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10 Of The Biggest Lies Students Hear Before They Get To College


High School Students Studying Classroom

For many students, your college years are supposed to be some of the best in your life; the peak of intellectual inquiry and social opportunities.

However, many students find that once they get on campus, the reality does not match their expectations. We found a Reddit thread — titled "What was the biggest lie told to you about college before actually going?" — that gave some people the chance to voice what they saw as the biggest falsehoods about college.

We've collected some of the best answers below, with a few edits for clarity:

That professors don't care about students.

"That professors won't care about you. Even in graduate school, some of my professors are quite accommodating and caring." — lisadisa

That there are no multiple choice tests in college.

"My AP English teacher said that the multiple choice questions we had on a test towards the end of the year was the last time we would have multiple choice questions on a test. Couldn't have been farther from the truth." — kfuller515

Law School Students in the Classroom 2011That your major doesn't matter.

"'Your major doesn't matter.' THIS. Everyone told me to major in something I loved, now I'm saving up to go back to school to do something that will earn a living." — amkamins

That you'll gain the "Freshman 15."

"'You would gain 15 pounds from drinking.' False. You would gain 30 pounds from eating a buffet every day in the dorms." — ivegotagoldenticket

That you have to buy all your textbooks.

"Biggest lie in college: This book is required." — HappyMusicc

That you're special.

"That I was smart. I've come to realize in university that I am exceedingly average, possibly less than average in some areas." — Readys

That the workload is heavier than it is in high school.

"I had an AP [teacher] in high school [who] would give us hours of homework a night and she said it was nothing compared to college classes. It was a government class for god's sake. I minored in History and Government in college and I never had that much work from any class." — AfghanHokie

That you can wait to declare a major.

Students Neon Posing Rave"That you don't need to declare your major until a couple years in. While you can technically wait to declare a major the longer you wait the less likely it is that you'll be able to finish it within 4 years." — Rtgfvbnmjhyu

That you'll meet your best friends.

"That I'd meet my best friends for the rest of my life. I graduated two years ago and have only seen my two roommates/best friends from college once each. Don't get me wrong, I met a lot of great people, but no one that I would consider a life long best friend. I hang out with my best friends from high school way more frequently and they both live at least two states away." — BrokenPug

That you'll be busy all the time.

"'You're going to be busy and won't have a lot of free time.' I should have been told, 'You're going to have a sh*t load of free time. Time management is the most important skill you will need to learn.'" — TrollinForDownvotes

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SEE ALSO: The 20 Most Fun Colleges In America

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No One Should Have To 'Deal' With Catcallers — Here's How To Handle Street Harassment


The New York Post stirred up more eye-rolls than usual this morning when writer Doree Lewak posted a cringe-worthy ode to catcalling.

In the article, she proclaims her appreciation for construction workers' lewd comments and stares as she strolls by in a flouncy summer dress.

"My ego and I can't fit through the door!" Lewak writes.



The Twittersphere and online media, including Slate, Brooklyn Mag, The Awl, and Mediaite, are up in arms about the whole fiasco — with good reason.

Catcalling isn't a compliment; it's street harassment. While it may seem relatively innocent, those suggestive comments and lewd stares do have detrimental effects, according to Debjani Roy, deputy director of the international anti-street harassment movement HollabackImmediately after a catcalling incident, targets report feeling annoyed, angry, embarrassed, threatened, or scared the situation will escalate. They contemplate how they "should have" reacted.

Those consequences linger. "It really impacts the way we move through the world," Roy says. A woman harassed on her way to the office may be less productive at work because she plays out the scene over and over in her head. A girl who's bothered by the driver of a passing car while walking to school may plan an alternate route through a worse area.

A few months ago, we reached out to the experts for real strategies for "dealing with it." We're reposting them here in light of Lewak's article.

If You're Being Catcalled

Assess your safety. Because every situation is different, there is no perfect response. If it's nighttime and you're walking in a desolate area, or your harasser is in a group, the best response might be not engaging at all.

Make eye contact. Strong body language, particularly eye contact, will surprise your harasser. "It tends to work well because then they're too shocked to retaliate," says Holly Kearlfounder of Stop Street Harassment and author of "Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming For Women. "It forces them to think about what they've said or done."

Use a firm voice. In an audible, unwavering tone, tell your harasser that his or her behavior is not okay. Try negative statements like, "No, leave me alone." "I don't appreciate it." "What you're saying is disrespectful." "Go away."

If you're feeling bold and the situation allows it, you can turn the tables on your harasser. Ask them to repeat what they said or loudly repeat it, comment on how they look, or take their photo.

Avoid swearing. It's hard to resist, but cursing can backfire. "While it may work in some instances, this type of reaction is the most likely to make the harasser respond with anger and violence," Kearl says.

Walk away. After you've made eye contact and said your negative statement, keep moving, Roy says. "Keep it short so the harasser doesn't think it's an opening to a conversation."

Fake a phone call. If your harasser is still following you, cross the street and pretend to call a friend. Tell her you're just down the block and will be there soon. Or threaten to dial 911. And if you fear the situation is escalating, make the call!

If You're A Bystander

Watching street harassment happen is almost as painful as being a target of it. Hollaback suggests using one of the "four D's" of bystander intervention.

Intervene directly. If you've assessed the situation and decided it's safe for you to become involved, you might approach the harasser and tell him or her to "knock it off," or loudly say "ugh, that is so gross" as you walk by.

Create a distraction. There are a few ways to disrupt the harasser's antics without actually addressing the harasser. Approach the target and ask for directions, offer your seat, or act like you know each other. Say, "I've been looking everywhere for you. We have to meet our friends!"

Find a delegate. If you're by a construction site, seek out the foreman. In the subway station, find a transit authority worker. Rally people standing around you who look like they would be more confident approaching the harasser. "You have the power to de-escalate the situation," Roy says. "When other people get involved, usually the harasser backs off."

Intervene on delay. When the situation has passed, ask the target if he or she is okay. Simply validating their experience by telling them "I'm sorry that happened" or "ugh, that happens to me all the time," creates solidarity and makes a huge difference.

What To Do After The Fact

Remind yourself who's to blame. Being harassed can bring up confusing feelings. "We feel very ashamed about the way we responded," Roy says. Rather than harp on what went wrong or right, remind yourself that it is your harasser's job to feel guilty, not yours.

Tell a friend. Talking about the incident and how it made you feel helps you gain support, give a voice to your experience, and realize you're not alone.

Share your experience on social media. Websites like Hollaback and Stop Street Harassment invite you to tell your story on their blogs. Not only do you take ownership of the experience, but you raise awareness that this is a thing that's happening.

"A lot of people don't identify harassment as a problem. It's just something we tolerate," Roy says.

But a switch flips when they hear of a sister, friend, or daughter's experience. Only then, do our communities, representatives, and harassers move together toward a solution.

SEE ALSO: The Only 16 Cities Where Women Out-Earn Men

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: The 2,000-Acre Mellon Estate In Virginia Is On The Market For $70 Million


Oak Spring Farm

The Upperville, Virginia estate of late heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon recently hit the market for $70 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Called Oak Spring Farm, the 2,000-acre property includes a 10,000-square-foot Georgian mansion, a mile-long airstrip, a working dairy, two stables with 43 stalls, barns, more than 20 cottages, and extensive gardens.

Mellon, an heiress to the Listerine mouthwash fortune, died in March at age 103. She was the wife of the late Paul Mellon, son of financier Andrew Mellon, who acquired the estate is the 1930s.

