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$27 MILLION AND UP: The 10 Biggest Home Sales In New York City This Year

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15 central park west penthouse

It was a blockbuster year for luxury real estate in New York City, with several sales breaking records even as the lower end of the market lagged.

Several business moguls made major purchases, and one very lucky 22-year-old was handed the keys to an $88 million apartment in one of Manhattan's most powerful buildings.

Real estate listings site Point2Homes compiled a list of the 10 biggest residential sales in New York City in 2012.

#10 The Cy Twombly Foundation bought an Upper East Side mansion for $27.5 million.

The foundation bought the townhouse at 19 East 82nd St. in May with plans to turn it into an education center and small museum to celebrate the works of the late artist. It was sold by art dealer Warren Adelson.

19 e 82nd st

Source: The Wall Street Journal and Point2Homes



#9 A co-op at 1030 Fifth Avenue sold for $31.5 million.

Cellular communications mogul George Blumenthal sold his sprawling ninth floor apartment to Duquesne Capital Management managing director Zachary Jared Schreiber and his wife Lori in April.

1030 fifth avenue

Source: The New York Observer andPoint2Homes



#8 A penthouse at the Park Laurel on the Upper West Side sold for $33.5 million.

Hollywood producer Riza Aziz bought the seven-bedroom spread at 15 West 63rd Street in December. The sellers were Peter Edward Chadney and Simone Cecile Von Graffenried Simperl of Switzerland. park laurel

Source: The Real Deal andPoint2Homes



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Shiatsu Seat Topper Relieves Back Tension With Heat And Massage

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This is the i-need Shiatsu Seat Topper with Heat from Brookstone.

Why We Love It: Turn your couch or chair into the ultimate place for relaxation with this topper. It uses two rotating Shiatsu massage rollers that you can control with the remote to adjust the strength and speed you need.

The Shiatsu massage will promote improved circulation while you're seated, and even heats up for the ultimate comfort. The controls move up and down along the chair and auto-shuts off after 20 minutes.

Brookstone Shiatsu Seat Massage Chair

Where To Buy: Available through the Brookstone website.

Cost: $149.99.

Want to nominate a cool product for Stuff We Love? Send an email to Megan Willett at mwillett@businessinsider.com with "Stuff We Love" in the subject line.

SEE ALSO: This 3-Man Chess Set Will Make Your Brain Hurt

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It's Pretty Clear That The Ivy League Discriminates Against Asians

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image

There's a theory, which has led to multiple lawsuits, that top colleges maintain racial quotas to limit the number of Asians accepted.

According to research published last month in The American Conservative, there appears to be at least some form of discrimination going on.

The article by Ron Unz shows how Asian enrollment at Ivy League schools has declined or stalled during a period when the U.S. population of college-age Asians nearly doubled.

Writes Unz:

The largely constant Asian numbers at these elite colleges are particularly strange when we consider that the underlying population of Asians in America has been anything but static, instead growing at the fastest pace of any American racial group, having increased by almost 50 percent during the last decade, and more than doubling since 1993. Obviously, the relevant ratio would be to the 18–21 age cohort, but adjusting for this factor changes little: based on Census data, the college-age ratio of Asians to whites increased by 94 percent between 1994 and 2011, even while the ratio of Asians to whites at Harvard and Columbia fell over these same years.

Put another way, the percentage of college-age Asian-Americans attending Harvard peaked around 1993, and has since dropped by over 50 percent, a decline somewhat larger than the fall in Jewish enrollment which followed the imposition of secret quotas in 1925. And we have noted the parallel trends in the other Ivy League schools, which also replicates the historical pattern.

You can see for yourself in the following chart. Note how Cal Tech (named the best university in the world by the Times of London) provides a striking contrast:

chart

Unz's article is included in a New York Times special feature on Fears of an Ivy League Asian Quota.

Another Times article by Carolyn Chen pointed out that Asians make up anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of the student body at top public high schools like Bronx Science, where admissions are largely based on exams and grades. This is another reason to question top colleges with much lower Asian enrollment. 

Harvard denies the use of a quota. Director of University Communications Jeff Neal wrote in the Times:

Harvard College welcomes talented students from all backgrounds, including Asian-Americans. Our review of every applicant's file is highly individualized and holistic, as we give serious consideration to all of the information we receive and all of the ways in which the candidate might contribute to our educational environment and community. The admissions committee does not use quotas of any kind. 

When we recently spoke to an ex-Dartmouth College admissions officer, he admitted that East Asians can be at a disadvantage:

"When reading recommendations you see these words—"diligent," "hardworking"—because people tend to see East Asians in a certain way. You rarely see "creative" or "strong intellectual bent," and they are less likely to be seen as "freethinking." Same with issues of character. A lot of secondary teachers find it difficult to connect culturally with Asian Americans and the type of things they end up doing, so they won't see as much talk about character. But at Dartmouth there was not much discrimination against Asian Americans, since they were considered a historical minority at the school."

