are our suggestions for a week-long luxury itinerary in the summer, spring or fall, combining all the best the area has to offer – spas, wine and food.

Begin: Lyon

Start your journey in the city of Lyon, a city of vibrant arts, culture, and of course, food. Shop for Hermes (their scarf factory is in Lyon), stroll the winding streets, and walk the scenic Rhone riverside.

Have an early dinner at famed bistro Daniel et Denise, where you can enjoy a traditional Bouchon and a cozy ambiance – think red checked tablecloths and vintage posters on the wall – as well as a lively, local-filled atmosphere.

Spend the night at the Hotel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour, which boasts a fashionable bar, spa, and Michelin-starred restaurant as well as a central location.

If you’d prefer something a bit more intimate, try the Le Royal Hotel Lyon, a 72-room guesthouse and home of the famed Institut Paul Bocuse cooking school.

You’ll be up early the next morning, so rest up.





Day Two: Wine, Wine, and more Wine

It could easily take a week to explore the Beaujolais vineyards of the area. Taste your way through the Beaujolais vineyards with the help of the Beaujolais wine app – free in the Apple app store, but also available in paper format for those who prefer something a bit more tangible. You can search by vineyard and city name.



Day Two: Chateau de la Chaize

If you only have a day, we’d suggest a visit to the Chateau de la Chaize in Odenas and the Chateau de Montmelas in Montmelas, both of which boast friendly staff and beautiful vineyards. The Chateau de Montlemas can arrange group tours for 20 or more, and is often dubbed “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle” for its picturesque views. The home is open for tours, and if you’d like to indulge in a castle stay, the home has apartments available for rent by the week.



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HOUSE OF THE DAY: An Elegant Mansion Near Chicago For Just $4.2 Million

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illinois $4.2 million mansion

An European-inspired home on the North Shore of Chicago is on sale for $4.2 million.

The 10,000-square-foot home exudes elegance and is truly unlike any other mansion we've seen before.

The home, in Glencoe, has five bedrooms, five full bathrooms, and three half bathrooms.

The home was custom-built, and has a limestone exterior, and imported and domestic stone and wood inside.



The double-story entrance is truly grand.



The home has 25 rooms in total.



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9 Tips On Buying A Second Home

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monopoly house

Buying a second home before selling the first is a scary proposition. But some move-up buyers living in tight real estate markets have little choice if they want to land their dream home in their desired neighborhood.

It's a seller's market in areas such as the metro Boston area, Texas and northern California, where homes are receiving multiple offers.

If you think this optionis a luxury you can't afford, you're wrong. If you have a low ratio of debt to income, there are surprising things you can do to prepare before taking the plunge.

With record-low interest rates, it's a great time to take advantage of buying more house for less.

Here are nine savvy ways to prepare before you venture into the land of double mortgages:

1. Get preapproved. This seems a no-brainer, but some buyers aren't preapproved by their lender before they start house shopping, said Joe Parsons, a senior loan officer at PFS Funding in Dublin, Calif. This stamp of approval is essential for buyers to understand how much they can borrow for the new place and how much cash they need to close while still owning their first home.

2. Take out a home equity line of credit. You can't borrow money to buy real estate unless it's secured against another asset, so why not borrow from your home? If you're planning to move, now is a good time to think about a home equity loan. Interest is deductible, and when you're ready, the cash can be used toward a down payment on your new home, said Amy Tierce, a regional vice president at Fairway Independent Mortgage in Needham, Mass. Some caveats: Most lenders don't like to hear you'll be using it for another home, so keep that to yourself. If you pay it off within a year there will likely be penalties up to $500. You have to pay this money back, so don't borrow more than you need.

3. Check into a blanket or cross-collateralization loan. This option isn't available in all parts of the country and tends to be more popular with smaller chartered or community banks. These loans cover two or more pieces of real estate. The lender will place liens against both homes and release the lien against the first home once it's sold.

