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Over One Billion Tourists Traveled Internationally This Year [Infographic]

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The economy seems to be rebounding and that means that more people are traveling.

Over one billion tourists traveled internationally in 2012, according to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Another five to six million traveled domestically within their own countries.

This is a record number for international travel. Global tourism has more than doubled since 1990, when 435 million tourists crossed international borders.

Europeans seem to travel the most internationally, with 53 percent of all international visitors coming from Europe. Only 22 percent of international tourists came from Asia, and 17 percent came from the Americas.

Though the UNWTO does not track exactly which countries these people visit, it does track the most popular destinations by continent. The majority of international tourists went to countries in Europe (51 percent), while 22 percent went to Asia/Pacific and 16 percent traveled to the Americas.

The UNWTO has launched a campaign to capitalize on this growth in international tourism called 1 Billion Tourists, 1 Billion Opportunities. They're encouraging tourists to act responsibly by buying locally, respecting local culture, using public transportation, and protecting heritage sites.

International tourism is one of the world’s largest economic sectors, accounting for 9% of global GDP (direct, indirect and induced impact), one in every 12 jobs, and six percent of world trade, according to the UNWTO. 

Tourism hits 1 billion infographic

Tourism hits 1 billion infographic

SEE ALSO: The 25 Economies Most Hooked On Tourism >

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The 10 Restaurants With The Best Service In Los Angeles

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Corton restaurant nyc

The experience at most restaurants is as important as the food, and LA eateries are no exception to the rule.

So the editors at Zagat went back to their 2013 Los Angeles and Southern California Restaurants guide to find the eateries with the best servers in town.

The top 10 restaurants are as well-known for their service as they are for their fare. And while some of these restaurants have famous names, a few surprise underdogs made the cut as well.

#10 Alfredo's

2372 Pacific Coast Hwy.

Making it into the top 10 is this favorite Mexican food mecca. The dishes here are cheap, the decor typical, but the service is fast and prompt with perfectly cooked traditional fare.



#9 Sam's by the Beach

108 W. Channel Rd.

This Santa Monica joint is a delicious restaurant with inventive dishes and without the standard LA-attitude. The service is always fast and friendly, and guests say they'd eat here everyday if it wasn't for the expensive price tag.



#8 Lawry's The Prime Rib

100 N. La Cienega Blvd.

Fans of Lawry's say there's no place in LA with such delicious prime ribs. The all-American steakhouse boasts some of the best cuts of meat in town, and the service is superbly attentive with cool table-side experiences such as the spinning salads made right in front of you.



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What It's Really Like To Be Taxed Like A Rich Person When You're Not

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CoupleIn the “Money Mic” series, LearnVest hands over the podium to someone with a strong opinion on a financial topic. Today, one woman shares what it’s like to be disproportionately taxed based on her income — and how it’s holding her back.

If someone had told me as a kid in Louisiana that my husband and I would have a combined income of $250,000 a year in our late 20s, I would have been pie-eyed. It sounds like a crazy amount of money. But after taking into account taxes, debt and living expenses in New York City, we’re actually finding it difficult to meet our financial goals.

Why our taxes are nearly unmanageable

Last year, we paid $100,000 in taxes, which is almost exactly 40 percent of what we make. Even though we also paid $22,000 in student loan payments (we have about $145,000 in combined loans for my husband’s law school and my grad school), we don’t qualify for deductions — if you make more than $150,000 filing jointly, you can’t deduct student loan interest.

We also don’t get a deduction for home ownership — because we can’t afford to buy one. We’ve been saving for three years, and after another three years of diligent budgeting, we hope to have about $100,000, which would be enough for a 20 percent down payment on a home in a New York suburb with decent schools — the average “starter” home in these areas is about $500,000 — plus an extra $20,000 for closing costs and incidentals.

We’re in a weird place: We don’t have enough money to invest in a house or the stock market, which would get us tax exemptions. So we pay the full 40 percent of our salary in city*, state and federal taxes. People who are much wealthier can take advantage of tax loopholes, capital gains preferential tax rates and a larger mortgage deduction, so they end up paying only about 20 percent in taxes. For instance, in 2011, Barack Obama paid 20.5 percent in taxes. Mitt Romney paid 14 percent in taxes.

We find it ironic that we’d have to make more … in order to pay less.

If we’re being honest, it’s not only taxes that are killing us. Living in Manhattan is expensive — up to three times the cost of living in other cities — but I work for a private equities firm, and my husband is in securities litigation. This city is the industry hub for both of our careers.