Thomas B. Anderson of Washington Fine Properties is listing the property 

Welcome to Oak Spring Farm, a 2,000-acre Virginia estate that belonged to the powerful Mellon family.

There are around 40 structures on the property.

The main home included in the sale is called "Brick House." According to The Wall Street Journal, Paul Mellon used the 10,000-square-foot home to display the couple's art collection and for office space. The couple only briefly used it as a residence.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

I Went To Summer Camp For Adults And It Was Like A Frat Party On Steroids


club getaway flip cup susana ho

More than 1 million adults attend camp each year, looking to relive their childhood memories or experience a summertime tradition for the first time.

While kids' camp attendance has declined, forcing many organizations to shutter their cabins and sell off their land, the number of camps for grown-ups has swelled faster than a mosquito bite, totaling 800 in all. That's an estimated 10% increase a year over the past 10 years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

And when campfire s'mores and sing-alongs are mixed with "flip cup" tournaments and a bunch of singles cavorting to DJ music, the result is a rowdy sleepaway camp experience unlike the one you may remember from childhood.

I recently attended Club Getaway in Kent, Connecticut, which hosts 10,000 adult campers annually, to see what all the buzz is about.

I never went to sleepaway camp as a child. Every June, my lucky classmates left for northern New England and returned two months later with macramé bracelets, tanned skin, and endless stories about “camp friends.” I felt like I was missing out on this whole other world.

I recently had the opportunity to attend summer camp for adults, which was a lot like how I imagine kids' summer camp is — except with booze, sex, and gossip.

I spent the weekend at Club Getaway, an all-inclusive sports and adventure resort nestled in the Berkshire Mountains of Kent, Connecticut. While the camp hosts corporate retreats, school groups, and children’s camps during the work week, weekends are reserved for adult programming. Over 10,000 grown-ups come every year.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Architects Designed A Portable Tiny Home From Two Recycled Water Tanks



The tiny home phenomenon has been taken to another level. 

The designers at New York City-based Stereotank have created a traveling shelter that's small enough to wheel around on a bike.Taku-TankuCalled Taku-Tanku, the home consists of two 3,000-liter water tanks connected by a ring of wood. And while it doesn't contain a bathroom or plumbing, it is large enough to fit a bed and has enough storage space for two to three people.Taku-TankuStereotank designers Marcelo Ertorteguy and Sara Valente, say on their website that the eco-friendly project "can travel through many landscapes to serve as companion and shelter but also as a sculpture that celebrates the vital role of water in our lives."

Taku-TankuAside from a bicycle, it can attach to a car or potentially a boat. Ertorteguy and Valente also claim the solar-powered, LED-lit home can be easily assembled and built with off-the-shelf and re-purposed materials. 

Right now Stereotank is in the process of finding a sponsor and raising funds to build its first prototype.

SEE ALSO: 20 Surprisingly Beautiful Tiny Homes Around The World

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What It's Like To Eat At Taco Bell's New Upscale Restaurant


US Taco Co

Taco Bell's new upscale taco chain, U.S. Taco Co., opened its first location nine days ago and the reviews are mixed.

The restaurant, located in Huntington Beach, California, serves french fries, milkshakes, and a variety of gourmet tacos costing between $3 and $10.

Many customers raved about the new concept. 

"Absolutely the best tacos I've ever had," one reviewer wrote on Yelp. "Amazing menu and even more amazing food. The Spud, the Grilled Cheese taco, and the Hot Chick tacos are heavenly. This is how you combine simple yet complex."

Another reviewer wrote, "Quick prep, fun menu, healthy, quirky environment. New concept for Taco Bell, but nothing like a Taco Bell, thankfully."

From the 47 reviews we read on Yelp and Facebook, the 1%er taco with lobster, garlic butter and slaw stood out as a clear favorite. Customers called it "mouth-watering," "fresh," and "absolutely delicious."

US Taco CoReviewers also gushed about the habanero-dusted french fries, which are served with a variety of sauces or loaded with meat and cheese dip.

"The seasoning on the fries was incredible and the queso was some of the best I’ve ever had," Facebook user Lauren Eick wrote.

U.S. Taco CoBut some customers were sorely disappointed with the food and atmosphere.

Customers complained that the tortillas left a lot to be desired, with one person calling them "fast food quality." Another customer compared the roasted chili queso dip to Velveeta cheese.

Several complained that their tacos were smothered in too much sauce.

"The people are really nice and place is spotless," one reviewer wrote. But "They need to work on heat or food, quality, better flavor combination & heavy handing of sauce. Also, a lot of the food tastes like frozen and store-bought. Nothing tastes fresh. Sorry I wanted to love this place I did but this was disappointing. "

U.S. Taco - StallionComboOthers complained about the prices. 

"We paid about $18 for two of us, and were both hungry within an hour," one reviewer wrote. "Is this place competing with Chipotle? Rubios? I'm not sure. It's supposed to be Taco Bell's take on 'fast casual,' and while it was fast, and it was casual, I felt like the prices were for some place that should either provide larger portions or offer something...more."

The restaurant has been open just two weeks so it's possible the menu will be tweaked once more reviews start rolling in. The company is planning a second location but hasn't revealed where it will be.

Here's some photos taken by customers:


SEE ALSO: Check Out Taco Bell's New Upscale Restaurant

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Wild Hong Kong Concept Tower Would Have Its Own Fish Farms And Rice Paddies


Rice Terraces Hong Kong

In a bold attempt to create a building that contains practically everything humans could need to survive, architects at Studio Cachoua Torres Camilletti designed a multi-multi-purpose skyscraper for Hong Kong.

Called "Rice Terraces," the design is an effort to meld agricultural space and big cities. It features two uniquely shaped towers connected by braces, trusses and bridges. Rice Terraces Hong KongThe larger tower on the right would be for commercial use, with space for offices, retail, and entertainment. The thinner tower on the left would be for residential use, with lobbies that contain transparent bridges connected to the commercial tower. Rise Terraces Hong KongSome of the more unusual features of the building are a rain water collector on top, an algae facade, floor-sized fish farms and water filters, and a nuclear reactor in the underground parking garage. True to its name, the bodies of the towers would be actual rice paddies. Rice TerracesThe Mexico City-based architects said they were "inspired by the idea of natural rock canyons, and found poetry in their contours and in the way that they generate their duality, a male and a female shape, which could be joined together."  

While "Rice Terraces" could be entirely powered by renewable energy, there are no plans to actually build it at this time.Rice Terraces Hong KongCachoua Torres Camilletti is currently betting that the next generation of nuclear reactors, like those defined as 4S (Super Safe, Small and Simple) will power the tower.

SEE ALSO: Meet The 6 Chinese Real Estate Titans Who Are Snapping Up Property In New York City

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16 Mahatma Gandhi Quotes That Will Make You Want To Change The World


Mahatma Gandhi laughing

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbandar, India, in 1869.

He was assassinated in 1948. 

Though in school he was rated as only "good at English, fair in Arithmetic and weak in Geography," he would go on to become a lawyer and spend twenty years in South Africa before returning to a still-colonial India. 

There he led the Indian independence movement, which culminated to the Indian Independence Act of 1947

His philosophy of satyagraha— or mass nonviolent protest — would become a tool of oppressed people around the world, inspiring the likes of Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

For this we call him Mahatma, or great soul. 

On nonviolence

"Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary."

["Satyagraha Leaflet No. 11," 1919]

On religion

"In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals."

["Hind Swaraj," 1908]

On practicing law

"I had learnt the true practice of law. I had learnt to find out the better side of human nature and to enter men’s hearts. I realized the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder."

