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Travelers Reveal The Best Service Perks They've Every Received At Hotels


the lobby at the sofitel hotel in Macau

The mark of a truly top-notch hotel is its service.

In addition to the room upgrades, attentive staff, and perks like champagne, the world's best hotels go above and beyond great service to cater to the every whim of their guests and anticipate every desire.

A recent Quora thread asked, "what are the best service touches you've ever received at a hotel"? The answers revealed some incredible services you probably never knew existed.

Nothing Is Ever Too Much To Ask For

"I had overslept [at the Al Faisaliah in Riyadh] and needed to finish some work and checkout quickly so I could make my flight back home. The butler had brought in my breakfast (they have butler service) and saw that I was rushing. He asked if I needed anything and I sarcastically replied "Well unless you can pack my bags." All I heard was a "why of course" and then he proceeded to perfectly fold all my dress clothes into my bags in a few minutes." -- Saikat B.

"When I wanted to eat at the rooftop restaurant but lacked the appropriate attire, Ian [the floor butler] brought a rack of suits to my room. When I called Ian to see when the jet ski rental booth closed, he told me it closed at six but not to worry. I did not know what this meant at the time. A few moments later, Ian called back to inform me that the rental booth reopened so that I could be dragged around on a tube behind a motor boat for a half hour. The Burj al Arab's service was almost uncomfortable." -- Alan D.

"I'll never forget one time on a Disney cruise when my cousin said he wanted nothing for dessert, and they brought out a plate with the word nothing written in chocolate sauce. It was cute, clever, and nice because he didn't have to sit there with no plate in front of him while everyone else ate, and it put a smile on all our faces." -- Kristen B.

They Go Out Of Their Way To Make You Feel At Home

goldfish hotel"At the Maximilian hotel in Prague, you can get a goldfish delivered to your room." -- Sebastian I.

"I recently checked in [to The PennyHill Hotel in Surrey, UK] and requested a cot for my daughter. When I arrived they had put a cot in the room, put a couple of blankets in the cot but also left a champagne bucket on the side, a kettle, some still water, a few small soft towels and a teddy bear with a note saying 'we do not have a bottle warmer available however please feel free to use the champagne bucket as a substitute alongside hot water. We have also provided mineral water in case you have milk formula and a complimentary teddy bear for company, hopefully this will be the first of many happy nights here for your family, best regards'." -- Anthony S.

Even When You Make A Mistake, They'll Fix It

"I unintentionally booked a room with 2 queen beds, instead of 1 king.  At check-in, when I realized this, I asked if there might be any king rooms available; the hotel was booked to capacity and there was nothing. I didn't raise too much of a fuss, though, and assured the front desk manager — despite his constant apologies — it was my fault for having booked the wrong room type, and appreciated their looking in to availability nonetheless." 

"I dropped off everything at my room and left the hotel for a number of meetings I had in town that day. When I returned to the hotel in the evening, I found a note from the manager apologizing for my having gotten the wrong room type (even though it was my own fault!).  More impressively, though, they had actually disassembled and removed the 2 queen beds that were in the room, and brought in a spare king bed and set that up; while they had no king rooms available, they did have some king beds and used one to turn my room in to what I wanted.

"What's more, they did all of that for just a single night as they upgraded me to a suite that had become available (with king bed) the next night until the end of my stay.-- Brian D.

They Pay Attention To The Tiniest Details

"When we were at the Disney Ambassador Hotel at Tokyo Disneyland a couple of years ago, my sister left her glasses in our room when we went out to dinner. When we came back to the room, we found out that housekeeping had done this with a hand towel in the meantime:" -- Makiko I.

elephant glasses hotel"It was a nice (but not luxurious) hotel in Japan. I had just woken up and prepared myself a cup of hot tea in my hotel room. I had just taken a sip or two when we decided to go down to the hotel restaurant for some breakfast. When we returned, we found the housekeeping staff had come to make up our room.

"One of the staff had placed a coffee cup saucer over the top of my tea cup, so my beverage would be hot when I returned (although they had no way of knowing if I would return so quickly). I took a sip of my (still) hot tea and thought to myself how thoughtful they were to have paid attention to such details. This happened many years ago, but I still remember fondly a little touch that meant a lot. I left them a generous tip, when I checked out." -- Garrick S.

They Take Care Of Your Valuables

"A friend left her purse, with most of her valuables, in my Tokyo hotel room as I checked out. The hotel didn't know her name. She realized her loss as the Narita Express train we were on pulled out of the station.  As she had kept her passport and some credit cards separately and with her, we decided to continue on to Narita.

"At the airport when I checked in, I was told, 'United desk X has a message for you.' The message was from the hotel.  It said, 'When cleaning your room, we found a purse and gave it to an Airport Limousine driver. It will arrive at Narita airport at XX:XX.'  The time was five minutes after reading the message. Nothing was missing." -- Dick K.

"Because of a  planned strike the next day by Air France, I had to leave the Sofitel Hotel in Cannes unexpectedly early in order to make my connections back to the US. In my hurry I left behind some of my clothes, toiletries, and a battery charger.

"The next year I chanced to stay at the same hotel and found all the items I had left behind cleaned, ironed, tagged, and lined up on the bed. My formerly dirty, sandy, wet Nike shoes looked new.