While the ex-admissions officer denied the use of an explicit quota, it may be that there is an implicit quota.

Admissions officers look for applicants who stand out. Since there are so many brilliant and diligent Asians, it becomes harder for them to stand out — especially in the eyes of the often white, American admissions officer.

Now check out more Secrets Of A Dartmouth Admissions Officer >

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People Are Flocking To This Mystical Serbian Mountain Ahead Of The Mayan Apocalypse

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rtanj serbia

A pyramid-shaped mountain in Serbia, believed by some to be a source of unusual electromagnetic waves that could shield it from catastrophe, was attracting record numbers of visitors ahead of the predicted Mayan apocalypse on Friday.

All the hotels around the Rtanj mountain in southeastern Serbia have been booked up ahead of "doomsday", many of them for a New Age conference that is due to run beyond the forecast end of the world on December 21.

"I do not really believe that the end of the world is coming, but it is nice to be here in case something unusual happens," said Darko, a 28-year-old designer visiting from Belgrade.

His friend Zaga Jovancic said she had brought some canned food and bottled water, "just in case."

"I don't expect 'doomsday,' but it will be nice to tell our children that we were here at a time when the whole world went mad," Jovancic said.

The main reason for the influx of visitors -- some from as far away as Australia -- is a four-day conference opening Thursday hosted by the Spirit of Rtanj Association to look into the alleged properties of the snow-covered mountain.

Rtanj is normally a quiet winter resort visited mainly by hikers and climbers from Serbia and was once home to a number of now defunct coal mines. It is known for its wild countryside and fields of medicinal herbs, a main source of income for its hundred inhabitants.

"We have already registered interesting electromagnetic activities in previous years and we hope that we can gather more evidence to prove this mountain is different from the rest of the world," said Milovan Radisic, one of the conference participants.

The conference -- which runs until December 23 -- will also look into reports that calendars from several ancient civilisations including the Aztecs, the Hopi Indians and the Egyptians predicted a new era beginning on Friday -- at the 11th minute of the 11th hour.

But physicist Stjepan Kulenovic scoffed at claims that Rtanj -- which legend has it was once a sorcerer's castle -- had magical properties.

"Such assumptions are scientifically so groundless that one can only laugh at them," he told AFP. "There are still unknown fields in the physics, but this one could be denied even by a fifth-grader."

Local hoteliers and tourist officials weren't complaining however.

"We have never had foreigners here at this time of the year," said Marina Zikic of the tourist office in Boljevac, the main town in the area.

Nebojsa Gajic of the hotel "Rtanj" said the area's modest quota of rooms -- just 250 -- had all been booked, with visitors from France, Germany and Australia due to arrive.

"We have some 30 percent more tourists this year compared to previous ones, maybe due to the 'doomsday' rumours, but also because (of the conference)," Gajic told AFP. "We have no more rooms available."

And Serbia's Tourist Office was also delighted with the influx.

"Our official stance is not to support such mythology, but if it is good for business, so much the better," said tourist office representative Sandra Vlatkovic.

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Here's What's On The Menu At A $203,000 Christmas Dinner In London

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christmas dinner turkey champagne

Here's a Christmas dinner that may be too rich — even for the rich.

A British chef has been offering what is being billed as the world's most expensive Christmas dinner — at $203,250. It's a one-of-a-kind four-course meal for four people, cooked by Ben Spalding (formerly of Per Se, now head chef at John Salt in London), and features $4,000 melons and a $60,000 bottle of Champagne.

Fully 80 percent of the proceeds will go to charity.

But in Britain, where class warfare and government austerity has led to a backlash against excess, the dinner has stirred controversy. And so far, there are no takers. (Read More: Towns With the Most Mega-Mansion Sales)

While some people "have salivated over the prospect, these are budget-conscious times and no one has yet committed," said Marcel Knobil, founder of VeryFirstTo, the website offering this so-called Ultimate Christmas Dinner.

And, in fact, Spalding has had to defend himself on Twitter against some outrage at the extravagance of the meal. While acknowledging it's a "hideous amount of money" and "anything costing that much is nuts," he tweeted "charity/ies will benefit from this massively if this sells. Only way I would agree to it x plus great fun." (Read More: Personal Services for the One Percent)

The menu, of course, includes caviar and truffles. There's $10,000 worth of edible gold leaf, and that $60,000 bottle of Piper Heidsieck 1907 Champagne is to be served in diamond-studded champagne flutes.

Among the other ingredients:

  • Akbari pistachios ($8100)

  • Wagyu beef ($7,300)

  • Kopi Luwak: coffee beans that have been excreted by the Asian Palm Civet ($4,900)

  • Yubari King melon from China ($4100)

  • Densuke watermelon, grown only on the island of Hokkaido, Japan ($4,100).