["Gandhi's Experiments With Truth", 2006]

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The States Where Students Scored The Highest On AP Exams


Research engine FindTheBest created a map that demonstrates the passing rate of Advanced Placement exams across the country.

The map shows the percentage of students (light blue for low and dark blue for high) who scored a three or higher on the AP exam. A three, four, or five are passing scores at most colleges, which accept the high school courses for college credit.

Maryland had the highest percentage of students passing with 29.6%, while Mississippi is practically invisible with a 4.4% passing rate. 

The data comes from the College Board's 2013 statistics.

Check out the interactive map below:


SEE ALSO: Here's What Employers Are Now Looking For In Recent College Graduates

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26-Year-Old Deaf-Blind Lawyer Sues Scribd For Alleged Discrimination


Haben Girma

A deaf-blind attorney who made Business Insider's 2013 list of the 20 most impressive Harvard Law students is now fighting for the rights of blind readers in a lawsuit against digital subscription reading service Scribd, seeking equal access for the blind. 

Haben Girma made Business Insider's 2013 list for her work advocating on behalf of people with disabilities. Now, at 26, she is continuing her efforts as a Skadden Fellowship Attorney with the nonprofit law firm Disability Rights Advocates. There, Girma is representing the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and blind Vermont mother Heidi Viens in a lawsuit against Scribd for allegedly depriving blind readers access to its online services in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Girma, deaf-blind since birth, fought on her own behalf for equal access as an undergraduate at Lewis and Clark College, where she clashed with dining hall staff who regularly failed to email her dining hall menus in advance so she could read them on her computer using special screen reading technology. “I told the manager that if he would not send emails consistently, I would sue. To tell you the truth, I had no idea how I would do that,” Girma said at a 2014 TEDxBaltimore event

Business Insider followed up with Girma recently about the case against Scribd, which she considers her favorite since graduating from Harvard Law.

Scribd charges subscribers a monthly fee of $8.99 for unlimited access to its collection of more than 40 million titles through its website and apps, as well as the opportunity to publish their own works through Scribd. But Scribd is not programmed to give access to blind readers, according to the plaintiffs' July 29 complaint. That's because it's allegedly not designed for use with screen access software, which vocalizes visual information or displays it in braille for blind people to read.

The complaint alleges that Scribd discriminates against blind people by denying them full and equal access to its services in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

This case is one everyone who reads can relate to, Girma said. "I think it sounds like a great service, and I think just like everyone else in the world, when you hear about a great service and then you realize you can't use it you're disappointed and frustrated. And it's not fair," Girma told Business Insider in a phone interview this week with the help of an interpreter. "Everyone wants to read, which is one of the reasons I really like this case — everyone can relate to the need to read for fun, for work, for school."

Her expertise in the case extends beyond her knowledge as an attorney to her personal experiences with her disability.

"I found that as someone who is blind and deaf I have specialized knowledge about the tools and services and needs of this community and I bring that knowledge to my work," Girma said. "So that is an advantage I have over other lawyers and that is one thing that helps me in representing the National Federation of the Blind, that I have this knowledge about technology and techniques and the needs of the blind community."

Girma attributes her success at Harvard and as a professional to the right attitude, training, and tools, which can allow all people with disabilities to compete equally with their nondisabled peers, if given equal access to informational and educational services like Scribd. "There have definitely been times in my life where I encountered something and I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to do it, but I adopt the attitude that I'm going to try to find a way to make this work," she said. "And I think about tools, whether it's braille or screen readers or a guide dog or a cane, to accomplish what I need to do."

But Scribd's inaccessibility to blind readers deprives them of the ability to compete equally with their nondisabled peers, the lawsuit alleges. "Scribd's inaccessible reading services gratuitously exclude the blind from having access to information that is critical to education, employment, and community integration," the complaint said.

Prior to the lawsuit, the NFB reached out to Scribd about its alleged inaccessibility but Scribd made no commitment to resolve the issue, according to the complaint, which cites iBooks as one example of a digital reading service that has been programmed with screen access technology allowing blind readers to independently access and choose titles.

"Scribd could potentially win thousands and thousands of new subscribers if they took the time to make their service accessible, and it could be very easy," Girma said.

Business Insider reached out to Scribd for a comment on the lawsuit in its early stages. "We're currently reviewing the allegations with our legal counsel in order to determine the appropriate next steps," said Scribd CEO Trip Adler in his statement emailed to Business Insider.

SEE ALSO: 20 Incredibly Impressive Students At Harvard Law School Right Now

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These Charts Show How The World Feels About 8 Moral Issues


What people find morally acceptable and unacceptable depends on where they live in the world.

The charts below from the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project show people's views on eight topics, often considered moral issues: extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and contraceptives.

Pew surveyed 40,117 respondents in 40 different countries in 2013 to obtain the data.

The first graphic below gives the median response across the world. People were the most disapproving of extramarital affairs, with 78% calling them morally "unacceptable," while 14% of respondents, the lowest in the survey, felt contraceptive use was "unacceptable." Topics like premarital sex and alcohol use were most the polarizing.

Pew morality

The rest of the charts, ordered from least-accepted topic to the most, show a breakdown of how various countries responded. The colors correspond to specific regions: green represents Asia/the Pacific; mauve, Europe; light blue, Latin America; peach, the Middle East, bright blue, North America; brown, Sub-Saharan Africa.

As Pew noted:

"Generally, African and predominantly Muslim countries tend to find most of these activities morally unacceptable, while in advanced economies, such as those in Western Europe, Japan, and North America, people tend to be more accepting or to not consider these moral issues at all."

Extramarital affairs

More than half of people in all but one country — France — consider having an affair immoral.

Pew extramarital affairs


In Africa and the Middle East, large majorities label gambling "unacceptable." In France, Canada, and the U.S., however, fewer than one quarter feel that way.

Pew gambling


More than 90% of respondents in seven countries (Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Tunisia, and Uganda) say homosexuality is unacceptable. Europeans, however, are much less likely to say the same.

homosexuality Pew


Half or more of respondents in 26 of the 40 countries believe abortions are morally unacceptable. People in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and mostly Muslim countries in Asia and the Middle East lean more toward calling it immoral, whereas Western Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan feel the opposite or indifferent.

Pew abortion

Premarital Sex

Muslim countries largely believe that sex before marriage is unacceptable, while about 10% or fewer respondents in Germany, France, and Spain say the same.

Pew premarital sex


Opinions on alcohol use vary across the 40 countries, but predominantly respondents in Muslim countries find it problematic. Fewer than 10% of respondents feel drinking is morally unacceptable in Britain, Canada, and Japan. 

Pew alcohol use


Even in conservative Middle Eastern countries, few consider divorce morally "unacceptable." The highest percentages of those who feel it is, however, come from African countries, such as Ghana (80%), Uganda (76%), and Nigeria (61%).

Pew divorce


Contraceptive use is the most widely accepted of all the topics included in the survey. In 17 countries, the percentage of people saying it's morally "unacceptable" is in the single digits, and only in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ghana did more than half of respondents feel that way.

contraception Pew

SEE ALSO: This Charts Explains Every Culture In The World

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We Spoke To 2 Veterans Who Served In World War II As Teenagers — And Here's What They Remember Most



Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, just over a million are alive today, according to the National World War II Museum. Each day, 555 of them die.

Business Insider recently spoke with two combat veterans who grew up in New York City and fought in the Pacific as teenagers near the war's end. Bob Mulcahy and Victor Westiner are easy to find; they meet twice a week for coffee with a handful of other aging veterans in the basement of their local American Legion post in St. James, New York.