"I made a point of leaving an entire suitcase behind at this Sofitel. For the next 20 years it was always there waiting 1 year later. No charge." -- Fred L.

And They Will Literally Take Care Of You

chicken noodle soup"The Delta Calgary South is not a resort destination, but I will never forget the kindness their staff demonstrated during a stay a few years back.

"A day or two after checking in, I came down with a pretty bad case of the flu.  I limped thru one day of meetings, but finally surrendered, called my clients and cancelled my meetings.

"When the maid service knocked on the door, I explained I wasn't feeling well and wouldn't need their services for a day or two.  An hour later I got a call from the manager asking if she could help in anyway.  I told her I was fine and just needed to ride it out. She said she understood, and hoped I wouldn't mind that room service had just left a bowl of soup and pitcher of orange juice outside my door.  I would never have ordered it for myself, but it was an absolute godsend.

"Over the next two days, I would hear a very discreet knock on the door and open it to find small, healthful snacks — fruit, tea, toast, broth — it was as if my fairy godmother was nursing me back to health." -- Andy E.

SEE ALSO: 16 Of The World's Best Cheap Hotels

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12 Kitchen Hacks That Will Up Your Cookie-Baking Game

Here's How To Track Santa On The Internet Tonight



Santa Claus has already begun his annual journey.

Thanks to the Internet, Microsoft, Google and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), you and your kids can watch his progress all day and night.

Here's how:

Fire up your PC's browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.) and log onto one these websites:

   - The Norad Tracks Santa site (also found at www.noradsanta.org). Click on Start Tracking Santa. You'll get a 3D image that includes a map of where Santa is and a running estimate of the number of gifts he's delivered.

  - Google's Santa Tracker site (also found at www.google.com/santatracker).

Alternatively, download the apps and watch on your smartphone or tablet:

  - NORAD Tracks Santa app from iTunes or Google Play

  - Or the Google Santa Tracker for Android from Google Play.

NORAD's relationship with Microsoft for the Santa Tracking website and app was something of a coup for Microsoft last year. Prior to then, NORAD worked with Google.

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Tour The Sky-High Infinity Pool Perched 57 Floors Above Singapore


marina bay sands infinity poolThe Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore opened its doors in 2010, to the tune of a whopping $5.7 billion.

That amount paid for the massive 2,561-room hotel, a museum, casino, restaurants, bars, a swanky shopping mall, and the pièce de résistance: the SkyPark, an insane rooftop pleasure dome with a 150-meter (492 ft.) infinity pool.

Located on the 57th floor, this pool offers stunning views of Singapore's financial district, Marina Bay, and beyond. It's the largest and highest infinity pool in the world, according to the hotel, and if you swim up to the pool's edge, it feels like you're about to fall off the top of the world.

The SkyPark is only open to hotel guests, which provides some exclusivity. Rooms at the Marina Bay Sands start at S$399 per night for a double.

We recently had the chance to visit the Marina Bay Sands, and were amazed by the SkyPark and pool. Here's what we saw.

Disclosure: Our trip to Singapore, including travel and lodging expenses, was sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board.

For context, here's what Marina Bay Sands looks like from the outside. The SkyPark, which connects the hotel's three towers, looks a bit like a cruise ship perched in the air.

At 57 stories (650 feet), that's a long way down.

From the edge of the SkyPark, you can see how the entire pool curves.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

HOUSE OF THE DAY: Late Investor Martin Zweig's Magnificent Penthouse Now Selling For A Discounted $95 Million


pierre penthouse martin zweig

The penthouse of New York City's Pierre Hotel hit the market for a record $125 million in late April.

But the property, which belonged to late investor Martin Zweig, has yet to find a buyer, and recently had its price slashed by 24% to $95 million, according to The New York Daily News.

Zweig initially listed the apartment for $70 million in 2007 but later pulled the listing; he died in February.

The apartment encompasses three floors and was originally the hotel's ballroom.

The 16-room spread is listed with Sotheby's International Realty.

The apartment is a triplex, taking up floors 41, 42, and 43 of the Pierre.

It formerly housed the famous hotel's ballroom, and "the living room is considered the most magnificent privately owned room in the world," according to the listing.

There are 16 rooms in total, including five bedrooms.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The Best-Selling Books Of The Year, According To Amazon


Dan Brown, author

2013 was a year of mystery and thrills, at least according to Amazon's list of best-selling adult books for the year.

While contemporary romance dominated last year's list with the likes of "50 Shades of Grey," this year's top spot went to Dan Brown's thriller "Inferno." It was also a very popular book at the New York Public Library earlier this fall. 

"And The Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini and J.K. Rowling's crime thriller, "The Cuckoo's Calling," written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, rounded out the top three.

Amazon calculated its list of best-selling books by taking into account sales of print and Kindle edition books that were published in 2013. Check out the best-selling books below:

1. "Inferno" by Dan Brown: Brown's infamous hero Robert Langdon (from "The Da Vinci Code") heads once more into Italy. Langdon's latest mystery takes its cue from Dante's epic poem in the "Divine Comedy." 

2. "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini: Hosseini follows up "The Kite Runner" with another story set in Kabul, Afghanistan. His latest novel begins with a father telling his two young children a folktale. The story spans several decades and continents following the family's trials and tribulations from there. 

