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19 of the world's coolest playgrounds designed by top architects


Wibit sports parkFormer President Theodore Roosevelt once said that play is a fundamental need, so much so that playgrounds should be provided for every child, just as schools are.

In countries around the world, architects are becoming increasingly innovative to create environments where children can explore their imaginations.

Today, playgrounds can float entirely on the ocean, or take the shape of an enormous, colorful crocodile. 

Keep scrolling to see some of the best playground designs around the world that will make you want to be a kid again. 

SEE ALSO: You won't believe what this old truck can transform itself into

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The playtower and playground at Swarovski Kristallwelten (Swarovski Crystal Worlds), located in Tirol, Austria, were created by Snøhetta architecture.

Click here to explore Swarovski Kristallwelten >

Four different levels make up the play tower, where children can climb to the highest point of the net at 45 feet.

Click here to learn more about Snøhetta >

Wibit Sports GmbH is a German water sports company that produces innovative, water-based playgrounds created by architect Robert Cirjak. This one is located near Zlatni Rat in Bol, Croatia, and features swings, slides, and climbing structures. It's one of 60 playgrounds the company has designed in waters across Croatia.

Click here to check out Wibit Sports' playgrounds >

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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15 proven ways to boost self confidence


Women in America are really unhappy with their weight.

About 84% want to lose weight and 34% say that what they eat or how much they weigh is interfering with their happiness, according to Happify— a website and app that uses games and tasks based on scientific studies in positive psychology to make you feel happier.

Achieving happiness starts with feeling good about yourself, which is impossible if you're busy body shaming all of the time. So, the producers at Happify have examined 16 scientific studies about what factors, like sexual attractiveness and physical condition, affect how women feel about their body and what they can do to improve their self confidence.

Check out these helpful tips to learn how to love your body: 

bodyimage happify

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What every business traveler should know when visiting Israel


Israel travel tips18

If you work in the tech world you may find yourself heading to Israel for a business trip.

Israel's tech industry is booming and most of the huge tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Intel have big operations there. Plus, investors love it. So do tech companies looking to acquire startups.

Israel is also known as a major worldwide tourist destination.

But a typical business trip isn't the same as a vacation. You don't have the same amount of time and freedom to spend on sightseeing, and you may have had days, not months, to plan your trip.

We recently took a business trip to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to meet with some the nation's hottest startups.

And we compiled this list of tips of how to sneak in some last-minute sightseeing, and other oddities you need to know when traveling to Israel.

Since the heart of Israel's startup scene is in Tel Aviv, your trip can easily include some time on the beach, swimming in the warm waters of the Mediterranean sea.

You don't need to bring your own chair or umbrella. You can rent them on the beach. Just plunk yourself down, and these guys in bright pink shirts will come by to collect. It costs about 30 shekels, or about $10.

You'll probably want to book your hotel near Rothschild Boulevard, the heart of Tel Aviv's startup scene. There are tons of great cafes there. You can also find hotels that are west of Rothschild, walking distance to both Rothschild and the beach. Tel Aviv is home to 52 hotels as well as Airbnb. It serves 1 million visitors a year.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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How to buy and store a bottle of wine for a celebration in 25 years


pirate soldier drinking wine

Picture this: You are celebrating your 25th wedding anniversary.

Now, imagine pulling out a bottle of spectacular wine from the year of your wedding to cap the celebration. The occasion will be great no matter what. But for someone who loves wine, that special bottle can become a special punctuation mark.

Wine lovers have been saving special wines for as long as there have been vintages on wine bottles. And you can, too. 

You could go to a fine restaurant and purchase a bottle there for the equivalent of your mortgage payment for the month.

Or, you could do some planning and buy in anticipation of your special event. Here are the basics:

1. Select and buy a wine that's meant to age

2. Store it properly

3. Fast forward a few years, open the bottle, and enjoy!

One example: I've saved numerous bottles from my daughter’s birth year. She was born in 2000. Fortunately, this was a very hot year in Europe that produced many great age-worthy wines. Bordeaux, Rioja and the Piedmont areas all had great years. I focused my attention on those regions.

I also bought futures of a few Bordeaux wines. The price per bottle averaged roughly $45 when I purchased the futures. Roughly four years later, I took possession of the wine. Before I even saw the bottles, I sold half of my purchases for $100 a bottle. At the end of the day, the basis of my daughter’s stash was essentially free (less the opportunity cost of locking up my money for 4+ years.) For years after that time, I picked up bottles of age-worthy 2000 vintage online and in retail stores. I still look but the availability has decreased and the price has increased tremendously.