"It's mostly camaraderie," Mulcahy said of the twice-weekly meetings. "It's like a men's club. Most of them lost their wives."

They'll tell old war stories or banter over the latest sports news. "It's a good feeling," Mulcahy said.

'For Me It Was Like Watching A John Wayne Movie'

That's how Mulcahy describes the sights and sounds he witnessed for 59 days aboard the USS New Orleans off the coast of Okinawa, during the last major battle of World War II in spring 1945. 


Bob Mulcahy grew up in Queens and joined the U.S. Navy in October 1944 at 17. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother, who joined a month after the Japanese launched a surprise aerial attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the event that brought the U.S. into World War II. 

The USS New Orleans arrived off the coast of Okinawa in mid-April 1945, while the Marines were still fighting a bloody battle to wrest the island out of Japanese hands.

"Everything to me was like a moving picture, because the first day we got there that sky was all full of the smoke from the cannons going off and from the planes," Mulcahy recalled.

He normally served as a radar operator in the ship's combat information center (CIC), the "eyes and ears" of the ship. But whenever the ship came under attack, Mulcahy served on an elevated lookout deck where he watched for kamikaze planes — aircraft flown by Japanese pilots trying to intentionally crash into U.S. ships.

American planes formed a defensive ring around the ships to protect them from kamikazes, who mostly targeted aircraft carriers but could occasionally go after heavy cruisers like Mulcahy's ship. They never hit the USS New Orleans, although one flew so close past Mulcahy's lookout tower that he could see the pilot in the cockpit. 

Although the heavy cruiser was in the middle of the fray, it sustained damage on only one occasion, when the captain brought the ship closer than usual to bombard Japanese shore batteries.

"You can see the guys running up and down the beaches," Mulcahy recalled. 

During the maneuver, a Japanese gun emplacement fired back and hit the rear deck of the ship, wounding at least one sailor with shrapnel, Mulcahy recalls.

IMG_6899.JPGMulcahy's most memorable act of the war came when he received an order that was rare for a 5-foot-7, 121-pound, 17-year-old nicknamed "Chick" on account of his young age and small stature.

He was in the CIC mapping the progress of the front line as Marines advanced into Okinawa when a commander approached him. 

"He says, 'Hey sailor how we doing today?'" Mulcahy recalled. "I say, 'I guess all right, sir.' He says, 'OK come over here, I want to start firing at the beach.' Again, I'm 17 years old, just out of high school."

The commander communicated with the ship's crewmembers in charge of aiming and firing its massive naval guns, while Mulcahy relayed precise instructions from a spotter aircraft for adjusting their aim. Then he felt the whole ship shake as its nine biggest guns fired simultaneously at the coast.

"They make a lot of noise," he now says with a laugh.

Through his ongoing communication with the spotter plane, Mulcahy learned his ship was firing on a Japanese column moving along a road containing about 300 enemy troops and three tanks. His coordination with the plane ensured the column's destruction. 

"After we destroyed them completely, the pilot said, 'Job well done, there's nothing left of that place.' So I said to myself, 'Well, I did my part in the war, rather than just being a lookout.'

"I think anybody that enlisted during that wartime are all heroes, because nobody knew what was coming when they joined up," Mulcahy recalled. "My brother joined up and for four years was in Florida. I was in 10 weeks and I was on my way to Okinawa at that time. So you don't know where you're going to go."

Nowadays, Mulcahy is the commander of the American Legion Sherwood Brothers Post 1152. "Every day I get a notice one of my shipmates has passed away, almost every day," he said. "It's pretty sad, with the statistics and all."

'Not Everybody Came Back'

Victor Westiner repaired damaged P-51 Mustang fighter planes at an Iwo Jima airfield. The fighters flew missions to the Japanese mainland that sometimes lasted up to 16 hours.

Westiner, now 90, grew up in Brooklyn and was drafted into the military in January 1943, shortly after his 19th birthday. Because he had learned aircraft maintenance at a technical school, Westiner was placed in the U.S. Army Air Corps and became an aircraft mechanic in a P-51 fighter aircraft unit.

He landed on Iwo Jima in late March 1945, after the Marines had captured an airfield from the Japanese for the mechanics to operate on. "The beach was a mess. It was filled with holes and debris and wrecks" — and bodies, Westiner recalled.


The P-51s typically provided protective escorts for American B-29 Superfortress bombers on their way to Japan, but Westiner also helped equip the fighter planes with new rockets, which they routinely fired at Japanese railroad tunnels.

"Of course, not everybody came back," he said. Other fighters returned to base with damage that Westiner and his fellow mechanics fixed by riveting metal patches over the holes.

He and his comrades lived in two-person tents, commonly known in the military as "pup tents." 

Westiner experienced two Japanese air raids, but they were ineffectual and had little impact on the base. "One was very, very poor for them because we had some pretty good antiaircraft guns all over the island," Westiner said. "The Army came in with a bunch of these anti-aircraft, and they hit one or two and of course they crashed in an area that we knew about."


Nevertheless, he recalled some casualties on the American side from rare air raids.

"We had a couple of guys killed. They had these little anti-personnel bombs. It's a small bomb and the shrapnel, believe it or not, was old nails, razor blades, all kinds of junk in a shell that would blow up and spread out."

On other occasions, Japanese bombers came near the airfield but never attacked, although it was enough to send Westiner and his comrades running for cover in foxholes after the alarms sounded. "Of course, they kept everybody awake," he recalled.

But those losses were minimal compared with those inflicted on the last remnants of Japanese troops hiding out in caves beneath the island.

An Army unit was assigned to blow up the caves to prevent Japanese holdouts from launching guerrilla attacks on the airfield.

The Americans made the few survivors they found strip down at a safe distance before taking them prisoner. "They had grenades and tried to blow themselves up," Westiner said.

Westiner recalls seeing only two Japanese stragglers surrender, after they were forced out of the caves from heat and dehydration. 

"I don't think they had hardly any prisoners at all. The Army guys had captured these two who had come out of a cave and they were a short distance from where we were, and they were taking them away," Westiner remembered.

During the war, Westiner felt lucky to be able to pursue his interest in aircraft while serving his country, "even though it was not in a very nice area," he said with a laugh. He was less interested in the intricacies of the war. "I didn't really care either way at that age ... probably some at the time, but I really don't remember."


SEE ALSO: This Never-Before-Seen WWII Document Offers An Inside Account Of An Elite Nazi Combat Unit's Collapse

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Meet 15 People Who Brave Freezing Temperatures to Live On The Arctic Circle


Life On The Line Photos

Since we're in the midst of a hot summer here in the States, it's easy to forget that there's anything but sweaty, scorching weather elsewhere on earth.

Just take a step inside the Arctic Circle, though, and you'll quickly find that's just not true.

The Arctic Circle, one of the main lines of latitude on any globe, demarcates where the Arctic begins and ends. North of here, the sun can stay up for 24 hours during the summer and hide below the horizon during the winter, plunging inhabitants into darkness.

And it's cold. Average temperatures in the summer hover around 50 °F and in the winter, they have been documented as low as -136°F

While the Arctic is not very populated, people do live there. Photographer Cristian Barnett wondered who these people were, so he decided to document and photograph them. He was particularly intrigued by those who lived on or near the invisible, dotted line of the Arctic Circle. Starting in 2006, Barnett made 11 trips to 23 towns, all within 35 miles of the Arctic Circle. His series, titled Life On The Line, will be released as a book  later this year.