[InvestingAnswers Feature: Mortgage Calculator for Fixed-Rate Mortgages]

4. Borrow against a 401(k) plan. You can typically borrow up to half of your balance, with no penalties, and don't have to repay it for years (unless you get fired or quit your job).

5. Don't plan on taking out another FHA loan. Federal Housing Administration loans have become more restrictive and expensive. They are the loan program of last resort for people who might not qualify for other loans. Tierce said if you already have one, you won't be allowed to have two.

6. Plan for a smaller down payment. Conventional loans don't require a 20% down payment. Low interest rates could make a 5% payment more palatable. This also provides a cushion if the house you're buying appraises for less than the sale price, a common occurrence when multiple bids ensue.

[InvestingAnswers Feature: 5 Secrets to Surviving the Mortgage Process]

7. Consider a second mortgage. Second mortgages garner nearly double the interest rates (about 6.5%) as first mortgages, but they're still cheaper than a credit card. You could plan to pay off this mortgage from sale proceeds of the first home or take the tax deduction and invest the money elsewhere.

8. Forget the contingency. These days, few sellers will agree to sell their home based on the sale of your home. Don't even ask.

9. Go rental. If your house doesn’t have the fancy upgrades that draw multiple offers or the market is soft in your area, consider renting it for a few months until you can sell. The income will cover the mortgage and you can still deduct the interest on your taxes.

Double home ownership isn't for everyone, but with the right plan and some savings you could be moving into your dream home sooner than you think.

The Investing Answer: Before making an offer on your dream home, talk to your lender to see if you can afford two mortgages. Stash at least six months of cash reserves in case your home doesn't sell right away.  Don't buy more house than you can afford.

Karen Nielsen knows something about double mortgages. She currently owns two homes, but her North Texas home has received multiple offers and she hopes to put an end to that soon.

See Also: 12 stellar homes you can buy for less than $150,000 >

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Discrete EBooks Have Unlocked A Huge Erotic Fiction Market

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erotic fiction

Flush with the success of "Fifty Shades of Grey", erotic literature is increasingly finding ardent fans among women seduced by the discretion afforded by ebooks, publishers say.

"The Perfect Submissive", "Body Temperature And Rising" and "Dark Desires", the titles issued by British specialist publisher Xcite leave little room for doubt over their content.

The books were unashamedly on display in the bustling corridors of the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's biggest publishing event due to close Sunday, and are enjoying a boost thanks to the advent of the electronic book.

The erotic book is "an ideal genre for ebooks", said Peter Ferris, non-executive director at Accent Press, whose imprint Xcite is the biggest British erotica publisher.

"Print book sales were starting to decline. Getting into the major book stores was difficult. Some stores are not happy to take them and the buyers are very hard to reach," he said.

And then "Fifty Shades of Grey" came along.

The 2011 erotic novel by British author E.L. James was the first part of a trilogy about a relationship between a college graduate and a young business magnate and has sold tens of millions of copies worldwide.

Since "Fifty Shades of Grey" started to top the bestseller lists, ebook sales have undergone "a very large increase" and made erotic literature more publicly acceptable, Ferris said.

"It raised the attention level or people's awareness of erotica. It made it more mainstream, more acceptable. It's no longer something you don't talk about, it's in the bestsellers' charts," he said.

Xcite now expects its ebook sales to be three times higher than the printed book sales this year.

Germany's Jolanta Gatzanis, editor in charge of erotic literature at the publishing house that bears her name, said ebooks had been flying off the digital shelves, and without having to be promoted.

"We sold a lot of electronic books this year without doing much publicity. That really surprised us," she said.

In Germany, no fewer than 4,000 erotic reference books for adults are currently available on the Internet, albeit of varying quality, said Roman Jansen-Winkeln, of Satzweiss, a services' provider for publishers and authors.

"There are some of good quality but a huge number of books of very mediocre quality which would have never been printed. A bit like for thrillers. But if a bad thriller can still be quite amusing, there's nothing worse than bad erotic literature," he said.

This genre of books is predominantly read by women, the publishers agreed. Jansen-Winkeln said he believed more than 80 percent of readers of erotic literature were female.