3. "The Cuckoo’s Calling" by Robert Galbraith: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a super model's suicide in this classically-styled mystery written by J.K. Rowling under a pseudonym. 

4. "The Husband’s Secret" by Liane Moriarty: Cecilia Fitzpatrick discovers a letter in which her husband confesses a dark secret that could ruin the life she built. She was supposed to receive the letter after he died, but stumbles across it while he is still very much alive.

5. "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" by Sheryl Sandberg: Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, shares her leadership secrets in a book that combines personal anecdotes, hard data and research. She aims to understand the bias against women in leadership positions and offer advice for women in the workplace and daily life.  

6. "The Hit" by David Baldacci: Will Robie, a highly trained assassin, eliminates enemies of state for the U.S. government. When Jessica Reel, another assassin in the agency, goes rogue, Robie must stop her. 

7. "Sycamore Row" by John Grisham: Jake Brigance, from Grisham's breakout hit "A Time to Kill" returns to Ford County to try a case that brings up old racial tensions. Before hanging himself from a Sycamore tree, Seth Hubbard leaves a handwritten will for his property that drags his adult children and his black maid into a conflict that spans generations.

8. "Entwined with You" by Sylvia Day: Book three of the Crossfire series finds Gideon and Eva with even more alone time than they've had in previous installments of this torrid romance. 

9. "Never Go Back" by Lee Child: Child's latest novel in his Jack Reacher series follows the former military cop on a mission to find his missing commanding officer, Major Susan Turner, and clear his own name in the process.

10. "The Storyteller" by Jodi Picoult: Sage Singer is a baker trying to get over the death of her mother. Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group with his own demons, begins stopping by the Sage's bakery. They strike up an unlikely friendship.

11. "Alex Cross, Run" by James Patterson: Detective Alex Cross has a lot on his plate: A plastic surgeon, Cross got arrested for sleeping with teenage girls is out of jail, and this time with a new face, a young woman who recently gave birth is found murdered and the baby is missing, plus another serial killer is rumored to be on the loose in D.C. 

12. "Doctor Sleep" by Stephen King: In his latest supernatural mystery, King invents the True Knot, a group of quasi-immortal RV-travelers who feed off the steam produced when children with "the shining" are slowly tortured to death.   

13. "12th of Never" by James Patterson: Part of the Women's Murder Club series, Patterson's latest mystery picks up when Lindsay Boxer's daughter is born. But her bliss is quickly broken when San Francisco gets hit with multiple killings.

14. "Damaged: The Ferro Family" by H.M. Ward: In this romance, Peter is a college professor and Sydney, his teaching assistant, is running from her past and afraid to get too close to another person. Still, the two have unmistakable chemistry.

15. "Killing Jesus: A History" by Bill O’Reilly: Television and radio magnate Bill O'Reilly chronicles the political and historical events that led to the murder of Jesus of Nazareth. Historian Martin Dugard helped O'Reilly write it.

16. "Second Honeymoon" by James Patterson: A string of tragic accidents that left one newlywed couple dead in a sauna and another killed on a flight to Rome leads FBI Agent John O'Hara to suspect a serial killer is on the loose, and he's targeting honeymooners.

17. "Whiskey Beach" by Nora Roberts: Eli Landon is a Boston lawyer under investigation for the murder of his soon-to-be ex-wife. He takes refuge at his family's estate on Whiskey Beach. While there, he meets Abra Walsh, the local jack-of-all-trades, and things get complicated.

18. "The Billionaire’s Obsession: The Complete Collection" by J.S. Scott: This collection of 4 romance novels follows billionaire Simon Hudson as he woos Kara Foster with an offer she can't refuse.  

19. "Surrender Your Love" by J.C. Reed: Brooke Stewart is a New York City realtor who doesn't do relationships, but that maxim gets tested when she meets Jett Mayfield, a green-eyed millionaire who isn't used to taking no for an answer. 

20. "Six Years" by Harlan Coben: Jake Fisher watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man six years ago. But when Jake comes across the obituary for Natalie's husband Todd, he can't stay away any longer.  

SEE ALSO: The Best New Books Of The Year, According to Goodreads

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The New York Times Names Sushi Nakazawa Best NYC Restaurant Of 2013


sushi nakazawa

Given his rare four-star review of West Village sushi den Sushi Nakazawa earlier this month, it comes as no surprise that New York Times food critic Pete Wells declared it the best restaurant of 2013 in his year-end roundup for the newspaper.

Daisuke Nakazawa, the protégé of Jiro Ono (the subject of the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi") opened the tiny restaurant earlier this year.

"A meal at Mr. Nakazawa’s counter is a guided tour of the potential of simple seafood on rice to amaze," Wells wrote. "With subtle fine-tunings of temperature and seasoning, he can make a piece of sushi into the kind of sense-filling experience you wish could last and last."  

Other restaurants on Wells' year-end list included Greenwich Village red sauce joint Carbone; Betony, a spin-off from several alumni of Eleven Madison Park; and Uncle Boon's, a Thai restaurant in NoLiTa. You can find his full list here.