I store everything I bought from wine futures in the locker of the store that sold me those wines. The rest of my wine sits in a special wine refrigerator that has a $6 humidity monitor inside as well as regularly replaced containers of water to keep the humidity between 50% and 80%. The wines in my refrigerator will be consumed first.

Here's how you can do it yourself.

1. Select a wine meant to age for years to come.

french wineMany people believe any wine will improve with age. This is simply false. In fact, most of the wine we buy should be consumed within five years of purchase, and many wines are best consumed within 18 months of bottling. There are, however, many wines that are designed for aging. Some areas known for fine aged wines are the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions of France, Napa Valley, Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, and Priorat and Rioja in Spain.

This is not a complete list, but it's a good place to start. Most wines from these regions won't suit your needs, but the higher end wines from good vintages will work well.  

Very few wines can age 20+ years. Even the most amazing growing areas will have off years. Weather will make or break any grape crop. Fortunately, if one area is not ideal in the year you are buying, there will likely be another area with great conditions for saving. 

Some resources to help you fine the right area for your purchase are Robert Parker Vintage GuideWine Enthusiast Magazine’s Vintage Charts, and Wine Spectator (membership required). 

Not only will these charts help you select a region with the best “juice,” but they will also help you make the decision of when to open that bottle. While age-worthy wines are not cheap, you don’t have to go the very high end to find something suitable.

2. Buy the wine.

wine harvest winery grapesReally great wine isn’t released for years after its harvested. For instance, the most recent vintage of Brunello (a fantastic, age-worthy wine from Tuscany, Italy) currently for sale is from 2010. So you have some time after the event to get everything researched and sorted.

Some wines will be very difficult to buy: Despite the price, demand is high. Typically, fine wines get more expensive the further they get from their release release, because you are paying for the wine AND the storage of that wine.

There are three primary ways to find and buy these wines:

  1. Wine futures. You can save money by buying wine before it is released. These futures can be secured from the winemaker or through third parties. You lay out your money in advance, but get the wine at a pretty steep discount over the release price (assuming the wine ages well and demand for the wine remains). If demand decreases, the discount will be less.
  2. Buy at auction. Many wine auctions are now held online, and they can be a great way to find wines with very limited releases. There are some deals here, but you will need to do your research.
  3. Go directly to the winery. Many wineries will reserve a percentage of their bottling for future sales, and with a little digging you could find something special that you won’t see at auction or in retail stores. 

3. Store the wine.

wine storage bottles cellarWine is heartier than some would have you believe. For most wine, you don’t need to have a fancy wine refrigerator or cellar.

However, the wines we are talking about will require more care. Over the years, light, heat, and low humidity can strip the wine of its flavor and life. Given the investment you are making, it makes sense to commit some energy to the protection of the wine.

Buying a wine refrigerator will help protect the wine from light and heat, but do make sure you manage the humidity in the cooling environment. Some pricier models have humidity regulation as a feature in their storage units. If you don’t have that, make sure there is always a small container of water in the refrigerator, which will restore humidity to the device.

If you plan to keep the wine for more than 15 years, a better solution is an off-site wine locker. Many higher-end wine stores provide this service, and there are many dedicated services popping up around the country. For a monthly fee, you can have a humidity- and temperature-controlled space that would beat virtually any home cellar or refrigerator, and they will deliver your stored wine to you within a few hours. If you order wine from a store that caters to collectors, it will often allow you to keep your wine there for a smaller fee than you pay if you rented your own space independent of the purchase.

This isn’t for everyone, but if its sounds like fun, give it a try. If you recently got married, had a child, started a company, or simply want to mark a vacation where you visited a wonderful winery, think about buying — and saving — a special bottle.

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This was just voted the best place to travel to in the world

The historical origins of 6 swear words


Angry comic man on phone swearing

Sometimes, everyday speech just can't convey your meaning. You need words with a little more oomph — expletives.

In fact, Americans swear so often, the US made airing indecent or profane language during certain times a federal crime. Cue the FCC.

For the sake of knowledge though, we looked into the etymology of a few of these words. (Some of which violate our style guide!) Learn where they originated below.

The 'F' bomb

The oldest theories trace the expletive-to-end-all-expletives back to Norwegian fukka and Swedish focka, both meaning "to copulate."

Unfortunately, we don't have much evidence of use in English, partly because the original Oxford English Dictionary's creators reportedly considered it taboo. The OED's second edition, however, cites "fukkit" in 1503, but the earliest current spelling appears as "Bischops ... may f*** thair fill and be vnmaryit" from poet Sir David Lyndesay in 1535.