"The Arctic Circle is much more than just hunters and polar bears," says Barnett. "There are many thriving modern settlements where you're more likely to meet a hairdresser than a reindeer herder."

Barnett told about 15 of the people he photographed. You can see more of his beautiful work on his site.

Benjamin, Enoch, and William, are excited about their new wheels, which means freedom and independence, especially in Fort Yukon, Alaska. The town was officially founded by the Hudson's Bay Company, famous for their wool blankets, though the area had been inhabited by indigenous people for thousands of years prior.

Standing outside her father’s multi-story log cabin in Fort Yukon, Alaska, Chasity Herbert is proud to appear in her newly won Miss Fort Yukon sash.

Maria Manninen is a fashion student in Rovaniemi, a large city in Finland only six miles south of the Arctic Circle. Even though it's outside the borders of the Circle, it still gets pretty cold. The lowest temperature every recorded here was −54 °F.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The 10 Most Livable Cities In The World


vienna austriaThe Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a livability survey to determine which cities around the world "provide the best or worst living conditions."

Cities that tended to score the best on the survey were mid-size and located in wealthier countries with relatively low population densities. This environment, according to the report, "can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure."

Out of the top 10 cities, seven are located in Canada or Australia, which have population densities of 3.40 and 2.88 people per square kilometer respectively. Finland and New Zealand, which also have high-ranking cities, have 16 people per square km. The global average is 46.65 people per square km, and the U.S. average is 32 people per sq km, according to the report.

Sixty-four cities scored above an 80% — which means they are considered to be "in the top tier of livability."

10. Auckland

Country: New Zealand

Auckland scored high on education (100) and healthcare (95.8).

One-third of the New Zealand population is located in Auckland, the "largest commercial center" in the country. Major industries in Auckland include tourism, marine architecture, and specialized manufacturing.

Additionally, 80% of the city is considered to be rural; subsequently rural development is another major industry. 

9. Perth

Country: Australia

Perth scored high on education (100), healthcare (100), and infrastructure (100).

Perth is the capital and largest city of Western Australia. Mining and mineral industries are major parts of Perth's economy. 

Additionally, Perth boasts an oil refinery, steel-rolling mill, alumina refinery, desalination plant, power station, and a nickel refinery, according to the Government of Western Australia.

8. Helsinki

Country: Finland

Helsinki scored well on stability (100) and healthcare (100).

Helsinki's major industries include food, metal and chemical processing, printing, textiles, clothing, and manufacturing of electrical equipment. Over 50% of Finland's imports go through Helsinki, although most goods are exported elsewhere.

Additionally, Helsinki has grown into a major European startup hub. And, in 2013, the gaming sector in Finland recorded a combined revenue of approximately 1 billion.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

How An Industrial Designer Is Using Magic To Invent Amazing Objects


adrian westaway

As a kid, Adrian Westaway loved two things: magic and making inventions. Now, as co-founder of a London-based design and invention studio called Special Projects, he has combined both of those hobbies into one fascinating career.

At Special Projects, Westaway has worked on all kinds of endeavors, from designing an interactive user manual for a smartphone to creating a physical calendar than can transform into a digital one when photographed. As a magician in the elite magical society the Magic Circle, he is able to bring his expertise into the field of design.

"Magicians are the real experts at designing experiences and hiding their technology, and that's exactly what we have to do as designers," Westaway said in an interview with Business Insider. "People don't really talk about how much memory is in their iPhone — they talk about what they just did with it. That's the important thing."

The beginnings of a magical life

When Westaway was 11, he became interested in magic after watching the famous British magician Paul Daniels perform on the BBC. He told his mom he wanted to learn how to make his school teacher disappear with magic, and his mom suggested he write a letter to Daniels.

Westaway wrote the letter, but since he did not know Daniels' address, he simply wrote "Paul Daniels, BBC" on the envelope. Then, in what Westaway describes as "the most amazing magic trick ever," he received a reply from Daniels, who directed him to the library to read a specific magic book. This was when Westaway truly fell in love with magic.

During college, Westaway often performed magic for money at what he described as "really weird burlesque parties and really bizarre shows."

"I never really enjoyed doing it for money, because you'd have to do it for five or six hours in a row, and by the end your voice is hoarse and you're just not really into the tricks anymore. You have to be really into it," Westaway said.

A little over a year ago, Westaway fulfilled one of his dreams and became a member of the Magic Circle, an extremely elite organization for serious magicians. He said it took him many years to muster up the courage to apply, because he knew the entry exam was rigorous. But he made it through, and said he's met some fascinating people, and is working to further the art of magic.

Bringing magic to design

Westaway studied electronic engineering at Bristol University, but soon realized he didn't want to become an engineer. He signed up for a course at the Royal College of Art in London called "Industrial Design and Engineering," which combined engineering, design, business, and entrepreneurship.

"It was like a mad inventor's course," Westaway said. "Basically that's where I managed to bring all of my interests — in electronics, and design, and inventing — all together in one place. It's sort of where all the pieces of the puzzle finally stuck together. I'd finally found my dream, what I wanted to do."

Westaway realized he didn't like technology that was distracting and invasive. "I don't necessarily like big boxes of technology and flashing lights and screens and things like that," he said. "I think technology is fantastic when it becomes more and more invisible."

He also learned that many magical theories can also apply to design. "Magicians have a real knack for understanding what the boundary is between the sort of secret side of an object — the technology — and the kind of experience that is happening, and it's actually a really useful way of thinking in design," he said.

Westaway decided to bring these theories into his work, and founded a design and invention studio called Vitamins with his friend Duncan Fitzsimons and his now-wife Clara Westaway. They eventually shuttered Vitamins and opened a new studio called Special Projects, a small business that averages about four employees at a time. 

"We chose the name because we're an inventions studio, and because we're so small that we can be quite picky about the projects we work on," Westaway said. "We also chose the name because we wanted it to act as a kind of filter for the projects that we get."

Enchanted objects

The company has certainly stayed true to its name. One of the special projects the company is currently working on is called Out Of The Box, an interactive user manual for Samsung that helps people who have difficulty understanding smartphones. The manual's pages have holes for a phone. The user can then see how to set up and use the device with arrows, diagrams, and even more holes. You can see a video about the project in action here.out of the boxAnother project that has really taken off is the Lego Calendar. This is a calendar made out of Lego blocks, where each block represents a half day of work on a project. When the Lego calendar is photographed with a smartphone, the physical calendar magically translates into a digital version, and is viewable on whatever calendar app you use.

The calendar is so successful that Westaway and his colleagues are spinning it out into its own company. See it in action here.

lego calendar

Westaway said it's exciting to work for Special Projects because the work is so varied; sometimes they'll make a totally mechanical invention, sometimes they'll work with digital elements, and sometimes a mix of the two.

The clientele is also diverse. "We love it because it's constantly changing. One day we'll be working with pensioners, and another day we'll be doing something with pro snowboarders, and then the next day we'll be working with teenagers," Westaway said. "It keeps us on our toes all the time."

Spreading the word

Westaway is also spreading his knowledge of magic and design to interested students. Earlier this year, he conducted an "enchanted objects" workshop at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design with MIT Media Lab researcher David Rose. Students designed "enchanted objects," or ordinary objects that can do extraordinary things with the power of non-invasive technology.

He's also in the process of creating a course for universities that will teach design students how to be magicians, and then have them use that knowledge to invent objects. He recently tested the course at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

Additionally, Westaway teaches a class at Queen Mary University of London called "Design Innovation and Creative Engineering," which he said is similar to the mad inventor's course he took at the Royal College of Art. 