  • DIVA vodka, described by its manufacturer as "diamond-sand-filtered." It's served in a bottle filled with Swarovski crystals. ($3,200)

  • 150-year-old balsamic vinegar ($1,675)

Next to all that, the rare breed turkey looks like a bargain at about $800. (Read More: Is This the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Whisky?)

If he doesn't get any takers, Spalding tweeted that he'd "spend the day with my young family, and two babies.
christmas menu

SEE ALSO: The 20 Most Expensive Restaurants In America

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Someone Is Actually Building A Folding Electric Car

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hiriko folding electric car

One of the most novel electric vehicles we've seen in recent years is the Hiriko.

The Hiriko is designed for inner city car sharing schemes, initially in Europe but also touted for some U.S. cities. And it has a party piece: The Smart-sized electric vehicle can effectively fold in half to fit tiny parking spaces.

In previous years this might have sounded like vaporware, but L'Expansion reports (via Auto123) that the Hiriko is set to go into production in the Spring, following a reveal at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.

Developed between a group of Basque entrepreneurs and experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Hiriko Fold is eight inches shorter than a Smart Fortwo.

Hinged in the middle, it can be shrunk further, folding in half to occupy only 59 inches of space when parking — just under five feet.

Its wheels rotate up to 60 degrees to make parking even easier. Range is said to be around 75 miles, and its four in-wheel electric motors produce 20 horsepower.

Top speed is only 31 mph, but if you've ever driven around some of the car's expected markets, such as Barcelona, London or Berlin, you'll be aware that traffic and restrictions often preclude greater speeds anyway. A charge of the battery is much quicker — only 15 minutes.

The car is expected to be used in car-sharing schemes, and it may even come to some U.S. cities — San Francisco and Boston have both expressed an interest.

We'll bring you more about the Hiriko car from the Geneva Motor Show next March.

SEE ALSO: 15 Vehicles To Keep You Alive After The World Ends

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8 Awesome Gifts That Your Dog Would Love For Christmas This Year

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pet peek pet gifts

We love our pets here at TechnoBuffalo, so much so that we bring them to the office.

You may have seen Lucy and Eva in various videos and pictures on TechnoBuffalo. They demanded they get in on the Holiday Gift Guide, it sounded a lot like “Bark, Bark, Woof, Woof, Grrr.”

Eva actually sat down and tried to type this list out, but we ended up helping her out.

Celebrity Hacienda Dog House

Price: $30,000

The Celebrity Hacienda Dog House is a dog house customized for some celebrity, your basic Hacienda Dog House will set you back $30,000 before any customization, shipping or handling. I believe you can get air conditioning, heating, lighting installed in your hacienda. I’m fairly certain in some parts of the U.S. you could purchase a human house for $30,000. If the “Hacienda” style is not your pooch’s style, the same company also offers a Brick Estate Dog House and is more affordable at around $25,000.



Canine Shower Stall

Price: $1,250

Have you ever had a roommate that just wasn’t very considerate and sort of just messed things up all the time? Well Eva told me exactly that, she really needed a better bathing arrangement and needed my stuff out of the way. The Canine Shower Stall is what she asked for. This showering tub has a 38-inch hose that sends 16 water-jets deep into your dogs thick fur or hair to remove any dirty spots and dead skin. The tub is fully enclosed with a plastic roof to keep you dry from your dog shaking soap or water all over you. The Canine Shower Stall has 31-inch high walls with additional shelves to help accommodate smaller canines. Retails for $1,250.



Though your pet would love this dog laptop, the Toshiba Petbook is probably not real.

Price: $325-$399

While at the office, Lucy and Eva, as they normally do, were browsing technology related sites when they stumbled on Toshiba’s Petbook. Though I tried to explain to Lucy and Eva that this is likely an April Fools Joke, they wouldn’t have none of it.

Prices start at $329.99 to $399.99, comes in 14, 15 and 17-inch Widescreen Display with SlobberGuard Technology, Built-in DoggyCam and microphone, rawhide casing, bone-shaped trackpad, pawprint reader for additional security and a innovative bark2txt (v 3.0) software that converts your pups barks to text. Toshiba promises a 99 percent accuracy rate on this software.

I’m skeptical about these devices—they only come with 2 and 3 GBs of RAM.



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4 Crucial Apps To Make Holiday Travel Fun And Stress-Free

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gate guru travel app

If you're reading this, then we're going to assume you're already hip to apps like TripIt and those from the airline with which you're traveling, so let's go beyond the basics to the secondary apps that'll help you survive not only holiday flying, but possibly even a long weekend with family.

Your flight is booked, so no travel deal search engines are needed.