Another 16th-century poem, titled "Flen flyys," written in a combination of Latin and Middle English, also hints at the word. The relevant line reads, "Non sunt in celi quia fuccant uuiuys of heli." Translation: They [the monks] are not in heaven because they f---- the wives of [the town of] Ely.

The ideas that f--- is an acronym meaning "for unlawful carnal knowledge" or "fornication under consent of the king" are both false. The phrases do turn up in some court documents but not until the late 19th century, way too late for a true etymology.

The 'S' word

Here, we actually have two words and two separate origins to consider: the noun and the verb.

The noun nods to Old English scitte, meaning "purging, diarrhea." And just the basic form meaning excrement stems from Old English scytel. The action, however, has a much more widespread history — Dutchschijtenand Germanscheissen. The Proto-Indo-European base skie conveys the idea of separation, in this case, from the body.

From there, we've perfected s---faced, s---head, s---ing bricks, not giving a s---, when the s--- hits the fan, etc.

Just to set the record straight, "s---" isn't an acronym. There's a story floating around the internet saying that when crates of manure on freight ships got wet, they started to ferment, releasing methane. The gas then built up below deck. If someone descended with a lit lantern — BOOM.

As a precaution against potential explosions, transporters apparently started placing the letters S-H-I-T — "ship high in transit" — on top of the crates. Storing them above deck decreased their chances of dampness, and, if they did get wet, the methane wouldn't stay trapped below deck.

As clever as the story sounds, the word "s---" has a much older and richer history than an anecdote from European sea trade. Not to mention sailors usually kept cargo below deck to keep it dry.


Again, English includes two forms of this word, a noun and verb. The verb appeared in the 1300s from French pissier, "to urinate," and vulgar Latin, "pissiare." The noun came later, in the 1400s, and eventually morphed into an intensifying adjective — piss-poor, piss-ugly, etc. — around World War II.


Obviously a compound word of "God" and "damn." "Damn" comes from Latin damnare, which means "to condemn." And God originated with Norse goth. But when and how did we put the two together as a blasphemy?

Let's thank the French for that. They started referring to the English as "les goddems" during the Hundred Years' War because of their frequent profanity, according to Geoffrey Hughes' book, "A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths, and Profanity in English."


Our word for the worst possible place (religious or not) comes from Proto-Germanic haljo, "the underworld." Some relationship also exists between "cell" and "hell" through the Proto-Indo-European word for "to cover" or "conceal" — kel.

Interestingly enough, the Biblical use of hell may stem from Old Norse Hel, the name of Loki's daughter in Norse mythology. She rules over the evil dead much like Hades does in Greek tales.


Almost everyone knows a bitch is a female dog, probably from Old Norse bikkjuna. Its use as a term of contempt to women, though, began in the 1400s.

Thewordisfirst seen used this way intheChesterPlaysofthe1400s."Whocallestthouqueine,skabdebitch?"Basically, "Whoareyoucallingawhore,youmiserablebitch?”

"The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," published in 1811, calls bitch "the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman, even more provoking than that of whore."

The verb, meaning "to complain," evolved as late at the 1930s.

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An exercise scientist told us the biggest mistake people make when they decide to eat healthy


healthy eatingBan gluten. Say good-bye to sugar. Give up carbs.

No matter what diet you pick, the problem remains the same: Eventually, it ends.

Research shows that the vast majority of people who diet to lose weight end up gaining back some or all of the weight they lost, typically within a few years. And most of us who try lifestyle changes like cutting carbs or sugar only do so for a set period of time.

We recently asked exercise scientist Philip Stanforth, executive director of the Fitness Institute of Texas and a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas, why that happens, and what people who want to lose weight and keep it off can do.

He says there is one key principle that should guide any decision to make a change about what you eat. And that's "doing something you can maintain for the rest of your life."

After the initial "dieting phase” of cutting calories, eating healthier food, and upping your workout regimen — experts recommend aiming to lose only a couple pounds a week by burning a few hundred more calories than you're eating each day — you can start to make some small shifts back towards how you’d normally eat and workout, says Stanforth.

But overall, Stanforth says, "you still eat the same way [as you did when you started to eat healthier]."

Meaning that after you've lost a bit of weight, it's normal to scale back a bit on your workouts and start to eat more calories each day. "But you still eat the same kinds of foods," says Stanforth, because you're in the mindset that, "this is how I’m going to eat for the rest of my life."

Unfortunately, the vast majority of dieting information doesn't reflect this view.