We’ve discussed moving, but it’s unlikely that we would both be able to get jobs elsewhere. We rent a 1-bedroom apartment near our offices in a neighborhood where they go for $3,000 a month. We could move to a slightly cheaper outer borough, but we’re both called into our offices at odd hours, and we also work long days. So we pay for the convenience of living near work.

How things could get harder for us

We budget constantly. As an accountant, I’m always reviewing our spending and trying to find ways to cut back. We take the subway. We don’t buy name-brand clothes, and we don’t buy anything unless it’s on sale. We take only one fun trip a year and the most we’ve ever spent on that is $1,600.

My husband isn’t even putting money in his 401(k), so we can save more for a house. (I contribute to mine, but we have diverted all of our emergency fund to our house savings.) It’s something we argue about, but these are the choices we have to make.

Don’t get me wrong — our lives are good. We work very hard, and enjoy what we do, but I’m tired of people saying that we’re not paying our fair share. How much more are we supposed to pay?

Why the tax code needs to change

We both come from middle-class families and were taught that if you go to school and work hard, you can live the “American Dream”: own a house, have a family. It’s really all we want. We don’t live — or long for — an extravagant lifestyle.

Look, I know it’s relative. I realize there are families raising three kids on $50,000 that are just trying to put food on the table. My husband and I are very thankful for what we have. And we don’t begrudge paying taxes. We even understand why people think we’re rich. Compared to many people, we are.

We just can’t figure out how we’re supposed to make the “American Dream” work for us while giving away half of our income in taxes.

The tax code needs to change, and if it were up to me, I’d like to see the following:

  • Adding a cost-of-living factor. The tax code should have a “factor” that takes into account location-specific costs, like average home price, the price of an equivalent bag of groceries, the average price of a car and the average cost of gas in a region. Once taxes are calculated, the factor would be applied to achieve greater geographic tax parity.
  • Phasing out deductions and loopholes. If we lowered tax rates across the board, and cut the deductions and loopholes in the system (there are plenty of them to pick from!), we would put everyone on a more level playing field. I know it’s a touchy subject, but capital gains rates probably also need to be increased from the current 15 percent — even if it’s just a bump to 20 percent.
  • Broadening the tax base. Right now, deductions and loopholes mean that many people don’t pay certain federal taxes. If we eliminated them as described above, more people would pay taxes that they owe. By no means do I think that families in dire circumstances should be asked to dole out money to the government. But if more families could help chip in a small portion of their earnings, it would work toward generating more revenue — and a little bit, spread across a large number of people, could go a long way.
  • Lowering the tax rates. I’d be fine paying in the 30 percent range. And if my husband and I did make it to a point where we were making above $500,000, reasonable tax increases (35-39 percent) for this income would be acceptable.

There’s something really wrong with a system that considers us “rich” and not paying our fair share at 40 percent — but billionaires are only paying 20 percent or less.

Something is obviously broken.

We just hope it gets fixed soon.

*New York City is one of the few cities in the United States with city taxes.

More from LearnVest:

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YACHT OF THE WEEK: Cross The Ocean On The Modern $21 Million 'Streamline'

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streamline yacht

When you spend millions of dollars on a luxury yacht, you do not want to be confined to a single region. With the "Streamline," you won't be: Its 85,000-liter fuel tanks provide a range of more than 4,000 miles.

That's more than enough to cross the Atlantic, or spend an entire vacation on the open water.

The yacht, built in 2009, has a lap pool, an elevator, and enough room for 10 guests. There's a large master stateroom and guest accommodations that can be arranged to feature three, four, or five cabins.

It is listed for sale by International Yacht Collection for €15.9 million ($21 million).

The 161'8" yacht was custom built in 2009.



For those who don't want to swim in the ocean, there's a lap pool on board.



There's a sofa just a few steps away from the lap pool for post-workout relaxation.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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TRUE CONFESSION: How I Ruined New Year's Eve, One Bad Money Decision After The Next

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new-years-eve-mask

I know that as red-blooded human beings, we're allowed to make a few mistakes every once in a while.

I just wish mine didn't cost so much. 

About two years ago, I turned what should have been a wholesome New Year's celebration into a nightmare –– one bad money decision after the next. 

When all was said and done, I managed to blow close to $700 over the course of six topsy-turvy hours that, in retrospect, weren't really that fun at all. 