Since reservations at Sushi Nakazawa are next-to-impossible to secure, we rounded up some mouthwatering Instagram pictures from the lucky few who have tried the omakase meal ($150 at the sushi bar, $120 in the dining room).

Welcome to Sushi Nakazawa, the newest four-star restaurant in New York City.

Let's take a look at the four-star sushi, shall we?

Sea urchins!

And here's that same sea urchin (uni) out of its spiky shell:


His signature tamago, or Japanese omelette.

One last glimpse of the assortment at Sushi Nakazawa:

And dessert — a yuzu sorbet with pomegranate.

SEE ALSO: Don't Trust The Pictures Hotels Post On Their Websites

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These Maps Show Where People From Different States Like To Vacation


Desti, a travel planning app, just released a series of maps that show where people from different states like to travel most.

The app analyzed travel searches performed by its registered users to collect data on where they are from and where they want to go. 

"People in every state search more out of state than in state [for vacation]," Desti's founder and CEO Nadev Gur wrote in an email to Business Insider, "But Californians do the most in-state travel by far."

Other travel trends include Florida as a popular destination for people who live east of Texas, California as a popular destination for Floridians and Texas, and Tennessee as popular destinations in the South and West.

Florida is a popular place to travel for the eastern half of the U.S., while California wins the western half of the country.All States 

People who live in Connecticut come to New York all the time, and surprisingly people from New Mexico make the trip fairly often as well.States who go to NY 

New Yorkers plan a lot of vacations in Florida and California, but don't visit Idaho or North Dakota.Where New Yorkers Go 

Not surprisingly, people from Nevada love to travel to California, but people from as far east as New Jersey and Vermont make the trip as well.States who go to CA

Californians visit the surrounding states like Nevada quite a bit. They also travel to New York pretty often.Where Californians go

SEE ALSO: The Best Tourist Attraction In Every State

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Best Western Uses Google's Street View Photos To Let You Peek Inside Hotel Rooms


You know that part of Google maps that can show you the front door of your neighbor's house (or your own)? It's called Street View. Google deploys armies of vehicles equipped with special cameras that take 360 panoramic shots for Street View. They looked like this:

Google Street view car

It is perhaps, one of Google's most useful services, marrying turn-by-turn directions with an image of what the outside of the business or house actually looks like.

That Street View technology has been adapted into something that can be worn in a backpack like this:Google Street View Trekker

Or placed on a tripod like this:

Google streetview carousel 1

And those smaller cameras, particularly the one on the tripod, have become a niche business for Google called Google Business Photos. It brings zoomable, 360-degree tours indoors.

Well Google just scored big with this service because Best Western International announced this week that all of its 2,200 hotels in North America will be photographed using the Business Photos by the end of 2014.

That means, you'll be able to take a panoramic tour of every Best Western hotel before you book your stay.

Here's what the photo tours will look like. (Click here to see the full 360-degree tour.)

Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace Chicago Business Photos Lobby

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The 12 Best Chinese Restaurants In New York City


han dynasty

It's Christmas Eve. That means that all over the world families are gathering together around dinner tables to celebrate.

But here in New York, we have our own tradition: eating at a Chinese restaurant. 

In the beloved tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas, we've found the best Chinese restaurants in Manhattan.

Big Wong

67 Mott St.

Don't let the silly name fool you: Big Wong is a favorite among fans of classic small-plate, Hong Kong-style fare. It's a bit of a dive, but worth it for the congee (a rice porridge served with a variety of meats and sides).

Grand Sichuan

19-23 Saint Marks Place

There are several branches of the local Grand Sichuan chain, but the one on St. Marks Place is arguably the best one in the city.

The menu of traditional Sichuan dishes is so extensive that you may have trouble choosing.

Han Dynasty

90 3rd Ave.

The beloved Philadelphia restaurant chain finally opened its first outpost in New York's East Village this year, and early reviews are raving. Items on the menu are scored 1-10 based on spiciness, with 10 topping out at mouth-scorching.

Order the famed dan dan noodle appetizer, and follow it up with a hot pot or one of the dozen or so other options on the entree section of the menu.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

33 Ways To Be Happier



Humans have remarkable control over their own happiness.

In her book, "The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want," psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky says a person's happiness is 50% due to genetics, 10% due to circumstances, and the remaining 40% is "within our power to change."

Happiness is different for each person, which is why we've compiled dozens of different methods to help you find your inner sunshine.

Draw pictures of unhealthy food.

Studies have shown that eating high-calorie comfort foods can make your happier. The downside is this will also make you fat.

As an alternative, a study published in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science in May 2013 found that simply drawing pictures of foods high in fat, like cupcakes or pizza, and foods that taste sweet, like strawberries, can also boost your mood. The positive reactions were independent of subjects' weight and hunger level.

"These results extend a growing body of biobehavioral research on the positive impact of food images on mood by showing that this impact can be applied to enhance mood when expressing food images through art," the researchers concluded.

Be both an optimist and a realist.

People who have the positive attitude of optimists paired with the rational outlook of realists tend to be more successful and happy, according to psychology researcher Sophia Chou.

That's because so-called "realistic optimists" have the perfect blend of personality types to succeed. Unlike idealists, they are willing to face challenging situations with a clear view of reality, but will use creativity and a positive outlook to try to work their way out of the problem.

Get your hands dirty.