And that's a mistake, Stanforth says.

"You know we tend to say you go on a diet, but that also implies you’re going to go off of it. And that’s not how we should be looking at this. Sometimes people are looking for the latest fad, but oftentimes it’s the fundamentals that are the most important and that make the biggest difference."

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The most elegant mid-century modern homes you can buy for under $1 million


6107 NE 52nd Avenue

Thanks to the lasting pop culture effect of "Mad Men," mid-century modern homes are having a moment.

Typically built between 1945 and the mid '70s, these homes are characterized by their sharp geometric lines, oversize glass windows and sliding doors, spacious floor plans, and unity with nature. Architect Frank Llyod Wright heavily influenced the genre with his prairie-style homes.

The mid-century modern aesthete, with its large living spaces inside and out, complemented the post-World War II lifestyle, which focused on spending time at home with family.

Keep scrolling for an inside look at five mid-century modern homes you can buy for under $1 million. 

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Built in 1959, 407 E. Aepli Drive in Tempe, Arizona is on the market for $450,000.

The 2,323-square-foot home boasts spacious living areas and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, which are typical of mid-century modern homes.

Open birch wood cabinets splashed with color give the kitchen a contemporary feel.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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The most important chess tournament in US history is about to kick off in St. Louis


Carlsen Anand Game 9

America is not exactly a chess-mad country, but it's about to host a chess tournament that could redefine the landscape of competitive chess for a generation.

The Sinquefield Cup will kick off on Sunday and run for a full two weeks. It's second installment and the centerpiece of the new Grand Chess Tour, a three-tournament series that started with Norway Chess in June and will conclude with the London Chess Classic in December.

The 2015 Sinquefield cup is the strongest tournament in the history of chess. The field includes many of the world's top players, including current World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and the runner up in the two previous world championship matches, Viswanathan Anand of India. Joining them are the three top-ranked Americans: Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, and Fabiano Caruana. Caruana is the story of the tournament, having switched his national affiliation from Italy to the US earlier this year after dominating the 2014 Sinquefield Cup with a performance that many observers compared to some epic competitive runs by Bobby Fischer.

That probably all sounds great, but then you have to note that the field also includes former World Champion Veselin Topalov (who won the Norway tournament), the powerful Armenian number one, Levon Aronian, and two strong younger players, Anish Giri from the Netherlands and Maxine Vachier-Lagrave of France. All of these Grandmasters are rated above 2800 or in the very high 2700s. 

Chess Rex

Behind it all is Rex Sinquefield, who has apparently made it his life's work to turn the US in general and St. Louis in particular into the new centers of world chess. 

Caruana Tata Steel

"The game is dramatically advancing," Sinquefield, who made his fortune by developing prototypical index funds, told Business Insider. "I'd love to tell to you I had every move worked out, but it's been one good thing after another." 

The 2104 tournament was a stunner. Caruana shocked the chess world by running the table against the game's elite, storming to a 7-0 start and, eventually, capturing the title. Chess experts who thought they'd seen it all were rendered nearly speechless by the then-22-year-old's performance. 

Seismic shift in chess

A tough act to follow, but the the intervening months, a seismic shift has occurred in the chess world. Magnus Carlsen, at 23, successfully defended his World Champion title, in 11 games against a reinvigorated Vishy Anand, who in his forties wasn't yet ready to completely give up his claim to a title that he had won five times. But it was a defense that had a dark cloud hanging over it. Carlsen's play at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup was, in the view of some commenters, negatively affected by a debate with world chess' governing body, FIDE, over aspects of the the upcoming World Championship match, which was held in Russia.

FIDE — it stands for Fédération Internationale des Échecs — is widely considered to be a highly politicized organization with ties to the Russian ruling class. It bears the standard for Russian chess, with all that entails. And it has repeatedly over the years seen clashes with former World Champion Garry Kasparov, who in the late 1980s tried to break with the FIDE and form a separate affiliation of prominent chess professionals. That experiment failed, but Kasparov is back and has been instrumental in the creation of the Grand Chess Tour. 

Kasparov Grand Chess Tour

"Garry does have an agenda, and it's very clearly not with the establishment," said Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, a chess commentator and tournament organizer who will be bringing his unique brand of analysis to the live-streaming internet broadcasts of the Sinquefield Cup over the duration of the event. 

In the 1980s, Kasparov and the players who joined him formed what was called the Grandmasters Association, putting aside the traditional lone-wolf attitude of elite players. Think of how tennis players got together in the early 1970s to form the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

Ultimately, Kasparov and his challenger for the 1993 World Chess Championship – the same Nigel Short whom he was playing in an exhibition in St. Louis the weekend following the World Chess Tour announcement – would break away from FIDE and start the Professional Chess Association to conduct a separate world championship match. 