It may sound trivial to some, but it's cautionary tales like these I wish people were more transparent about. When it comes to spending, we all give in to temptation (and yes, a little peer pressure) from time to time –– no matter how old or wise we become. 

Like many poor choices, it all started with a cocktail.

A pair of long-time friends were in town, so I met them at the swanky W hotel in the lower Manhattan's financial district for a pre-party drink.

I was broke at the time and usually would have tucked a mini bottle of something serious in my clutch and been done with it. But my girlfriends had flown across the country to have a good time, and I knew toasting with a couple of cheep beers my apartment wouldn't cut it. 

So, naturally, we decided to order a $75 bottle of champagne.



Then I blew $20 on a cab I never needed.

Feeling festive, we left the hotel and made our way to a cab to head uptown.

Here's where I could have saved serious cash. Not only do I live in New York, the land of public transportation, but the city was actually giving away $30,000 worth of FREE cab fare and metro cards to party-goers at the time. 



"Whatever. I've earned this!"

As we lacked both a publicist and a hit reality TV show, we weren't able to get into any of the super exclusive parties going on throughout the city that night. 

I did a little search on the web and found a great-looking party at an East Village venue with four floors, unlimited drinks, and a balloon drop at midnight. 

It also cost $150 for the smallest "VIP Package" available. I'd just gotten a small Christmas bonus, so I justified the price with any shopaholic's go-to mantra:

"Whatever. I've earned this!" 



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Five Things Your Co-Op Board Wouldn't Dare Ask

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men women boardroom

While it’s true that a co-op board can turn down a buyer for everything from red hair to red-state political views or a desire to gut-renovate, there are also a host of reasons for which it’s illegal to reject a buyer.

These include marital status, race, color, religion, national origin, alienage, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, military status, disability, and choice of lawful occupation, says real estate attorney Robert Braverman of Braverman & Associates.

If a board asks questions relating to one or more of these areas during the interview and then rejects the buyer forany reason, both the would-be buyer and seller may have grounds to sue for discrimination, says Braverman.

“Although many boards are nominally familiar with the legally protected categories listed above, ‘tainted’ questions frequently come up inadvertently in the normal give and take of conversation,” he explains. He points to a case where a co-op board was found liable for housing discrimination after rejecting a disabled would-be buyer:  During the interview, the board read the house rules aloud to the prospective buyer and asked whether he needed any disability accommodation or exception.

Braverman illustrates the problem with some real-life examples from his work representing co-op boards:

  1.  “Do you plan to have kids?” or “Do you plan to have more kids?”  This violates anti-discrimination laws that make it illegal to deny housing on grounds of family or marital status.  If an applicant is asked such questions during an interview and then rejected (no matter what the board’s reasons), discriminatory motives can be legally inferred.
  2. Where are you from originally?”   This could give rise to a discrimination claim based on national origin, alienage, or citizenship. Similarly, boards shouldn’t ask a turban-wearing candidate what mosque he belongs to, or a inquire whether a buyer wearing a yarmulke will need the building to run a Sabbath elevator.
  3. To a single buyer: “Do you plan on having many guests?  Will they be staying over? Will you be giving a key to anyone?”   These types of questions could be seen as prying into a buyer’s marital status.
  4.  “Why are you using the cane?” or “Will you be requiring any extra assistance from the building staff?”  Any references to an applicant’s disability could give rise to discrimination claims based on the disability.
  5.  “Do you cook with a lot of curry?” Cooking odors may be a hot button issue in your building, but if the candidate is of obvious foreign descent, this could be seen as evidence of discrimination based on national origin. Again, as with disability discrimination claims, discriminatory motives can be inferred from interview questions that carry any hint or presumption about an applicant’s race, nationality, ethnicity, gender and—in New York—sexual orientation.

“To avoid the possibility of an inappropriate question at an interview, co-op boards should be briefed in advance about the perils of such questions,” says Braverman.

SEE ALSO: 9 steps I took to get my finances back on track >

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The Top 5 Travel Trends of 2012

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YotelThis post originally appeared at Oyster.com.

The way we travel is always changing, and 2012 provided ample proof of that.

To help you prep for your 2013 vacay, Oyster honed in on the top trends currently rocking the travel world, from the royal travel craze to the rise of the pod hotel. Here’s what’s hot — and what’s not!