Breathing in the smell of dirt may lift your spirits, according to a study which found that a bacteria commonly found in soil produces effects similar to antidepressant drugs.

The harmless bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, stimulated the release of serotonin in the brain after it was injected into mice. Having low levels of serotonin is what causes depression in people.

In a human test, cancer patients reported increases in their quality of life when they were treated with the bacteria.

“The findings "leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt,” lead author Chris Lowry of the University of Bristol in England said in a statement.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

This 1,300-Year Old Chinese Fishing Method Has Been Destroyed By Modern Fishing


cormorant fishing

Cormorant fishing on China's Li River is all but dying out.

Fisherman set out with domesticated cormorants, a seabird, on bamboo rafts before sunrise and often in the early evening. These birds prey on fish. But the fishermen tie threads around the necks of the cormorants to prevent them from swallowing the fish they catch.

Once the threads are set, the fishermen begin chanting on their boats to prompt the birds to dive down and retrieve the fish. They control their birds with long poles.

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13 Vintage Photos Of Boston At Christmastime


On Christmas day, it's the perfect time to see what an old-fashioned American holiday season looked like.

The Boston Public Library has a collection of photos by Leslie Jones, a photographer who documented daily life in the city for The Boston Herald-Traveler for 39 years.

"In those 39 years, Jones left a comprehensive visual portrait of Boston’s people, events and built environment," curators at the Boston Public Library's print department wrote in an email to Business Insider. "He had an eye for whimsy as well as an ability to capture the pathos of the human condition."

A handful of the 37,000 Jones negatives owned by the BPL chronicled Christmastime in Beantown. Jones was born in 1886 and his Christmas photos of Boston largely come from the 1950s with a few from the '30s and one very early shot from 1915.  

Allen & Co. Fruit and Produce selling Christmas Trees, 1930.Boston Trees

Selling wreaths at Quincy Market in downtown Boston, 1954.Boston Wreath

Boston City Hall decked for the holidays, 1954.Boston City Hall

The sign on another entrance to Boston City Hall called for "A Happy, A Holy, A Joyous Christmas To All," 1954.Another City Hall

Trinity Church in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, 1954.Back Bay

St. Francis Seminary in Boston, taken somewhere between 1936 and 1954.Boston St. Francis

The Mural Lounge in Kenmore Square had a display complete with Santa and his sleigh, 1939.Boston Mural Lounge

Houghton & Dutton department store on Washington Street in downtown Boston, 1915.Boston 1915 Gilchrist's flagship store in downtown Boston, 1950.Boston Gilchrist

Filene's department store in the Downtown Crossing shopping district in Boston, 1954.Boston Holiday 1954

Jordan Marsh department store in downtown Boston went with a nativity scene, 1954.Boston Nativity

Secular decorations on another entrance of the Jordan Marsh department store, 1954.Boston Toys

RH White department store in downtown Boston, 1952.Boston RH White

SEE ALSO: 15 Unusual Christmas Rituals From Around The World

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: Pick Up Chris Brown's Graffiti-Filled Bachelor Pad For Under $2 Million


chris brown

Chris Brown has listed his three-bedroom, four-story Hollywood Hills home for $1.92 million, according to Zillow.

It's a fairly typical bachelor pad, with black floors and countertops, plus blue neon exterior lights that gives it a distinct nightclub feel. 

The house used to have some more distinguishing features, however. After neighbors complained that graffiti creatures on the house's walls were just too scary, Brown was ordered to repaint the front of his home. 

"There are lots of babies, lots of children, and they're literally frightened. It's like devils on the wall — big scary eyes and big scary teeth, and just the whole vibe is not what we're used to," a neighbor said to the Los Angeles Times in May. 

The murals were painted over in July, though Brown claims that it was only because he is trying to sell the house. 

The house is more than four stories and has eerie blue lighting at night.

The living room has some more of those creepy graffiti monsters the neighbors were complaining about.

The kitchen's design plays it safe with black floors and countertops.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The 20 Most Expensive Colleges In America


New York University NYU Students Graduation

The best educations can sometimes be the most expensive.

It's common knowledge that college costs are on the rise. But you may be surprised to know that some schools currently charge over $60,000 to educate a student for just one year.

A list released earlier this year by the Department of Education charts the highest tuition in the country. Unfortunately, the tuition numbers used in the rankings are two years old, and fail to show the contemporary college landscape.

The list also ignores the total cost of an education. Most four-year residential colleges will tack on an extra ten grand or more for room, board, and a wide range of other fees. 

An administrator at Ohio University — which was included in the list of most expensive public universities — dismissed the Department of Education's rankings, saying, "The list does not describe the entire story of the costs of a quality education at Ohio University."

New York University — our most expensive school at a whopping $61,977 per year — falls at number 61 on the Department of Education's highest tuition list.

We've compiled a list of the colleges that are charging the most for tuition, required fees, and room and board for the upcoming academic year. These numbers are solely what you would directly pay to the school, so you're still going to have to cover books, travel, and beer, as well as the more recent requirement of a health care plan.

For schools that didn't offer a flat total on their website, we added up the fees that a typical first year student would incur.