"We don't actually see the gender of the customer but... the writing itself is aimed at women, and it's written mostly by female authors who are writing for women," said Ferris, of Accent Press which also publishes thrillers and cook books.

Discretion could be the key.

With no cover on display, an ereading device such as a Kindle makes the literature anonymous to the outside world, Giada Armani, who heads up erotic literature publishing house Giadas.

"I think that women have always wanted to read erotic literature. But what woman brandishes an erotic book in the underground or at work whose cover displays the silhouette of a naked man?" she said.

And, as Ferris pointed out, the reader can also retain their own anonymity by downloading ebooks without having to go into a shop.

"You can even erase it once you're finished so nobody knows what you've been reading," he said.

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Everyone In Shanghai Tried To Crash Dwyane Wade's Private Party

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dwayne wade

SHANGHAI -- The front door of the nightclub was simply out of the question. It was too dangerous. Even the brutish-looking Chinese toughs hired to protect the Heat here in Shanghai knew that.

The back door was the only option, and it wasn't much better.

A crashing, sweating horde of humanity all hopped up on who knows what was there waiting to mob LeBron James. This was supposed to be Dwyane Wade's private party, by invitation only, but someone had leaked the information, and everyone in Shanghai tried to crash the nightclub.

Forget international diplomacy, cracking skulls suddenly seemed like a reasonable option. No. Remain calm. Maybe this was just a normal Friday night in Shanghai.

The club of choice for the Heat's one night out on the town was typical enough. Three floors, finely crafted wooden fixtures and familiar bass grooves lording over every sense in your body. The communist overtones of northern China and Beijing hide themselves well in Shanghai, a southern city that feels like a mix between New York and San Francisco in some areas and New Orleans and Amsterdam in others. It's a cool town.

But the people trying to push into the club -- there was nothing cool or internationally chic about them.

Ever seen old video footage of The Beatles when all the girls are losing their minds, screaming through raw throats and reaching out their arms over barricades at Paul and John? Most of those images are from The Beatles' first tour of the United States in 1964. That was the scene at this Shanghai nightclub, except there were no barricades and no sweet little girls -- just grown men and women acting like boy-band groupies and someone, in all their brilliance, had apparently thought it was a good idea to feed these people booze.

"Just push," said one of the Heat's staff members.

It took 10 minutes to break through the first floor. Wade's party, sponsored by a Chinese social media company, was on the third.

For James and Wade, the trip to Beijing and Shanghai for the NBA's 2012 China Games was an exhausting week of promotional appearances, shoe-company business, fan appreciation events, a few practices and two exhibition games. There wasn't much time to relax, and this party was supposed to be one of those times. Most of the Heat's players had elected to attend, so being the only journalist allowed into the event was a pretty good score.

James and most of the players were hanging out near the bar area of the third floor when I finally breached the multiple levels of security in place to keep out the crazies. The place was packed full of Americans and other internationals. Of the Heat's contingent, there were the players, coach Erik Spoelstra, a few staff members and a couple of executives.

A section of the floor space had been roped off for the players and a mass of people, men and women, were surrounding the velvet barrier. These were the traditional sort of groupies I have become accustomed to in three seasons covering the Heat. Finally, I felt at home.

The dress code on the invitation to the party had said "smart and sexy," and the many attendees were dressed appropriately. The promoters -- the professional partiers charged with finding attractive people to populate a high-end event -- had done their jobs well.

As for the guy in charge of the air conditioning, he should be fired. It felt like 90 degrees in the place. It was open bar, so I ordered, said hello to Ray Allen and made my way outside to enjoy the balcony. The stifling heat and gorgeous views would send everyone my way soon enough.

The nightclub was located across the Huangpu River from the players' hotel and all the enormous skyscrapers. Shanghai is a boomtown, so everything that is new and big and in the postcards is actually not located in the city center. They're in Pudong, which was once a suburb but is now the city's financial district.