These four apps will be there for you once you've already hit the road:

1. GateGuru

If you're an infrequent flyer or just transiting through an unfamiliar airport this season, GateGuru will not only tell you where the Starbucks kiosks, ATMs and club locations are, but it also factors in user reviews. Is that Applebee's near Gate 23 worth it on a two-hour layover? Maybe not, if there's a Brewery Pub down the terminal...GateGuru knows.

Where you'll use it: In the train/car/bus to the airport; standing beneath the Departures board and wondering what gate the airline lounge is nearest to; in an airplane after landing at your layover airport with lunch on your mind.

Cost on iTunes: Free

2. Airport Scanner

Never have we ever spent more time gaming on our iPhone than when we've got a holiday day off. Ideally you'll want to get addicted to an iPhone game for a few days, not a few weeks, and Airport Scanner is perfect, not to mention topical.

We already extolled its virtues back in September, but it remains our top choice for passing time, no matter the situation.

Where you'll use it: At an airport gate, waiting for your flight; In the kitchen, waiting for bread dough to rise/cookies to bake/dinner to be ready; In a long taxi/train/car ride from the airport to home; or, our personal favorite, at a required visit to a relative's house, when everyone else is playing with children/pets.

Cost on iTunes: $0.99

airport scanner app itunes

3. Hotel Tonight

This app has saved our ass so much in b2012. It specialize in super-last-minute, night-of hotel stays, and releases that day's slashed rates at noon. From there, you can browse about three hotels per city (and they're in so many US cities, the UK and Europe now), view details (like how much the WiFi costs) and book in under two minutes. We've used it for airport hotels to design hotels during the peak days of Art Basel Miami, and it has only continued to impress.

Bonus! If you sign up using the invite link, you start out with $25 (or £15 or €20) (and yeah, we get it too).

When you'll use it: After missing the last flight out; the moment you can't stand sleeping in your childhood bedroom any longer; if a friend or family member unexpectedly drops in and can't/don't want to house then for the night; if you spontaneously hopped a flight or road tripped away.

Cost on iTunes: Free

my tsa app

4. myTSA

Yes, the Transportation Security Administration has its own app. Yes, you should download it if you've ever had any questions about what can/cannot be taken onboard or checked in your luggage. They tackle the tough issues, like flying with a cake or cable cutters. It's more than just a FAQ and we'd say it fills in the gaps of GateGuru.

When you'll use it: your aunt is asking if she can pack the leftover pie for you to take; you received a jar of anything liquid-y/gel-y/powder-y for Christmas; you're running late to the airport and want an approximation of checkpoint wait times; a storm is threatening and you want to watch for airport delays; any family members insist on getting to the airport 4+ hours early and you want to set them straight.

Cost on iTunes: Free

All four apps are available for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

SEE ALSO: 15 Vehicles To Keep You Alive After The World Ends

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Pizza Hut Has Created A Monstrosity The Likes Of Which We've Never Seen

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pizza hut singapore

Pizza Hut, you've gone mad.

Behold the "Double Sensation" pizza. It's available in Singapore and will run you $21.75 for a regular 10" pizza and $27.49 for a large 13".

What is it?

The pizza-within-a-pizza features two rings of crust.

The outer is stuffed with mozzarella, parmesan, and cheddar cheese, topped with turkey, ham, mushrooms, bell peppers, and salsa.

The inner crust has chicken sausage and cheese inside of it. It's topped with smoked chicken, zucchini, and pepper Alfredo sauce.

One, single, lonely cherry tops it off, right in the center of the pizza.

The internet is confounded. How could such a pizza be allowed to exist?

The Huffington Post's Rachel Tepper is at a loss for words. "It's like some evil genius combined every over-the-top pizza trend in one, completely unbound by good taste or sense. Why does this monstrosity exist?" she asks, unwilling to believe.

Eater's ever-optimistic Amy McKeever writes, "Yes, this is the Inception pizza the world has been waiting for."

And Zagat's Kelly Dobkin thinks that the Mayans may have been right after all. "NASA has officially debunked pesky end of the world rumors for tomorrow, December 21, but with this latest development, we're not so sure we believe them," she writes.

SEE ALSO: Japan's Fast Food War Inspired These Crazy Menu Items >

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: Rihanna Just Picked Up A $12 Million Estate In Pacific Palisades

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rihanna house

Pop star Rihanna has just bought a Pacific Palisades estate that was on the market for $12 million, Trulia reports.

The 11,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom mansion was built in 2010 and has an awesome elevated pool area.

We hope the singer has better luck with this home than her last one; she listed her Beverly Hills mansion last year at a $2.4 million discount after filing a lawsuit saying the home was unlivable after it flooded during a rainstorm.

Here's what the house looks like from above. There's a sundeck on the top floor and a 6,000-square-foot yard.