The organization collapsed by the mid 1990s, but for chess professionals and fans who resent the lock FIDE holds over both the Candidates Tournament that leads up to the World Championship and title match itself, Kasparov's efforts to make chess more like other pro sports remain admired, even if they came to a bad end.

In 2014, Kasparov made an unsuccessful run to unseat Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as FIDE president. Ever since his defeat, Kasparov has been showing up at the various tournaments that collectively represent the existing pro chess tour, and more importantly, he spent a lot of quality time in St. Louis.

He now has a formidable ally in Sinquefield, who according to everyone I've talked to has assembled his plans to make the US the new center of world chess based on one thing and one things only: a love of the game. 

Maurice Ashley

And a love to make big things happen and aim very, very high.

"Rex has a short attention span and very little tolerance or respect for past," said Ashley, when asked if the 2015 Sinquefield Cup could possibly top the 2014 installment. "He only knows about doing things one way, at the highest level, and he wants it to be first class."

The Sinquefield Cup is certainly first class. It's held at the Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis, one of the premier chess venues in the world. The players are treated like major-league sports stars, like professional tennis players or pro golfers vying for a Grand Slam trophy. A lot of veteran American chess pros can easily recall a time when big events were held at seedy hotels and everyone was playing for what amounted to lunch money. On the Chess Grand Tour, the total prize money purse is just over $1 million. For big-time chess, this is huge.

Shahade Seirawan

"It's marvelous," said Yasser Seirawan, a four-time US Champion who will provide commentary during this year's Cup matches, alongside Ashley and former US Women's Chess Champion Jennifer Shahade. "I played in churches, basements, at YMCAs. Now we're in St. Louis and the players are staying at five-star hotels, enjoying the high life."

"It's a dream come come true," he added. "I'm envious! Why wasn't Rex around when I was winning tournaments? It's great to see the players appreciated now and I feel so happy for them."

Big-time chess in St. Louis

The 2015 Cup will consist of nine rounds played over a two-week period, concluding in a playoff, if needed. In talking with Ashley, Seirawan, and Shahade, the favorite at this point is Carlsen, who is after all the number-one player in the world and the current World Champion. But in the first tournament of the Grand Chess Tour, Norway Chess, he turned in a very un-Carlsen-like performance, finishing seventh on his home turf.

"Magnus is gonna kick butt," Seirawan said. "I think he was genuinely embarrassed by what happened in Norway. He's got everything to prove and a huge chip on his shoulder."

Ashley echoed that prediction. "Magnus came out of Norway playing horribly. Now he has a thirst for blood. He could go 9-0, trying to erase that memory! He's eager to prove that he's the number one player, so I can see Magnus owning this event."

Shahade, by contrast, picked Caruana, in the process acknowledging that the history of the Cup has so far been spectacular for such a young event. 

Another player who is attracting a lot of pre-tournament attention is Nakamura, who stormed to a fourth US Chess Championship this year and set his sights squarely on being the next challenger for Carlsen's World Championship title. 

Hikaru Nakamura

"Naka is the player of the year," Ashley said. "He's been most consistent, he's won the most events, and his play has included a solidity we hadn't seen before. He doesn't have to take as many chances now, and it's proven difficult to beat him."

"His evolution is on the upswing," Ashley added "There's no day where you say, 'He's in trouble.' And if he breaks through against Magnus, then he will have won a big psychological battle." (Nakamura, one of the best "blitz" players in the world, has never defeated Carlsen in classical chess.)

Nakamura, who has cemented his position in the world's top ten, with a current FIDE rating of 2814. The "old" Hiraku, a bold and aggressive player who could sometimes overplay in an effort to win in dramatic fashion, has been supplanted by a degree by a "new" Hiraku, who plays in a more steady and controlled manner.

He said that he still turn up the volume "when the situation requires it." But he also recognizes that a shift in his style has paid dividends. A lot of chess experts now consider him and Caruana to be the two guys who have the best shot of challenging Carlsen for future World Championship titles. 

"I think at this point I'm in a better place psychologically," he said, noting that his struggles against Carlsen had "gotten into his head."

But that's all changed going into the Sinquefield Cup. "I'm one of the very few people who has a chance at beating Magnus," he said — not exactly an outrageous boast, as Nakamura has come close to notching decisive victories against Carlsen in the past.