Westaway feels that magical technology offers great possibilities for the future. "Right now, we're talking about these smartwatches, these internet-connected door handles, and light bulbs and everything. It'll get much more interesting when these things just go back to being doorhandles, or rather ordinary doorhandles that are doing something fantastic," Westaway said. "That's when it's really magical, when you're not seeing screens or flashing lights."

As for his own favorite tricks? Westaway said he loves to read people's minds and tell them what they're thinking, because those tricks are minimal and pure. He said he also loves card tricks, as well as tricks that use ordinary objects like spoons and sugar packets, because they're easy to perform on a whim.

"When I perform, I usually just do it for friends, and now I'm learning more about a lot of the theories and the sort of ideas behind magic in design," Westaway said. "But I always have a pack of cards on me, and I'm always ready to do a trick."

SEE ALSO: 15 Everyday Objects That Have Been 'Enchanted' By Technology

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Get To Know Comporta, Where The Richest Europeans Go Off The Grid



The sleepy fishing villages of Portugal’s Herdade da Comporta have always been where the fashionable European crowd goes off the grid. Now that new hotels and rental villas are emerging among the dunes, Maura Egan finds that this hush-hush coastal retreat has become more open to visitors—without losing its under-the-radar cool.

For most drivers, the ride from Lisbon to the seaside village of Comporta clocks in at just over an hour, but Isabel de Carvalho can do it in about 45 minutes. “My father raced cars,” explains the restaurateur as she expertly pilots her Peugeot station wagon down the highway and chats on her phone—to staffers, to dinner guests in from Seville, and to her husband and partner, Tozé, who is driving right behind us, transporting food and supplies from the city. We are late to arrive at the Museu do Arroz, the restaurant she opened 18 years ago and which is now the center of Comporta’s nightlife, and it is obvious that the party doesn’t start without De Carvalho.

Housed in a former rice-husking mill, the Museu do Arroz feels like an extension of De Carvalho’s home: The lounge area is filled with overstuffed velvet couches, a disco ball hangs from the rafters, and there’s a colorful Indian welcome banner above the bar. (Originally from Portugal, De Carvalho started out as a programmer for Texas Instruments and IBM in Europe before moving to Brazil and becoming an interior designer.) It’s 10 p.m. and the start of the summer season, so De Carvalho shifts into hostess mode, navigating through the rooms, offering up kisses and menu recommendations (the salt cod fritters are excellent), and signaling waiters to refill water glasses. Tozé works the other side of the room. “We never get a vacation,” he says with a fake exasperated sigh, but you can tell that they both love the work. In the far corner, I see a table of people I’d met when I came to Comporta four years ago. They casually wave as if I’m here every Friday night. “Nothing really changes in here,” says João De Vasconcellos, a businessman who also happens to make wine and breed sport horses. (Comporta is packed with multi-hyphenate hobbyists.) “Nothing has really changed in Portugal in 900 years!”

During my last visit, the local chatter was all about the Aman resort coming to the Herdade da Comporta—the official name of the swath of coastland in the south of Portugal that comprises seven small villages—but it sounded far-fetched. The area is a protected nature reserve in the country’s rural Alentejo region, and it seemed a most unlikely place for a luxury resort. I was mistaken: Come next summer, Aman will indeed open a hotel with 40 suites. The imminent arrival of the Asia-based luxury resort chain has led to the development of more hotels. But the official mandate is to keep them all low-impact and architecturally sensitive. “No one wants this to become the Algarve,” says Mandy de Azevedo Coutinho, a villa rental operator, referring to the stretch of coast farther to the south that has long been a package-holiday destination. While much of Europe’s beachfront has succumbed to developmental sprawl, Comporta has remained untouched. “People come here because it reminds them of St-Tropez in the ’70s,” says De Azevedo Coutinho—or Ibiza in the ’80s, or the Hamptons in the ’90s. “My husband grew up in Angola,” says De Carvalho. “And the first time he came here, he told me it reminded him of Africa.”

comporta muda living roomSome say De Carvalho put Comporta on the map when she arrived in 1992, but really, you have to look further back. The Espírito Santo family—one of Portugal’s, if not the world’s, biggest banking dynasties—began visiting this rural backwater in the 1950s and bought a plot of land about one and a half times the size of Lisbon. The family fell in love with the untrammeled landscape—the miles of empty beaches, the dense forests of umbrella pines and gnarled cork trees, the endless patchwork of rice fields—and transformed it into their private playground. Clutches of fishermen’s thatched huts were turned into unassuming compounds, with sandy paths leading from one family member’s home to the next. Comporta became their summer retreat, not unlike the way parts of Maine and the Adirondacks were colonized by a handful of patrician American families.

In 1974, after the “Carnation Revolution,” which overthrew Portugal’s authoritarian Estado Novo regime, all of the country’s banks were nationalized and the Espírito Santo group lost much of its fortune. Having been banned from doing business in Portugal, different factions of the family moved abroad to rebuild their empire. In 1991, when they returned to develop Comporta, the land was overgrown, the houses were derelict, and abandoned cars were strewn about. After they restored the area and installed a true infrastructure (roadways, electricity), they decided to diversify their interests by investing in agriculture—namely wine and rice—and quietly parceling out land to individuals beyond the family and board members.

This first wave of friends and foreigners brought the likes of decorator Jacques Grange, shoe designer Christian Louboutin, and artist Anselm Kiefer, who built elegant hideaways in the same humble style as the Espírito Santo originals. While Grange is known for his opulent designs for clients like François Pinault and Ronald Lauder, he kept his Comporta property spare, outfitting his cabanas with Moroccan rugs and rattan furniture. The region’s more modern properties—many of them summer rentals—have a casual boho vibe, with little furniture and plenty of outdoor areas for taking in the landscape.

RELATED: The 10 Best Cities in Europe 

“Princess Caroline comes here every summer because her parents were friends with the family—not that you would notice her in flip-flops and caftan,” says De Azevedo Coutinho. The French aristocrat and garden designer Louis Benech supposedly does away with shoes altogether and walks around town barefoot. Comporta is where the fashionable crowd goes off the grid, and they don’t necessarily want to talk about it—particularly after a Portuguese magazine quoted someone as saying, “Comporta is where rich people go to play at being poor.”

comporta sals restaurantWhile you can’t deny the socioeconomic divide between the locals (there are 3,500 full-time residents) and the summer crowds, no one seems to be treating this place as their private Petit Trianon. Perhaps because Comporta is in the Alentejo—the breadbasket of a country that is stillseen as the poor man of Europe—there’s a certain strain of humility among even the wealthiest people here. “The early family members were always close with the locals. Like the fishermen and the farmers, they saw themselves as self-made and self-reliant,” says Stefan Harzen, an environmental researcher who first came here from his native Germany in the ’80s to study dolphins at the Sado estuary. This summer he’s shuttling between here and Jupiter, Florida.

Then there’s José Ribeira, who gave up his real estate career in Lisbon to live here full-time and lead horse rides on the beach. “I came because the economy was in bad shape and I was getting a divorce,” explains Ribeira, who maintains 20 or so polo ponies at his handsome stables perched above the rice fields. In his rugged leather vest and dusty jeans, he handles his horses like a master but is quietly dismissive of his riding skills, vaguely telling me he “grew up on a farm.” I later learn that Ribeira comes from a prosperous Portuguese family.