The biggest perk is the pool area, which has a spa, BBQ and bar.



The house has seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms.



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An Interior Designer Reveals How To Maximize Holiday Seating Without Sacrificing Style

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christmas dinner party

The joy of home entertaining at the holidays often comes with a challenge: How do you provide enough seating for a roomful of holiday revelers with just a sofa and a few chairs?

Are there creative options besides resorting to folding chairs?

Los Angeles-based interior designer Betsy Burnham frequently hears from clients who want help solving this puzzle. "People are doing more home entertaining than ever," Burnham says, so they want to design their living space to accommodate guests easily. For those without huge rooms, that can be challenging.

Here, Burnham and designers Brian Patrick Flynn and Kyle Schuneman offer advice on maximizing seating without sacrificing style.

Stealth Seating

"I'm a big fan of vintage ottomans, stools and sturdy side tables like stumps for this exact purpose," says Schuneman, author of "The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces" (Clarkson Potter, 2012). These pieces can work as tables or storage surfaces, he says, then occasionally serve "as extra seating for game nights or casual gatherings around the coffee table."

Benches can work the same way. Schuneman suggests buying two benches that coordinate nicely with the decor of your living room, and then placing them at the foot of beds in your home.

When extra seating is needed, "you can easily pull them out for the holidays and bigger dinners," he says. "And you have a cohesive looking space, as opposed to a bunch of stuff you just pulled from around the garage."

Flynn, founder and editor of decordemon.com, uses ottomans in a similar way. "What I often do is use an upholstered or hardy wood storage ottoman on casters instead of a coffee table in the sofa area," he says. "Inside the storage ottoman, I keep floor cushions.

When it's time for guests, the ottoman can be wheeled just about anywhere as extra seating, and the floor cushions allow guests to lounge."

Burnham points out that using ottomans or benches may be more appropriate in a casual family room or great room than in a more formal living room. But even for formal spaces, an elegant ottoman can work: "Done well, it's a beautiful way to bring another fabric into your space," she says.

Chairs from Elsewhere

Flynn often uses a mixture of different chairs and benches at a dining room table year-round, rather than a matching set. The look is stylish, and when chairs need to be brought into a living room for a party, they don't necessarily look like they're been taken from the dining room set. The mix can include "a three-seater bench, squatty stools, armless chairs, six chairs and a pair of wingbacks at each end," he says.

Another option he suggests: "Bring in your outdoor seating and deliberately mix it in with the indoor pieces. The juxtaposition can be nice, plus you can coordinate them with similar colored cushions or accessories."

Burnham does something similar with seating from game tables: A poker table with four chairs can be a great way to fill one corner of a room, she says, and those four chairs can be placed elsewhere in the room during a larger party.

The Right Sofa

Pay attention to size and depth when choosing a sofa, Burnham says. "A standard-size sofa is 7 feet. If you have three seat cushions, people sit in a pristine way in their cushion," she says, and you'll be limited to a maximum of three guests on your sofa. She prefers "sofas that have bench seams, so that it's one big seat," making it more likely that four guests might use the space.

Longer sofas offer additional seating, but Flynn says they're best used in what he calls a "floating space plan," where two identical long sofas are placed across from one another in the center of a room, rather than having one sofa against a wall. They need to be "balanced with an extra-long coffee table," he says.

Sofas with deep cushions are another option, but Flynn points out that "extra-deep sofas are very tricky. They are insanely comfortable, but can be a space planning disaster. I only use them in super large or grand living rooms. ... You've got to ensure the tables and chairs which surround it have the same visual weight."

Schuneman agrees: "I think you definitely want to mix it up with different patterns and textures of throw pillows, so it doesn't become a big blob in the room."

If you have extra space after choosing your sofa, Burnham suggests focusing on adding chairs to your living room rather than a loveseat.

Although loveseats seem to offer more seating than chairs, they are often occupied by just one person. "A loveseat's a tough one," she says, "because I don't think people want to be super physically close" at parties.

Folding and Stacking

"Folding chairs are often eyesores," Flynn says, so he prefers chairs that can be stacked when not in use. "My favorite stacking chair is the Emeco Navy chair. It's super light, maybe 7 pounds or so, and it's classic in design. When not in use, stack them seven high in a closet and you'll never know they're there."

Burnham and Schuneman have each found a few types of stylish folding chairs, but they tend to come with higher price tags. She favors black bamboo folding chairs from Ballard Designs (about $100) for rooms with a more traditional style, and has used clear Lucite folding chairs ("kind of like the Philippe Starck ghost chairs") in more modern living rooms.

Schuneman likes the fabric-covered "terai" folding chairs from Anthropologie (about $200), and suggests they can serve as a "great inspiration point for a DIY project." Try recovering the cushion of an old upholstered folding chair "in some beautiful fabric that works in your room," he says.