So it's game on across — and over — the board as the world's best chess players look to make history in St. Louis this week and next. I'll be updating the results and analyzing key games over the next two weeks, so check back in. It's going to be thrilling. Chess has entered a new era. The game has become a major-league sport. Now all fans need to sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

Join the conversation about this story »

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Here's how popular facial hair is throughout history


Facial hair is not only attractive, according to scientists, it's also popular, says Martin Vargic who makes maps of different trends including a map of the Internet and a chart of the tallest buildings throughout history.

Vargic has analyzed hundreds of historic images, paintings, engravings, and sculptures that date back as far as 200 BC to investigate how prevalent facial hair was throughout the world at different points in history.

He found that since the turn of the millennium, increasingly more men around the world have been growing facial hair, but it's not nearly as many as during the turn of the 20th century:

mapIn order to compile such a detailed account of history, Vargic dove into images in Wikimedia commons and historic websites. For dates that preceded 300 AD — when paintings and drawings were limited or completely unavailable — he looked at mostly coins or statues.

"I analyzed several dozen of such depictions for each era, more than one thousands images total (with a number of them depicting more than one person), in order to come with as exact estimate as possible," Vargic told Business Insider in an email.

Here are some of the interesting trends in the graph:

  • Between 80% to 90% of Chinese men had facial hair until 1700, when it dropped to a still respectable 70%. But in 1900, the number took a sharp dip and, of the five regions Vargic studied, China now has the fewest number of men with facial hair.
  • For 2,000 years, North America had the fewest number of men with facial hair. But around mid 18th century, we see a huge jump from about 10% of men having facial hair to over 90%.
  • Throughout history, the Arab realm has been the most consistent having between 80% and 90% of men with some amount of facial hair.

Though it's hard to know for sure if this chart accurately depicts how popular facial hair is throughout the ages, Vargic argues that his method gives a representative sample of society:

"I used a wide variety of depictions of famous historical individuals (politicians, philosophers, scientists, artists, etc.) when making the chart," Vargic wrote. "As their average preferences in facial hair usually reflect the preferences of society overall in their times."

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I've lived in America all my life, but a peculiar law could make me an Italian citizen


MikeI've visited Italy just once in my life, but I felt an instant connection to the country when I stepped foot in the Milano Centrale train station in late September 2012.

In March, my father and I will make our first ever pilgrimage to the remote “comune” of Polia. There, my family can trace its history back for generations.

Recently, I learned I could use my Italian ancestry to apply for Italian citizenship through Italy's nationality law, which allows "citizenship by descent." If you can prove an Italian national exists in your recent ancestry, Italy considers you to have been a citizensince birth.

To be sure, many hurdles can get in the way of obtaining dual Italian-US citizenship.

But I'm willing to endure this red tape because I recently got a chance to live and work in France; it would be a lot easier to do that if I had Italian citizenship because I'd have a European Union passport.

What's more, I'd have a tangible connection to the country where my dad's family came from — the same country I felt so connected to when I went to Milan.

Milan ItalyHere's what I would have to prove to obtain official ties to Italy. If you have a paternal ancestor born after 1861 — when Italy formed — you could be eligible for Italian citizenship. You're only eligible for citizenship through the maternal side if your maternal ancestor was born after January 1, 1948, as women in Italy couldn't pass down citizenship before that year.

I believe I qualify through my great-grandfather, Guiseppe, who was still an Italian citizen when my grandfather, Antonio, was born. He was born after 1861, so it should be no problem for me to obtain citizenship — or so I naively thought when I started making my citizenship plans.

I'd initially planned on applying for citizenship in New York, where I live, but I was told the wait for an appointment would be 21 months! Luckily, I'm from Massachusetts and can also apply at the Boston consulate, where the wait is a mere six months.

Naturalization form ItalyWhile I don't have to wait a lifetime to apply in Boston, I still must endure headache-inducing bureaucracy to apply. The more distant the generation from which you claim descent, the more paperwork you'll have to do.

In my case, I'll need birth, marriage, and death certificates for Guiseppe, his spouse, his son (my grandfather) Antonio, my grandmother Mary, both my parents, and myself. I'll also need naturalization forms for Guiseppe and Antonio. In total, I'll need 16 documents. I have just six so far.

Italy issued four of the documents I need between 1888 and 1911, and 10 of the documents I need have to be translated into Italian before I can apply for citizenship. The only documents that don't need to be translated are the two US-issued naturalization forms.