#20 Northwestern University

Total Cost: $59,389

Tuition and Fees: $45,527

Room and Board: $13,862

Department of Education Rank: 54

#19 Pitzer College

Total Cost: $59,416

Tuition and Fees: $45,018

Room and Board: $14,398

Department of Education Rank: 41

#18 Haverford College

Total Cost: $59,446

Tuition and Fees: $45,636

Room and Board: $13,810

Department of Education Rank: 48

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

This Ex-Cartoonist Dad Has Turned Breakfast Into A Form Of Art


Pancake tree

About a year ago, Kevin Blankenship's Instagram feed morphed from a place to share cute photos of his two young kids into one where he shows off what he cooks them for breakfast.

It's no ordinary waffles and eggs.

Blankenship puts very thin pancake batter into a squeeze bottle and draws everything from dinosaurs and viking ships to zombies and mugs of beer. 

The one-time newspaper cartoonist turned to advertising once he had a family. Between work and kids, there wasn't a lot of time for drawing. But Blankenship found a way to be creative every Sunday morning.

"My kids love pancakes," Blankenship told Business Insider, "so this was a way to put cartooning and parenting together." 

His kids make weekly requests, and the reception's been so good online, Blankenship decided to create a Tumblr he calls randomBreakfasts exclusively for his pancake art. 

He uses Bisquick as his base, one egg, some sugar and a bit of vanilla extract. Blankenship adds a little more milk than the recipe calls for and uses a mixer instead of hand stirring to get the smoothest batter possible. 

Lately, he's been interested in three-toned pancakes. With each layer, Blankenship puts a test dollop of batter on the griddle so he can see how dark it be before he flips the whole pancake.

"With ink, you usually work from light to dark, but this medium is the reverse." Blankenship said, "Whatever is the darkest part of the picture, I put that down first. That's usually the outline, and then I give it time to cook before I fill it in with more batter for the lighter parts. It's all about timing and patience."

Most people wouldn't want to eat something that looks so pretty, but for Blankenship, his pancakes are first and foremost meant to make breakfast fun for his kids. After they watch him make his amazing pancakes, he wants them to enjoy eating as well. 

"As long as the pancakes taste good," Blankenship said, "You don't have to worry too much about messing up the shape."

Blankenship is really into three-toned pancake art right now.Pancake dino

He added the eye after he flipped this rattlesnake pancake.Pancake snake

This time, Blankenship laid the eye down with the first layer of batter.Pancake shark

The viking ship's thin lines made this pancake especially precarious to flip.Pancake ship

The clipper ship was a little harder to flip because it's taller.Pancake clipper ship

This zombie pancake based on the Walking Dead is Blankenship's favorite.Pancake zombie

Here's an ironic breakfast: Bacon and eggs made out of pancakes.Pancake breakfast

The symbol of the Mandalorians, a nomadic clan from Star Wars.Panckae Mandalorian 

Blankenship thinks the color came out great in this beer mug pancake.Pancake beer

SEE ALSO: It's Impossible To Compete With This Woman's Snapchat Art

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A Former 'Snow White' Dishes About Life As A Disney Park Princess


Snow White Russian Ballet

One of the most exciting things about Disney theme parks for children is meeting the real-life princesses.

Known as "face characters," the beautiful princesses not only have to look the part, but they need to know quotes from their movies, be able to sing and dance, and stay in character at all times.

Reddit user doublenn held an AMA a year ago about her time as Snow White at Disneyland — even posting a picture to prove it — and broke down what it really takes to work at the park as a princess.

NOTE: Answers have been edited for grammar and punctuation. While the woman's identity was verified by Reddit moderators, it can't be verified by Business Insider. The following Disney Princesses pictured in the slideshow are not associated with the Reddit AMA.

What's the audition process like?

The audition process is LONG. The first is a 'type out' where they look to see if you have similar features, second is usually a dance, then a 'read' to have you act as the character, and an interview.

via Reddit/r/IAmA

What are the specific look requirements?

Tink has a specified height requirement, as do all the other princesses. Princesses are usually 5'4''-5'7'', Fairies and Alice or Wendy are all 4'11''-5'2''.

via Reddit/r/IAmA

What's the average age range for "face characters"?

Most girls are between 18 and 23, and a few of the girls who have been there awhile are 25-27. Rarely is a girl over 27 who does princesses or fairies.

via Reddit/r/IAmA

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

13 Reasons You Should Ride Your Bike To Work


Citi Bike bicycle

Making New Year's resolutions to save money, get healthy, or cut your carbon footprint in 2014? You could hit all three by simply riding your bike to work.

Not only does biking have the potential to improve individuals' health, wealth, and standard of living, but the combination of more cyclists and fewer cars on the road could give the entire country a much-needed boost. 

Here are 13 reasons you should consider making biking to work a new habit in the new year:

It would make cycling safer for everyone.

Research shows that unlike cars, the more bicycles on the road, the safer it becomes for cyclists. 

"It's a virtuous cycle," Dr. Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from the University of New South Wales, says"The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle."

It is vastly cheaper than driving. 

Due to rising fuel costs and tire upkeep, the cost of owning a car increased nearly 2% in 2012 to $8,946, according to AAA. 

It costs just $308 per year to keep bikes in shape — nearly 30 times less than cars, according to the Sierra Club. It says: "If American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly 2 billion gallons of gas. At $4 per gallon, total savings would be $7.3 billion a year."