The enormous structures across the river glimmered and twinkled like the short dresses of the women in the club. Below the balcony, a dedicated group with "Wade" stickers under their eyes waited patiently for a glimpse of the players. Then, suddenly, all the lights went out over the river.

An ordinance requires the skyscrapers to turn off the tops of their buildings at 10 p.m. Still, even without lights the view was breathtaking. It was around that time James walked outside and found a seat.

"It is so hot in there," he said.

James looked down at his iPhone and checked his Twitter feed. Like most (if not all) of the Heat's players at the party, he was not drinking. James was wearing thick-framed gold-rimmed glasses, a buttoned-up vest and what looked like a multicolored ascot.

For a moment, he was alone and almost entirely by himself. He let out a road-weary sigh.

"I don't know about you, but this trip has been pretty tiring," James said.

For all my time in China, I never got more than four consecutive hours of sleep. Neither did James. Your body clock is so scrambled it just doesn't allow it. During the week, James had to cancel a few Nike-sponsored events sponsored just to catch up on his rest. He stretched out his legs, a self-made barrier, and looked around him as the people on the balcony began closing in.

"Hey, LeBron, I know you read The Hunger Games," said a man, American, clutching a beer. "I teach ninth-grade English and I tell all my students you read the books."

"Oh, yeah," James said. "Cool."

The man asked James what he thought of the ending and James nodded his head, "It was a good read."

James looked over and smirked ever so slightly. He read The Hunger Games during last season's playoffs and ever since then people have been asking him about the book. The English teacher suggested a reading list of more science fiction, and James thanked him.

Below the balcony, the DJ played Frank Sinatra's New York. James' night was almost over. He was ready to leave.

A small child danced around the balcony, oblivious to the giant men surrounding him. Rashard Lewis and Joel Anthony were leaning against the balcony's rail as fans screamed for their attention below.

"Who brought that kid in here?" James said, shocked by the sight of the toddler. "It's way past his bedtime."

And past James' as well. He rose to his feet, nodded his head good-bye and walked past the toddler back into the club. His night was done.

While James was completely spent, Mario Chalmers was obviously full of energy. He bounced around, cracking jokes and enjoying the night. He looked down from the balcony and spotted Udonis Haslem, rolling into the party about two hours late.

"U.D. is here," Chalmers said. "It's on now."

Remember that dress code? U.D. doesn't do "smart and sexy." He had on jeans and a simple black hoodie jacket. Haslem is tough and blue collar and genuine at all times. He strode unnoticed past the group of fans below.

Allen joined Lewis and Anthony on the edge of the balcony, and then it happened -- the highlight, or lowlight of the night, depending on your perspective. One of the boy-band fans had somehow found his way up the stairs, past security and onto the balcony. He rushed toward Allen, pushing him backward against the railing.

"Sign my shirt," he screamed in broken English into Allen's face. "I love you! I love you! I love you!"

It was a guttural scream. He held out a pen and screamed it again.

"You don't want me to sign you shirt," Allen said to the man, who appeared to be in his mid-20s. "What's your momma going to say when you come home with a dirty shirt?"

"I love you!" he screamed. "Sign! I love you!"

Amazingly, Allen remained completely calm.

"You momma is going to be mad," Allen said with a straight face.

"I love you! I love you! I love you!"

Allen signed the breast of the fan's white polo shirt and cracked, "You can find the same thing at your local Wal-Mart."

Made in China. Just like this night. ___

(c)2012 The Miami Herald

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Texas Man Selling Home To Help Find Lost Dog

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A couple in Warren, Texas, put their home up for sale in order to be able to offer a $50,000 reward for their missing dog. Charlie Parker, who is retired, said his dog, Sir, a chocolate Lab, is like a child to him and his wife.

He tells local TV station KFDM that he's willing to give up everything to find Sir (besides his wife and his horse). "He plays such a great role in our lives," said Parker. "Whatever it takes, just bring me the animal and I'll pay you."


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Working For Your Own Family's 95-Year-Old Business Can Get Pretty Intense

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todd simon omaha steaksIt's rare for any company to survive for a century. Entire industries have come and gone in that timeframe, and yet, one steak company has not only kept itself afloat, but it has managed to keep the business in the family.