I've had to do some digging to find out when the documents were issued in the first place. By scouring archived issues of the Lewiston Daily Sun of Maine, I’ve discovered the birth and death dates of my great-grandparents. Through webpages dated to the mid-1990s, posted by father’s first cousin, I’ve learned even more information. Guiseppe married at 22, left his son and pregnant wife for America at 24, and sent for them 10 years later upon saving enough money to do so.

Obituary ItalyTo get further documents, I've used the services of various archive facilities across the East Coast. The naturalization certificates of my grandfather and great-grandfather are so old that I had to commission an archivist to do a search for them in Washington, D.C.

Since my paternal ancestors died in Maine, I’ve sent letters with proof of lineage and my identity to the Maine vital-records department to get the death certificates. I have then had all the US-issued paperwork “apostilled” by the New York State Department, which is similar to a notarization but for use by a foreign government.

Perhaps the most difficult to obtain are those documents issued in Italy, because my roots stem from an obscure area. These papers, the birth and marriage certificates of my great-grandparents, as well as the birth certificate of my grandfather, are the hard proof of my Italian heritage.

These are held in the “comune” where my family hails from, Polia, found in the Calabria region. There, I’ll find what I need at the town hall, assuming it hasn’t burned down since the documents were issued. I plan to try to collect these documents on my heritage trip with my father in a few months.

With all documentation collected, one last hurdle remains: booking the appointment. Boston’s consulate opens new appointments at exactly 6 p.m. sharp, and only on Mondays and Wednesdays. The high volume of applicants means these appointments disappear within seconds of becoming available. I’m planning on making my attempt in a few months, following my visit to Polia and collecting the birth certificates of my ancestors there.

Beyond the Kafka-esque appointment system, the search for paperwork, and simply being qualified at all, there is one last thing. The US-dollar equivalent of 300 euros must be paid at the consulate, regardless of outcome. Assuming you’re approved, and now legally Italian, another 116 euros procures a passport. Let’s go to Italy!

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This new beer garden in North Carolina has 378 beers on tap and is one of the best in the US

Animated map shows how European languages evolved and spread


The origin of Indo-European languages has long been a topic of debate among scholars and scientists.

In 2012, a team of evolutionary biologists at the University of Auckland led by Dr. Quentin Atkinson released a study that found all modern IE languages could be traced back to a single root: Anatolian — the language of Anatolia, now modern-day Turkey.

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The crazy story of why there are almost no Germans in New York's East Village anymore

9 ways you're cooking your steak wrong, according to the chef of Wall Street's oldest steakhouse


Delmonico's Exec Chef Billy HeadShot

Few dishes compare to a hunk of juicy steak.

And even fewer home-cooked steaks compare to those of your local favorite steakhouse.

From fridge to plate, there are a lot of little secrets steakhouse chefs employ.

Thanks to executive chef Billy Oliva, we're now hip to those secrets. Oliva oversees the kitchen at one of Wall Street's favorite steakhouses, Delmonico's (56 Beaver Street), established in 1837.

Here he lists nine common mistakes that keep home-cooked steaks from reaching their full flavor potential.

1. Don't cook a steak that's fresh from the fridge.

Oliva says this is the No. 1 mistake people make when preparing steak. "In the restaurant, we always like the steaks to come up to room temperature because you get a more even cooking process ... If it's too cold, the outside will char and the inside will be a little bit rarer than it should be."

2. Don't put a piece of steak in a pan or on a grill that isn't screaming hot.

If you don't let the pan heat up, you'll lose out on caramelization and you'll end up steaming your steak. The juice and blood will escape, and you'll be left with what Oliva describes as "that gray piece of meat."

3. Don't be afraid to douse the steak with seasoning.

According to Oliva, people either don't season the steak enough or they season only one side. "We season both sides," he said. "We use a combination of kosher salt and sea salt, and we use a fresh-ground-pepper mix that has about seven different types of peppercorns in it."

seasoned tenderloin steak

4. Don't leave a steak on an open flame for too long.

When grilling a steak, sear it fast and move it to the side — unless you want a charred piece of meat. "What we like to do is sear it to give it color, and then move it to [a slightly] cooler part of the grill when we're grilling ... You want to cook around the open flame."

5. Don't poke the steak with a fork to see whether it's done.

You're testing steak, not cupcakes. "Once you poke a hole in it, all the blood and all the flavor and juices in the steak are going to leach out." (Here's a graphic that shows how to tell whether a steak is done without puncturing it.)