“We call him José of Ribeira,” jokes Gonçalo Pessoa, a pilot for TAP Portugal who opened the hotel Sublime Comporta in May. Surrounded by piney forests, the peach-colored property is discreet but state-of-the-art: The 14 rooms and suites are equipped with oversized tubs and heated concrete floors, with fireplaces in some rooms; the grounds include a massive fire pit, an organic garden, and an infinity pool. Pessoa, who bought his land here ten years ago, gives me a casual primer on the area’s social strata: The smartest family members are tucked away in the village of Brejos; Comporta Beach is the destination for day-trippers from Lisbon; Pego Beach is more exclusive; and Restaurante Sal, known simply as Sal’s, is the unofficial clubhouse. Still, the Portuguese have an open-door policy when it comes to visitors. Despite the small-town feel, you don’t sense any insularity or exclusivity. “We’re often compared to the Irish,” says businessman and horse breeder De Vasconcellos.

One afternoon, I receive a text from Isabel de Carvalho: “I have a friend who came by helicopter to Sal’s and I’m joining him for lunch. You should come!” On my way to Sal’s, I drive through the village of Carvalhal, where old men sit in plastic chairs at an outdoor café, drinking espresso, as they’ve probably done every afternoon for decades, and then through a suburban-style neighborhood of anonymous white stucco houses (built by the government during the family’s absence in the ’70s), where a woman is collecting snails at the side of the road.

comporta beachLunch starts late in Comporta, around 4 p.m., so by the time I arrive, De Carvalho has left to oversee the evening’s dinner shift at her restaurant. Still, there are plenty of families on the deck, lingering over their grilled fish, squid ink rice, and half-empty bottles of local rosé. For most of these multi-generational families, dining at Sal’s is a weekend ritual. They dress in their Sunday beach best: polo shirts and Top-Siders for the men, flowing caftans and straw hats for the women. One grandfather is slumped over on a beach chair, the newspaper shielding his head, while his grandson plays in the sand on the nearby dunes.

On weekends, during the siesta between lunch and cocktail hour, the main intersection of Comporta village becomes clogged with BMWs, Range Rovers, and the occasional dune buggy. You might see a group of older ladies sitting on a stone wall, eating ice-cream cones, while others are stocking up on goods at the tiny supermercado—Porto wine, canned sardines, straw baskets. There are a handful of different lifestyle boutiques in town where you can pick up Moroccan pottery and Jack Rogers sandals, including De Carvalho’s shop, A Loja do Museu do Arroz. In addition to caftans and printed bikinis, manager Marcello Rangoni has amassed an eclectic mix of antique garden furniture and retro light fixtures. “You wouldn’t believe who comes in these days,” Rangoni tells me during a cigarette break in the courtyard. “Last summer, Isabelle Adjani came, and the guy from the Rolling Stones... Ron Wood.” He sounds more amused than starstruck.

The British artist Jason Martin came to Comporta after seeing a TV show about the region. “It felt like the last frontier,” says Martin, who spends about ten days of the month at his atelier in an old rice factory next to De Carvalho’s restaurant. “It’s not that different from finding a place with cheap rent in one of London’s industrial sections, but here it’s rural.” Martin says that the surrounding landscape has informed his painting and sculpture, and that his two young sons love spending their holidays at the beach, but he also feels the need to be part of this community. To that end, he’s working on a project in Melides, a village 18 miles south of Comporta, that will include a farm, a vineyard, and a sculpture park. “You have to bring employment to the community, make the best use of the land,” he says. “I spend so much time traveling on the art circuit that this feels like a very genuine life. And as long as this place doesn’t get screwed up like the Algarve, it’s Europe’s hidden treasure.”

More From Condé Nast Traveler: 

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SEE ALSO: If There Were Ever A Time To Visit Panama, This Is It

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I Lived Out Of My Car For Four Months To Join The Tech Revolution


Kurt VarnerEditor's note: Two years ago, a Silicon Valley product designer named Kurt Varner saved a ton of money and learned a lot about life by living in his car for four months.

Varner wrote about his experiences on Quora in March 2013. Recently, he provided Business Insider with an introduction to that Quora post explaining what he's been doing since he stopped calling his 2004 Honda Civic home.

Two years ago, I jumped head-first into the Silicon Valley tech world. Armed with little more than a dream, I drove to Palo Alto with a car, but nowhere to live. For four months, I lived from my car, relying on pragmatism, creativity and the kindness of the community. Today, I have my own version of the Silicon Valley dream — My wife and I reside in Mountain View (not in a car), and I have a job as a Senior Product Designer at the on demand shipping startup, Shyp.

Beyond the obvious cost savings, I gained perspective on what really matters, including compassion for others less fortunate and the focus to pursue his true passion of design. Wondering if extreme minimalism is right for you? Here is the story of how I spent a summer homeless, on a $219 per month budget, to join the tech revolution.


I recently concluded a 4 month adventure of living from my car in Silicon Valley. Don't listen to the naysayers. It can be done, and it will save you a ton of money. I did this out of choice, also while bootstrapping my startup.

Here's what Inc. Magazine had to say about it: http://www.inc.com/magazine/2012...

My monthly costs were a grand total of $219. $100 for a 24/7 co-working membership, $39 for a 24/7 gym membership, and $80 at the grocery store. Here's how the logistics of it all worked...

Car: If you don't have a car, get one. It is key to making this lifestyle work. You don't need to worry about a homeless shelter, and you can store all your possessions in it (all I had was a duffle bag, my laptop, sleeping stuff, and food). It's the one consistent place you can depend on. You'll be able to buy a cheap one for less than a month's rent in the Bay Area. I had a 2004 Honda Civic.

Car Kurt Varner

Sleeping: Sleeping is obviously super important if you expect to be in good mental standing everyday. I made it work by folding down the rear seats and laying a 3" foam mattress pad from the truck to the rear of the interior. I'm 6 feet tall and I could almost stretch out entirely while laying down. It's not as comfortable as a bed, but surprisingly, it's not as bad as you'd think. I slept fully through the nights.

Showering: I bought a 24 Hour Fitness membership to take care of my hygienic needs. Every morning I'd wake up and drive to the gym to take a shower. Then, like every other normal person, I'd head off to work. I found that having 24/7 access was really nice in case I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I'd always park within a few miles (and many times as close as the parking lot). If you're looking for a less expensive option, there are some gyms that are as low as $15/mo.

Working and free time: I signed up for a Hacker Dojo co-working membership. This is primarily where I spent all my time. They provide fast internet, a microwave, coffee, water, couches, community, etc. For only $100/mo, it's a no brainer. **Do not abuse their space. Don't use it to sleep in or steal from. Just common sense.

Eating: I stored almost all my food in my car. The small amount of perishable food I did have, I used the Hacker Dojo refrigerators. These are communal, so I chose not to store much in them. However, I would use their microwave everyday to heat my meals. I wrote a short post about what I ate: http://blog.kurtvarner.com/post/.... Mainly, just get stuff that doesn't need to be refrigerated. However, it is definitely a challenge to eat healthy, as high sodium is going to be prevalent in nearly all canned foods. Just be cautious.

Car Interior Kurt VarnerParking: Technically, Palo Alto is the only Bay Area city where it's legal to live from a vehicle. That said, I parked more nights in Mountain View over the course of the 4 months. I was only slightly disturbed once when a police officer spotlighted my car. I sat up from my back seat, looked at him, and then he simply drove away.

When looking for locations to park, my focus was on being unnoticed. Anywhere with little foot traffic is best. Not sure where you're located, but here are a few places that worked well for me: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?.... There are countless other places that will work well. I found these by taking an afternoon to just randomly drive around.