Omaha Steaks was founded in 1917 by J.J. Simon and his son B.A. By the 1940s, the brand had made its way across the country. Once a simple butcher shop, the company now sells its steaks over many channels — mail, retail stores, telemarketing, web and B2B — and rakes in more than $450 million in revenue each year.

Todd Simon was the second member of the family's fifth generation to join the business. He's a senior vice president at Omaha Steaks, and is in charge of all consumer sales and marketing for the brand, including its entire multi-channel marketing approach.

Working for your family's 95-year-old business

It wasn't always guaranteed that Simon would join his kin in the family steak business. He went to the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business after high school, and it was a gratifying experience for him. He was never sure that he was going to be part of the business, but he ended up falling right into it.

"At the time, I wasn't really sure what to do," says Simon. "I found myself graduating from college. I had not prepared a resume, I hadn't applied to any jobs and hadn't applied to grad school. So, my Dad gave me a choice, and I went with it."

It turns out that the family business was not only the logical place to go, but a good fit for Simon. It was important that before he entered, the family was clear about the role he would play in the business. Simon was put in charge of what he did best — sales and marketing.

"You're an owner in training," explains Simon. "This is how owners act. They work harder and work longer than somebody from the outside. You always have to set the very best example."

There are more than a dozen non-family executives at the company now, so there's a healthy mix of internal and external sources of decision-making. In the end, the family has the final say, but it's still not always easy. They have to argue amongst themselves to answer the hardest questions.

"The board is still family. We'll close the doors in a room sometimes and yell at each other about something," says Simon. "We're not a big family. There are only four of us involved in the business today. If we had 67 first cousins all fighting over where they were getting their allowance this month, we may have a problem."

Controlling the experience

Omaha Steaks has always keep tight control over its operations. It's one of the most important facets of its business, says Simon. By keeping things in-house, at least at every point that touches the customer, the brand can deliver the best experience possible. The responsibility lies on Omaha Steaks — no one else.

"We own the customer experience from start to finish," says Simon. "Manufacturing, packaging, shipping, call center, customer service, IT development, website — it's all in-house."

Another big differentiator Omaha Steaks has is the number of channels that it uses make to contact with the consumer. It has 80 retail stores to go along with its hefty online and mail order operations.

"We try to circle the whole 360 degrees of the marketing of food," says Simon. "We do have competitors, but we think we're about 20 times larger than our closest competitor."

Staying relevant

Things have changed a lot in the food business over the past 80 years, but Omaha Steaks has done well at keeping up with innovation.

For instance, packaging has been key. After all, the vacuum-sealed packets are what makes Omaha Steaks' mail order business possible.

"We want to make sure that they're 100% air-tight so they last as long as possible," says Simon. "The current innovation is around the pre-cooked and value-added products. Things that are ready to eat. Things that you can just thaw out and eat."

Omaha Steaks has research and development teams in-house, and the company's executive chef works with the production department on new things. It also relies on some key suppliers.

On the marketing front, Omaha Steaks is working on expanding its marketing reach through Facebook, mobile and more. With all digital on the rise, it's working hard to keep up and move forward.


NOW SEE: Meet S. Truett Cathy, The 91-Year-Old Billionaire Behind Chick-fil-A >

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Mike Wallace's Park Avenue Duplex Hits The Market For $20 Million

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The Park Avenue apartment of esteemed "60 Minutes" journalist Mike Wallace, who passed away this past April, has hit the market for $20 million, according to The New York Times.

Wallace's wife, Mary Yates, died in September, just a few months after her husband, and the couple's heirs have listed the home.

Wallace is known for his 21 Emmy awards, including one that he won for an interview with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2006.

The home has four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms. It takes up the 15th and 16th floors of the co-op at 730 Park Ave.

High ceilings, a library, expansive terraces, and crown moldings add to the home's allure.