It's a free gym on wheels. 

On average, bicycle commuters lose 13 pounds in their first year of cycling alone.

"[Bike commuting] can be a very effective cardiovascular benefit," says Lisa Callahan, MD, of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. "If you're overweight and start an exercise program, sometimes it's harder on your joints because you are overweight, so something like swimming or biking that's not pounding on the joints can be a good thing." 

You won't miss morning traffic jams.

Americans spend upwards of 25 minutes per day commuting to work and more than $700 per year simply burning fumes in traffic 

Cycling could help you get there faster for a lot less. 

"Half of the working population in the U.S. commutes five miles or less to work, with bike trips of three to five miles taking less time or the same amount of time as commuting by car," writes Kiplinger editor Amanda Lilly.

You don't even have to own a bike. 

There's been a wave of new bike share programs in major cities like Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, and Miami, which typically allow riders 30 to 45 minutes of transportation for a small annual fee. 

When New York City's bike share launched in May, annual memberships cost $95 — about $10 less than subway commuters spend per month.

Women could use the extra bone support.

As women age, they become increasingly susceptible to bone deterioration through osteoporosis.

A team of researchers from a Swedish university found middle-aged women were less likely to sustain wrist fractures if they commuted by bike or participated in other physical activities like walking.

We could save hundreds of millions on health care expenses. 

"The most important socio-economic impact of cycling lies in the area of health care," says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists

Nowhere is that more clear than in Portland, Ore. A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that "during the next 30 years, Portland’s residents could save as much as $594 million in health care costs because of an investment into biking culture" and "fuel savings of $143 to $218 million." 

You inhale more harmful exhaust in your car than on a bike.

Though fuel emissions are bad news in general, drivers are actually more susceptible to harmful air than bicyclists. 

"Studies show you get the biggest hit of the nasties when you’re inside a car," notes the Grist's Umbra Frisk. "Sure, a personal Mobile Emissions Source [cars, for example] appears hermetic, but it’s an illusion: MES occupants are very close to sucking on the tailpipe of the MES just ahead of them. In a bus, riders’ lungs are a bit above these sources. And bikers and pedestrians are on the outskirts."

You're way more likely to get sick taking public transportation.

Fresh air does a body good. A study by the University of Nottingham found that public transit riders were "six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory infections," the New York Daily News reports.

Supposedly, occasional riders were even more at risk. Another study found a host of illness-causing viruses lurking in passenger vehicles, including E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter, according to Safetyissues.com.

Businesses will save millions in lost productivity.

A recent study by Dutch economic think tank TNO found people who commuted to work by bike were less likely to call in sick.

"Commuting to work by bicycle by just 1% could save [Denmark’s] employers approximately $34 million in lost productivity from absenteeism," Oregon state rep. Earl Blumenhauer writes in American Bicyclist"That’s assuming a workforce of 7.1 million people. The U.S. has more than 154 million people in its workforce."

Uncle Sam will pay you to bike to work.

Since January 2012, cyclist commuters have been entitled to a $20 per month tax-free reimbursement for bike-related expenses.

This applies to workers who bike at least three days per week to the office. Qualifying expenses include bike repairs and storage expenses, according to the National Center for Transit Research.

You'll never have to worry about a parking spot again.

Hundreds of major companies have entered the American League of Bicyclists' "Bicycle Friendly Business" program, and cities like New York require commercial office buildings by law to offer some sort of bike storage.

Otherwise, invest in a sturdy bike lock, and all you need is a spare bike rack or street sign to park your ride. Folding bikes are another useful option, as they can be packed into a bag and stashed easily under a desk or a closet. 

Because all of your excuses not to bike are lame.

We get it. Biking makes you sweat. Cab drivers are tyrants. You could smack into a car door and knock yourself out.

But hear us out. Start slowly. Buy a sturdy helmet, throw a change of clothes into your basket, or, better yet, leave some at the office. Research the safest bike route to take (Google Maps offers biking directions in most cities), and read up on the rules of the road for cyclists. 

Like any form of new exercise, chances are you'll need time to get in a good groove with your two-wheeled commute. Once you do, trust us — you'll be hooked. 

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The Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide To New Year's Resolutions


new year's eve times square cleanupExercise more. Drink less. Travel. Save money.

These are your unoriginal regurgitated New Year’s resolutions. And they are getting pretty tiresome, especially considering the vast majority of you never fulfill them, choosing instead to wallow in the banality of your own existence, and roll them over again next year.

"Hey fat ass, I already know what your New Year's resolution is."

So stop telling yourself that you are going to take the stairs, cut back on the $6 Starbucks lattes, or park as far away from the Whole Foods entrance as you can, and just follow my advice…

1. Take a vow of silence. Join CrossFit. Do P90X. Detox in January. Become a vegan. Sell your TV.  Train for a marathon. Start the Paleo diet. Go for any or all of these, but please shut the f--k up about it.

“No one would run a marathon if they had to sign a confidentiality agreement first."

2. Read more. Yes, that’s a permanent boring fixture on most people’s lists, but this year, be more specific and realistic. Make a list of 10 books to read, a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction. Throw in a couple of classics that you’re embarrassed you never read in college. Purchase the hardcover copies, and keep them as a small trophy of your accomplishment. The Economist puts together a great “Books of the Year” list, but I’ll get you started with “The Private Life of Chairman Mao.”