Planning carefully, shopping well and using a little DIY creativity are the keys to solving any holiday seating dilemma, says Schuneman.

"I always tell people to buy pieces that can move throughout your home," he says, "so that chair in the guest room can come into the living room, and that bench in the bathroom could double as an extra surface for gifts or what not. If you purchase pieces in your home that work throughout, it really maximizes your potential."

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Take An Armchair Tour Of Mexico's Famous Mayan Ruins

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Chichen Itza pyramid, Mexico

The Mayan calendar ends on Friday, and some people believe that means the world will come to an end.

The descendants of the ancient Maya people, however, don't actually believe in the pending apocalypse.

Regardless, the ancient Maya world is in the spotlight. The Maya built great cities around Central America, and today you can see traces of the pre-Columbian civilization in their ruins in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.

Google Street View captured the great Mayan ruins in Mexico, allowing the world to explore the grand pyramids, ball courts, and temples without leaving their chairs. Some of the featured destinations include the storied ruins of Teotihuacan, Palenque and Chichén Itzá.

This series is part of the Google Wonders Project, an initiative by Google that documents important archaeological sites and monuments around the world.

The legendary ruins of Chichén Itzá, in the Yucatán, are remnants of the ancient Maya civilization. At the center of the city is the stone Temple of Kukulkan, also known as "El Castillo."



This 82-foot square-shaped pyramid has four stairways, one on each side, which each have 91 steps. When you combine all of the steps with the top platform you get a total of 365, which represents all the days of the year. You can't climb the steps today though.



El Caracol (The Observatory), meaning "the snail" (a name it earned for its snail-like shape), has a circular tower that was used as an observatory.



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10 Books For The Readers And Book-Lovers On Your List

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Girl ReadingIf you have family and friends who enjoy reading, why not slip a few books under the Christmas tree?

Given all of the time we spend staring at screens these days, it actually feels good to bury your nose in a book printed on paper.

I know that I love to get—and give—books as gifts.

For the history aficionado

You can pick up a copy of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

($11.93 at Books-A-Million) for the history buff on your list. Written by respected presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who often appears on Sunday morning political shows, the book chronicles Lincoln’s path to the presidency and explores his ability to unite people.

First published in 2005, Team of Rivals is the basis for the recent Steven Spielberg movie, Lincoln, which casts Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role. (Save with Books-A-Million coupons.)



For the dog enthusiast

Inspired by their love for their pooches, friends Robin Layton, Kimi Culp and Lisa Erspamer put together A Letter to My Dog: Notes to Our Best Friends ($16.47 at Amazon), a book full of missives that people have written to their beloved canines.

The tome includes letters from the likes of Tony Bennett, Hilary Duff and Oprah Winfrey.

The dog lover in your life will surely appreciate the heartfelt sentiments. (Get Amazon coupons.)



For the pop culture whiz

You probably know someone who is obsessed with AMC’s zombie fest, The Walking Dead.

And while some fans of the television series have read the comic books on which it’s based, not everyone has, making The Walking Dead Compendium: Volume 1 ($35.99 at Target) an awesome gift.

Written by Robert Kirkman, with illustrations by Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore and Cliff Rathburn, this more than 1,000-page paperback features the first eight volumes of the comic book. (Get Target coupons.)



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Quick! Squeeze In Dinner At One Of The World's Best Restaurants Before Doomsday

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restaurant friends cheers

The Mayan calendar predicts that the world will end December 21, which happens to be tomorrow.

While there's good evidence that there is no impending apocalypse, why take your chances?

Might as well maximize your credit card and go out in style with a meal at one of the 30 best restaurants in the world, according to the uber-prestigious World's 50 Best ranking, organized by Restaurants magazine.

#30 Schloss Schauenstein

Frstenau, Switzerland

Last year's ranking: 23

Years on list: 3

Source: World's 50 Best



#29 Quay

Sydney, Australia

Last year's ranking: 4

Years on list: 26

Source: World's 50 Best



#28 Nihonryori RyuGin

Tokyo, Japan

Last year's ranking: 3

Years on list: 20

Source: World's 50 Best



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An Argentine Woman Is Planning To Marry The Convicted Killer Of Her Twin Sister

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wedding cake

An Argentine woman plans to marry the convicted killer of her twin sister.

Victor Cingolani is serving a 13-year sentence for murdering girlfriend Johana Casas, a fashion model, in August 2010 but insists he is innocent and plans to marry her twin on Friday in his prison in Santa Cruz province.

Cingolani said in a TV interview on Thursday that he and 22-year-old fiancee Edith Casas had been granted permission to wed in a civil registry in town but decided to do it in jail instead to avoid a media circus.

The mother of the twins, Marcelina Orellana, has vowed to do everything she can to prevent Edith from going ahead with the nuptials.