6. Don't flip the steak more than once.

Put it in a hot pan, leave it alone until it starts to caramelize, and flip it only once. "You don't need to keep flipping it every two minutes because then you're removing the steak from the hot surface. You're kind of defeating the purpose of searing the outside and locking in all the juices."

steak cooking in a pan

7. Don't press down on the meat.

Oliva says putting pressure on the meat with a spatula or pair of tongs is "almost as bad as poking it with a fork." Your main job in cooking a steak is to keep the fat (read: flavor) locked inside the meat. The more pressure you put on the steak, the more fat you lose.

8. Don't serve a steak fresh from the pan or grill.

"After it's cooked, you always want to let it rest," Oliva said. "Let the meat relax and let the juices run back into the center." The amount of resting time depends on the size of the steak. Oliva lets the Delmonico's 42-ounce double porterhouse rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving it. But he recommends 10 minutes for most any cut.

9. Don't forget to reseason the steak before serving.

A lot of the seasonings get lost in the cooking process, so Oliva and his staff give the steaks at Delmonico's a sprinkle of sea salt before they leave the kitchen.

SEE ALSO: How to order the right wine at a steakhouse, according to a master sommelier

SEE ALSO: The best steakhouses in all 50 states

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Banksy's 'Dismaland' is art about nothing — and we're over it


Banksy's Dismaland

Now a perennial tradition, like the Super Bowl Halftime Show or Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, elusive artist Banksy is back with his latest spectacle — a dystopic "bemusement park," aptly titled "Dismaland."

Likely you've already seen pictures of its dilapidated castle and polluted waterways, staffed by glum employees whose uniforms read "dismal" across the backs. The human condition is very sad indeed.

Nearly two years ago I wrote about Banksy's immensely popular month-long residency in New York City, during which he produced a new work each day for one month in the five boroughs. I concluded then by saying:

"Banksy's popularity endures simply because he's preaching to the choir. There's an insatiable demand for his brand and people are happy getting what they want. They also like feeling smart, and his overwrought images continue to be rooted in the same, familiar liberal values that people are all too eager to agree with."

Banksy's now ubiquitous anti-consumerist and anti-authoritarian tropes are fully exhausted in this most recent packaging and Dismaland is, quite literally, art about nothing. Consumerism is bad, Disney is evil, advertising is dishonest — we got it.

Banksy's DismalandOne of the most iconic and photogenic spectacles in Dismaland is Banksy's installation conflating Princess Diana's tragic death with the fairytale iconography of Cinderella's chariot. In his piece, which is housed inside Cinderella's decaying castle, Cinderella has taken the place of Princess Diana; she lays dying from a chariot accident as the paparazzi snap away with their cameras.

Our sister publication Tech Insider went so far as to describe this piece as "gut-wrenching." However, once you contrast it with a truly profound artwork about Diana's crash and the insatiability of media, it becomes very clear just how shallow the Banksy piece is.

Still frame from Thomas Demand's artwork TunnelThomas Demand is a contemporary German artist and his video, "Tunnel," is ten minutes of repeating footage that draws the viewer through the tunnel in which Diana's fatal car wreck occurred. Its hypnotic repetition lulls the viewer into a state of inaction, awaiting the ill-fated crash, but in this iteration, it never comes.

The illusion is heightened by the fact that Demand filmed in a cardboard model of the tunnel, a clever bit of visual trickery which brings us face to face with our consumption and perception of media events and the hollowness of celebrity.

The tunnel here becomes a stage of smoke and mirrors where the action is invisible. Demand invites us into a Beckett-esque alternate reality which reminds us just how tenuous a grasp we really have on the events that surround us and how rarely spectacle gives us the payoff we yearn for. It's a beautiful artwork — heartbreaking but edifying in its profundity.

Banksy's chariot installation is like the Michael Bay version of this.

Great artists use their work to ask questions, to explore ideas, and to challenge their perception of the world. Great artworks induce a similar reaction in the viewer. They affirm our existence by making us confront what we think we believe and become the platform and catalyst for new ideas, experiences, and discovery.

Banksy's works, on the other hand, are one-liners — and you already know the punchline.

Jenny Holzer Times SquarePlenty of better, socially and politically conscious art has been made. If it's the quips and public monumentality that draw you to Banksy, consider instead Jenny Holzer's Truisms.

If you admire Banksy's shrewdness and courage, I'd suggest watching Chris Burden's early performances, one in which he has his assistant shoot him in the arm, and another, titled "Trans-Fixed," in which he's crucified on a Volkswagen Beetle.

As long as Banksy keeps repackaging the same, lazy shtick, he'll maintain a successful entertainment franchise for a while longer, but his faux-clever brand of political commentary will only carry him so far.



SEE ALSO: 24 of Banksy's most clever works

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