“Reading allows you to borrow someone else’s brain, and will make you more interesting at a dinner party.”

3. Befriend a World War II veteran. Spend time with him. Talk to him. Because there aren’t too many of them left. I certainly regret not helping the red-coated Chelsea Pensioners with their Tesco’s bags down the King’s Road.

4. Wash your hands more frequently. An actual study has shown that the average New Yorker indirectly touches 24 penises per day, and twice as many if they work at 1585 Broadway.

5. Take an online course. Why continue talking hollowly about self-improvement when leading colleges and graduate schools, including Duke, Wharton, and MIT, are investing significant resources into free education. Ironically, statistics have shown that it tends to be the better-educated and wealthier who take advantage of this.  But, who among us couldn’t benefit from knowing more about accounting, marketing, child psychology, or real estate and contract law?

6. Watch "The Sopranos" from start to finish. Even if you’ve already seen it.

7. Freshen up the starting lineup in your wardrobe. Go get 2 new suits, 10 dress shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of shoes, and 50 pairs of socks. Maybe this guidewill help. Why? For the same reason that Michael Jordan wore a brand-new pair of shoes every single game.

8. Avoid extreme and unrealistic health pledges. Eat right, exercise sensibly, and drink mostly in moderation; it’s not rocket science.

“A guy came up to me at the gym and asked me what event I was training so hard for. Life, motherf--ker.”

9. Drink more green tea. Add manuka honey and some fresh ginger.

10. Skip the dramatic savings scheme. Don’t go crazy with unrealistic goals about how much you’re going to save this year. Keep it simple; spend less than you make, and save up for the big-ticket items until you can afford them. There’s no need for an extreme savings plan, so be sensible… but don’t forget to enjoy your expendable income.

“There’s no point in a $50 million funeral or a $25 million divorce.”

11. Read my guide on “How To Be A Man.” Over two million people already have. Ladies, let me know what you think

12. Write down your goals. Most people never fulfill their resolutions, but the people who write them down have a proven higher success rate. Take it a step further and make a list of what you want to accomplish each day, week, and month. Just write them down and check them off the old-fashioned way. And tell Mr. There’s-an-App-for-that to go f--k himself.

"I'm gonna open a gym that turns into a bar after January.”

13. Go get a comprehensive health exam. Make your partner get one too.

14. Put your phone away at dinner.  

"Checking your phone after someone else pulls out their phone is the yawn of our generation.”

15. Laugh more. That means: socialize more often, drink more, have long lazy brunches, throw parties, host drunken game nights. Be spontaneous… Upgrade your friends if necessary.

“Most people wouldn't even be the main character in a movie about their own lives.”

16. Don’t just rely on the gym. Remember that feeling of playing a competitive sport as a kid, when you’re on the field, and not thinking about anything else. Most of us have forgotten what that feels like. So join a team or find someone to play tennis with.

17. Drink more. I’m not contradicting myself from earlier… If you’re healthy, eating well, and exercising, then your body can handle a few more drinks every now and then. There is nothing wrong with the occasional black out, and you’re just going to lie to your doctor anyway. “At most, maybe 15 to 17 units per week, doc.”

“The 1st bottle is for health, the 2nd for love, and the 3rd for sleep.” – Eubulus, 350 BC

18. Help a pet get adopted, if for no other reason than to prove that you can. I’ll get it started with Spirit and Peony currently residing at the North Shore Animal League shelter in Port Washington, New York. (Tweet me; I’ll pay for the adoption fees.)

“WASPs kiss their wives on the forehead and their dogs on the mouth.”

19. Get a regular foot massage. A dark room. No TV. No loud voices. It’s the most peaceful and productive 75 minutes I have every week. I go on Saturdays with the Weekend FT and The Economist.

20. Stay in on New Year's Eve. It’s amateur night and it rarely lives up to your expectations anyhow. Get dressed up, strap on the Patek, go out for some Per Se gnocchi and get drunk on Krug? That sounds like my Tuesdays. This year, stay in… And then start January 1st early and productively.

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10 Real Wall Street Stories That Should Be Movies


icahn brooksMartin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" is giving moviegoers around the world a stylized glimpse into the corruption and opulence that can plague the finance world.

Its loads of sex, drugs, and money have critics wondering if Wolf's attempt at a morality tale is just one loud cheer for gonzo greed.

It isn't the first time audiences have had this debate either. From "Trading Places" to "American Psycho," Hollywood loves examining what goes on behind the scenes on Wall Street.

But there are some "based-on-a-true-story" tales that have yet to become blockbusters.

So here are the 10 true Wall Street sagas — and the corresponding must-cast actors — that should be movies.

10. 'The Rise and Fall of Jon Corzine.' Corzine went from top dog at Goldman Sachs to a senator and governor to seeing his firm MF Global collapse in spectacular fashion.

Starring Charles Dance (AKA Tywin Lannister)

9. 'The Collapse of Bear Stearns.' The top brass at Bear were known for their wild boys club, but it all came crashing down when JP Morgan almost bought the bank for $2 a share as the market crashed.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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