A 20-foot gallery and a 33-foot living room with a wood burning fireplace make the home perfect for entertaining.

mike wallace $20 million apartment

 

mike wallace $20 million apartment

 

mike wallace $20 million apartment

DON'T MISS: A TriBeCa Penthouse With Striking Views Is On Sale For $16.5 Million

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Some Political Factors To Consider Before Moving To A Foreign Country

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greece greek athens protest fight police battle riot

I wrote recently of a “tip”, a suggestion, to consider when choosing a nation for relocation. Here are two more.

As always, keep in mind that these are my personal preferences and may not be relevant to you, but I think they are at least worthy of consideration when you set out to relocate outside your home nation.

Civil Wars – I mean civil wars that led to many deaths and usually years before ending. In such a nation, I prefer that it be 40 (even better, 50) years since the ending of the civil war. Why?

Most civil wars are fought by young men, often in their late teens and twenties. Let’s use 20 as an example for one individual. Ten or twenty or thirty years later, you are 30 or 40 or 50.

Yes, the civil war is long over, but the memories may never be over. To have seen your best friend shot and killed before your eyes or your father taken away by armed men, never to be heard from again, is a traumatic event. You never forget that and it can be very, very difficult, if not impossible, to forgive that. Now you are middle-aged and you are able to work with someone who you know was on the “other side back then” in a professional and superficially friendly manner, but can you ever trust him?

In societies where this is the case, this factor can be very significant, although “hidden” to the eyes of a foreigner. Because it is so heavily charged with emotion, it can pervert relationships and lead to very unpleasant results if you accidentally say or do the “wrong thing” innocently.

In choosing business partners, should that be the case, this can be an important factor. You may have an excellent personal relationship with each of two other local people and decide to bring them together to work with you on a project. You need to be sensitive to their backgrounds and personal histories. Just because they get along fine with you is no indication they will be able to get along well with each other.

That’s on an individual level, but it can happen on a societal level as well. A political issue that seems pretty ordinary to you may lead to some very powerful conflict around you. This may be an issue that somehow reminds the society of one of the reasons they had a civil war in the first place. This is another very good reason to steer clear entirely of local and national politics. It’s good to do that under all circumstance to the extent possible, but especially so of nations that have torn themselves apart in war.

I sympathize with these folks. I have had middle-aged professionals reduced to tears as they described the horrors they witnessed during “the war” and it is a moving experience. However, sympathize as I do, I still prefer societies where this is not likely to be an issue. Forty or fifty years later, “the war” is still a primary issue for some, but now they are old enough to be moving aside and younger generations, even though they have heard the stories, are far more likely to assign all that to history and deal with each other directly in a far more constructive manner, and you too, indirectly.

Left/Right – I prefer nations that do not have a “far left” and a “far right” that are substantial in size, well-funded, highly vocal, and in perpetual conflict. In those societies, serious political conflict is a given factor, day and night. Since I only live in democracies (I have had my fill of military governments, one-party states, and the like), there is the real possibility that an election will lead to a near-complete reversal in domestic and foreign policies. This can cause endless problems for everyone as they struggle to keep track of what is allowed and what is not allowed. Plus the continuous barrage of extremist insults from both sides can leave many people frozen into inaction, fearing that one or the other group will gain power and suddenly change the rules of the game.

This can be especially a problem for “foreigners” like you and me. In domestic politics, foreigners are much easier and safer targets than local people who vote. In the 24 hours of an Election Day, you can go from being a welcome addition to their nation to something akin to the spawn of Satan! That legal agreement you signed last year can be torn up, now that a new government is in power. And people who treated you as a friend may suddenly be very distant or worse. This is one more thing that I have experienced and can do without. I can handle it (I had no choice on some professional assignments) for a short period, but I am talking about my new home and that is an entirely different story. It is an extreme example of the old saying about New York City, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

That covers two of the “political” issues that concern me in choosing a nation for relocation. In my next post, I will discuss the importance of employment – both the employment situation for the local people and the employment situation for you. They are not one and the same, obviously, but you may be surprised that your situation is not necessarily the most important to successful relocation.

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