Tint your windows: If you want your privacy, tint your windows. This was one of the best decisions I made, as it really helped me to fly under the radar. I went with a 23% tint that cost about $120 professionally installed. It wasn't pitch black, but it was dark enough where you couldn't see in during the night, and made you and your possessions not obvious during the day.

Sun shade: Get a $5 sun shade to put in the windshield while you sleep.

Rear screen: Do the same with a mesh screen for the rear window.
Here are two videos of my set up. It may help the reality of the situation set in a bit.

Video of waking up in my car: I may regret posting this one, but here's to transparency :)
Overall, this lifestyle begins to feel fairly normal. Admittedly, it's nicer to be living in an apartment, but if you're in desperate need to cut costs, a car will be your best friend.

On a side note, there's another fantastic benefit that comes from living like this — embracing a minimalistic perspective on life. Before these 4 months, everyday I took for granted things like a warm bed, shower, home cooked meals, etc. It’s easy to lose sight of how privileged the majority of us are, but there are many, many people without these basic things. I realized that even the simple things in life could bring me more happiness than a world of possessions.

Since starting my journey, I've heard a lot of encouragement from the startup community, but also quite a bit of hatred. You have to take the negativity with a grain of salt. You know your situation better than anyone, so just trust yourself.

You are not alone. During my experience I saw many other people living from vehicles. It's strange that most people are oblivious to it. There are even several other entrepreneurs I know that are taking to the streets to cut costs here in the Valley.

I'd be more than happy to offer any other advice to you. There's so much more that could be said, but I'm sparing some details for the sake of time. Connect with me if you'd like to meet up or get on a call.

You can read more about my story at http://blog.kurtvarner.com.

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Are These Common Speech Habits Bringing You Down?


How you say something matters as much as, like, what you say.

If you want to get your ideas across, then pay attention to certain controversial speech habits becoming increasingly more common. Mumbling or speaking too fast will clearly hamper your message, while others may or may not cause a problem, depending on whom you ask.

Below, we discuss six of the most common trends:

1. Vocal fry

Speakers who exhibit vocal fry drop their voices down to the lowest pitches, causing their vocal cords to flutter, resulting in a creaking sound.

Although the habit has been around for decades, no one knows exactly why people use it. Some call it a voice disorder, while others suggest that people, especially women, use it to sound assertive or sexy.

A recent study found that vocal fry makes people, especially young women, less likely to land a job. After listening to recordings of both men and women speaking with and without vocal fry, participants who reported making hiring judgments preferred normal voices 87% of the time.

But some linguists say the research was inaccurate and that vocal fry is common and generally harmless.

Although clearly auto-tuned, pop artist Kesha's voice gives a solid example of vocal fry. Listen as her voice creaks as she sings.

2. Uptalking

Uptalking occurs when people raise their inflection at the end of declarative sentences as if they were questions.

The term was reportedly invented in 1993 by New York University journalism professor James Gorman, who wrote a humorous article about his students' use of it.

Associated with the valley girl stereotype, uptalking is often seen as annoying and symbolic of a lack of intelligence or confidence. 

But a recent study suggests a more complex conclusion. Sociologist Thomas Linneman of the College of William and Mary analyzed 100 episodes of "Jeopardy" and found that all the contestants uptalked sometimes. He also noted higher-scoring women did it more, while the opposite was true for men. Linneman argues that the professional world penalizes women for coming off too confident, so they have learned to compensate by uptalking.

While still controversial today, uptalk became a national phenomenon in the mid-1990s. Below, it appears in a 1994 segment from news anchor Connie Chung:

3. Beginning sentences with "so"

So people are always starting sentences with "so" lately.

To some people, that's a problem. Fast Company's Hunter Thurman wrote that a speaker's use of "so" indicates something rehearsed and dumbed-down. As a result, the addition alienates audiences. Also, the word does not have a clear grammatical function at the beginning of a sentence.

Some linguists, however, defend the habit. Galina Bolden, associate professor of communication at Rutgers University, told Business Insider that "so" at the start of a sentence often marks the beginning of a new topic that one of the parties wants to discuss, often called an "interactional agenda."

"It communicates that the speaker is interested in or concerned about the recipient," Bolden said. "It also invokes prior conversations between the speaker and the recipient, drawing on their relationship history."

As we've noted before, Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates this habit all the time, as he does in his ALS ice bucket challenge:

4. Saying "um" and "uh"

Sounds like "um" and "uh," also known as fillers, often appear in our conversations. Nearly every language includes them in different forms, hinting at some universal meaning. Unfortunately, they can make speakers seem ill prepared.

In his 1995 paper, "Does It Hurt To Say Um?" Nicholas Christenfeld surveyed listeners and determined that audiences not only notice the appearance of "ums" in speech but also that the sound negatively affects their opinions of the speaker.

People apparently didn't start complaining about "um," however, until the emergence of voice recording, as Mental Floss reports on Michael Erard's book "Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean." While ancient Greek and Latin transcripts do not include these breaks in speech, people most likely still used them.

Even so, many linguists believe these sounds serve purposes and even follow rules. For example, in a 2002 study, Herbert Clarke and Jean Fox Tree determined that speakers use "uh" and "um" to introduce minor and major delays, respectively, in speech, especially while explaining complex topics.

If these sounds tend to fill moments of thinking, logic would suggest careful preparation could eliminate them.

In this interview with Taylor Swift, splicing her "ums" together fills nearly three minutes of video.

5. Saying "like"

The frequent insertion of "like" into sentences where it doesn't serve a clear purpose appears to have gained popularity.

Moon Unit Zappa highlighted the habit's spread in Southern California with her 1982 hit "Valley Girl," as did Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) in the 1995 movie "Clueless." Overusing "like" is often considered ineloquent and immature, and consensus suggests avoiding it in professional situations like job interviews and presentations. 

While many consider this type of "like" a filler word, linguists also note it can serve purposes, making it a discourse marker — a signal meant to help a listener understand the message.

Recent research has also shown that the controversial use of  "like" doesn't necessarily correlate with a lack of intelligence.

A 2014 study from the University of Texas, titled "Um ... Who Like Says You Know, found that conscientious people — those who are thoughtful and more aware of their surroundings — more often use discourse markers, such as "like." These additions imply the speakers' desire to share and rephrase their opinions to recipients. The study also affirmed that young women most frequently say "like."

As early as 1991, researchers began studying the purpose of "like" as a replacement for a qualified "say." For example, "He was like, 'no,'" implies the quoted speaker thought about saying no or implied a no without actually speaking one. That makes the sentence intrinsically different from, "He said, 'no.'"

But when used to excess, arbitrary insertions of "like" clearly pose a problem, as Justin Bieber demonstrates:

6. Clearing your throat

Clearing the throat is a sign of uncertainty, nervousness, or annoyance, which is found even in chimpanzee populations.

It's a bad idea for multiple reasons.

First of all, the action interrupts a speaker's delivery and can irritate audiences.

Second, clearing your throat, theoretically meant to remove or loosen phlegm, actually just inflames the vocal cords and causes more phlegm. Repeated clearing can also cause permanent damage to the vocal cords, Dr. Brian Rotskoff at Clarity Allergy Center in Chicago told The Daily Mail.

Third, once someone starts clearing his or her throat, the more they feel they need to. "Your throat and vocal cords take repeated abuse with constant clearing," Rotskoff said. "The resulting inflammation only reinforces the urge to clear, and the cycle continues."

The popular animated show "Family Guy" poked fun at the trend. In a well-known skit, three men's throat-clearing escalates into a full-blown screaming match.

SEE ALSO: The 24 Words Most Known To Only Men Or Women

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