"We know this will be hard because she is an adult, but we will go to court to try to have her examined by a psychiatrist. As far as we are concerned, she does not know what she is doing," said Orellana.

But Casas insisted that Cingolani was unjustly convicted, saying he "is a guy who would not hurt a fly. He did not kill her."

She also accused her mother of abandoning her and her sister and added: "she cannot say I need a psychiatrist because I am fully aware of what I am doing."

Another man, Marcos Diaz, who had also gone out with Johana, is also doing time over the killing.

"I loved Johana, but I love Edith," said Cingolani. "I have a beautiful bride and I am going to marry her."

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Sbarro Is Banking On A New Pizza Recipe To Save Its Business

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sbarro pizzaThe story: Sbarro, the ubiquitous food chain found in shopping malls across America, is trying to reinvent itself with a new (and supposedly improved) pizza recipe. The company will begin using freshly made tomato sauce and grated cheese for its pies, which will be cooked over open-flame ovens to increase the "theater" of the Sbarro's experience. The initiative, led by new chief executive James J. Greco, is part of a strategy to reinvent Sbarro as a "fast casual" restaurant — think Panera Bread or Qdoba — that offers high-quality meals at fast-food speeds. Sbarro recently clawed its way out of bankruptcy — the company, $400 million in debt, filed for bankruptcy in April 2011 — and was only able to exit after closing 28 stores and securing a $35 million line of the credit. "We have to change people's perception of us," Greco, a food industry veteran who has turned around ailing franchises before, tells The New York Times. After 56 years in the pizza business, can the struggling franchise reinvent itself? 

The analysis: Sbarro isn't alone in trying to go upmarket "as consumer tastes grow more refined," says Tom Gara at TheWall Street Journal. "Healthy eating," or at least the "illusion of it," is an obvious trend — McDonald's, for example, has pushed new healthier menu options with some success. And Sbarro is smartly putting some marketing muscle behind its latest push, says Kelly Dobkin at Zagat. Sbarro has already begun testing its new fast casual set-up at 10 locations this summer, and is enlisting vintage food trucks in Los Angeles and New York to drive across the country while simultaneously "doling out free slices." Expect classy things from the "troubled pie-slinger."

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Loads Of Journalists, Few Believers In The Only Town Expected To Survive The Apocalypse

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Bugarach, FranceThe Daily Telegraph's France correspondent Henry Samuel meets new agers and grumpy journalists in the one place predicted to survive the apocalypse

If the legend is true and the sleepy southern French town of Bugarach is the only place standing after the apocalypse, the Earth will be populated by 150 policemen, some on horseback, 250 frustrated journalists from around the world and 198 very bewildered villagers.

A huge, global internet conspiracy theory suggests this "doomsday village", with its curious "upside down" mountain offers protection against the end of the world supposedly predicted by the Mayan calendar for approximately 11.21GMT Friday.

The theory goes that the mountain is in fact a vast underground car park for UFOs, and only those within spitting distance of the mount stand a chance of jumping on board.

By the afternoon, with only hours to go before the world's supposed final curtain, intergalactic hitch hikers were few and far between and tempers were fraying among reporters flown in from as far as China in the hunt for elusive esoterics.

"Beam me up froggy," sighed one British journalist.

 

Any true "believers" bold enough to try to tackle the 4,035ft climb to the peak of Pic de Bugarach in heavy drizzle first had to get past cohorts of police stationed in roadblocks around the village. Only visitors with press or village passes were allowed in.

Once inside, the route to the top remained equally daunting, with Le Pic protected by an elite gendarme mountain unit, while another team of police potholers scoured its myriad underground caverns to succour any hapless New Agers lost underground.

Some did make it however.

Frédéric, 28, an unemployed waiter from Marseille squinted determinedly at the cloud-shrouded peak with a tent and rucksack on his back.

"I must be up there between midday and two o'clock on Friday," he said earnestly, his brother Laurent, 35, by his side.

"A ray of sunlight will pass by all the planets aligned to the sun and into the rock. At that moment, a passage, a window will open up an inter-dimensional vortex," he insisted.

"There is a hole the other side of the summit, about knee height, and we will sit in it. If the passage opens we will pass into another dimension," he said.

He said he had initially expected 200,000 people to turn up today, but admitted that might be an exaggeration.

A little further down the main street, Sylvain Dufir, 44, or "Oriana", his cosmic name, was equally persuasive in revealing the "true meaning of the apocalypse".

"There will be no end of the world, no cataclysm, but a revelation," he said with a knowing smile. "On Friday, all humanity will go through a sort of internal alchemy, a revolution inside our cells so we can be at one with the golden light of divine love," he said.

"The feeling will be like 10,000 orgasms," he insisted. "Bring it on," said a passing French youth.

As for Bugarach, he added: "Flying saucers do enter the mountain but they are much too fast to be photographed." With trapped journalists in need of sustenance, Patrice Etienne, who runs an organic grocery, was doing a roaring trade serving food and drink, including a Bugarach "End of the World Vintage", said to "peak in December 2012".

He remained sceptical about the doomsday plot, but added: "There's no smoke without fire."

"They speak of the end of the world to put us off the scent. But the army, which is secretly sending spy planes up there at night, is getting ready for something equally serious," he claimed.

Sceptical journalists were the main obstacle to solving the riddle of the mount, he claimed. "We want help from Russians and Japanese scientists, experts with material open to such phenomena," he said.

Moving into the quiet backstreets, some villagers were scathing of the spectacle.

Muttering as he opened his front door, Alain Jany, 53, a retired soldier, grumbled: "I'm starting to wonder whether I'm the only sane person and everyone else is mad, or the reverse." "It reminds me of a disaster movie or some kind of conflict. All you see in our village are journalists and gendarmes. Usually they come when there's something to cover, like a war, a murder. But what are they all waiting for here? Nothing! I've been up that peak 50,0000 times and have never seen a thing. It's rubbish," he said.

Sitting calmly in her kitchen a dozen yards down the road, Valerie Austin, a retired music teacher from Northumberland, sighed: "The circus has come to town."

"On French local radio this morning, the joke was:"I feel sorry for the spaceship, they obviously have no idea what the price of petrol is around here."

"You've got to see the funny side, but it's been a roller coaster."

Further out of the village, Susie Harrison, 50, a New Ager who moved from Glastonbury to Bugarach 10 years ago, was putting the finishing touches to a mashed potato mountain reminiscent of the one from Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

While she said there was definitely "something special" about the mountain she doubted the world would end, but had a friend who did. He had a problem, however.

"Ian left the village to buy clean underpants for the occasion and now the police won't let him back in, so he's very annoyed. I might have to go and rescue him," she said.

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The Mayan Calendar Has Ended, And We're All Still Here!

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matt barkley nerd

Seconds ago, the ancient Mayan calendar ran out. 

For some, this meant the world would also end. 

But we're all still here! YAY!

Of course, scientists already knew that Earth had nothing to worry about

Mayans never predicted an Apocalypse. This is just when they got lazy with their record keeping and stopped updating the long-form version of their 5,172-year calendar. Just as our calendar starts the year fresh by repeating all 12 months starting Jan. 1, the Mayan calendar now begins another long cycle.  

The Mayan calendar officially ended at the start of the winter solstice on Dec. 21, 2012, at 6:11 a.m. EST. So, if you still need something to mope about after not dying, it's now the official beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. 

And just because we escaped The End, doesn't mean you can just walk around worry-free

There's still the looming threat of global climate change, a proliferation of nuclear weapons, and cataclysmic hurricanes to shake your nerves. 

See what the Mayan Apocalypse could have looked like below:

 

SEE ALSO: 10 Foods With An Extremely Long Shelf Life

SEE ALSO: 14 Ways The World Could REALLY Come To An End

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THE WORLD DIDN'T END

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According to modern interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar, the world was supposed to end this morning at 6:11 EST.

Well, pinch me if I'm dreaming, but it looks like we're still here.

Which means those crazy theories were wrong.

Earth was NOT sucked into a giant black hole. The sun did NOT enter an apocalyptic "galactic phase." Solar flares did NOT reverse the poles and fry us. Earth did not smash into a giant planet called Nibiru.

The Mayan Apocalypse will go down as just another false doomsday theory, along with those of Harold Camping, Pat Robertson, the Jehovah's Witnesses and many more.

Of course, some doomsday theories have yet to be disproved, so don't sell your canned food and post-apocalyptic vehicle yet.

See what the Mayan Apocalypse could have looked like below:

 

DON'T MISS: 14 Predictions By Nostradamus, The Greatest Analyst Ever >

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Steve Jobs' Yacht Is Being Held In Amsterdam Over A Bill Dispute (AAPL)

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steve jobs

One of the last major products Steve Jobs worked on wasn't for Apple. It was for himself.

He designed a yacht with French designer Philippe Starck. The yacht was built by Dutch company Feadship.

It was completed at the end of October.

The Jobs family has not been able to bring the yacht home because there is a billing dispute, the FT reports.

The yacht is sitting in the Port of Amsterdam under a court order because Starck says the Jobs' owe him more money for his design work.

Starck says the Jobs family owes him $3.96 million (€3 million). He says the family owes him six percent of the cost of the yacht, which he says is worth $198 million (€150 million). The Jobs family say the yacht is worth $139 million (€105 million), according to the FT.

Until the dispute is resolved, the yacht will sit in Amsterdam's port.







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