Celeb Hotel Designers

Celebrities and fashion icons — Kelly Wearstler, Oscar de La Renta, and Ralph Lauren, to name a few — have been designing hotel interiors for a while, but 2012 proved this trend certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

This year we’ve seen tennis star Venus Williams design two presidential suites for the Intercontinental Miami, Diane Von Furstenburg design a two-bedroom penthouse for the Australian Hayman Island Resort, and Lenny Kravitz contribute to yet another Miami hotel design project — the SLS Hotel South Beach, coming soon to Oyster.com!



Tablets

Not only are tablets an increasingly common accessory for travelers, they’re used more and more by the hotels themselves. The Andaz chain, for example, uses tablets to check in hotel guests individually, rather than making them wait in a typical check-in line.

Other hotels offer loaner iPads for guests to use during their stays, or in-room tablets that operate as “digital concierges” for requesting hotel services.At the new Eden Roc in Cap Cana in the D.R., in-room iPads are used to control the lighting, sound system, and TVs.

Several airports are adding tablets to their restaurants, as well, for travelers to use to both order food and surf the web.



Pod Hotels

Space in hotel rooms comes at a premium in the world’s most popular cities, and we’re seeing teensy rooms (and rooms with bunk beds) not only on the rise, but becoming, well, cool.

In New York City, for example, Yotel (opened in 2011) has tiny cabin rooms clocking in at just 170 square feet, while the Out NYC and Wythe Hotel, both opened this year, offer rooms with bunk bed accommodations for bigger groups.

These aren’t hostels — these are some of the city’s hottest new hotels.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Here Are The Worst Things Critics Have Said About Kanye West's Foray Into Fashion

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kanyeap

Kanye West's rep announced earlier this year that the rapper won't be returning to Paris Fashion Week. 

Click here to see the worst things the critics had to say about him >

Fashion is a brutal world, and while West still makes headlines every time he makes a fashion statement — like this kilt he wore earlier this month— that doesn't mean you get a pass to become a successful designer.

Critics from The New York Times to Women's Wear Daily ripped West's fashions at his debut show in 2011. When he followed up with a second collection a few months later, the best reviews were lukewarm. 

Other reviews were equally scathing. 

"Kanye West's fashion debut was like being subjected to an hour long MRI scan — but not as much fun." — Telegraph



"Kanye West's collection was so Givenchy-esque that it’s embarrassing that Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci was an expected guest.” — WSJ



"I'd guess the average woman with disposable income for high-end designer clothes is about as interested in showing that much skin as they are in being Snooki." — New York Magazine



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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'Gourmet Junk Food' Was One Of The Worst Ideas Of 2012

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Fat & Furious BurgerHonest Burgers. Dirty Burger. Patty & Bun. Burger & Lobster. Slider Bar. Almost Famous. Lucky Chip. Mother Flipper. And, the daddy of them all, Meat Liquor. With news that New York super-restaurateur Danny Meyer's cult smash Shake Shack is about to hit London, you might wonder if all anyone's eating these days comes mashed between a split brioche-style bun. I love a good burger – who doesn't? – but some of us are starting to suffer from what might be termed patty ennui.

Not so long ago, the arrival of a new "gourmet" burger joint would be met by the online equivalent of mass, foaming hysteria. But now, the riposte is equally likely to be an overwhelming YAWNZ. When Carphone Warehouse gets in on the act (founder Charles Dunstone is importing Five Guys from the US) and Beirut starts sending us its take (BRGR.co), isn't it time to get a grip?

While we're drowning in ground meat, every other trashy edible pleasure is getting a haute reinvention. Huzzah! Look at the middle classes getting down and dirty with the oh-so-ironic reinvention of that scuzziest of booze sponges, fried chicken. And hotdogs, and doughnuts, and kebabs, and pizzas, and burritos, and…

I'm starting to flinch every time a new one hits town. It's not about food snobbery (try that on for size where I come from, and you'll be slapped across the chops with a smoked sausage supper), but I'm becoming literally and metaphorically fed up with the whole "gourmet" fast food movement. Even the drooling terminology is suspect: "dirty", "filth", "food porn", "evil", "sick". Like this is a good thing?

It's not hard to figure out the popularity: ramming a grease-oozing, cheese-dripping, squidgy meatgasm into your face is the gastronomical equivalent of a one-night stand – not at all good for you and makes you feel grubby afterwards but, boy, it works at the time. And these sleazebags are coming tarted up in the Victoria's Secret lingerie of organic, or artisan, or rare breed, fooling us into thinking they're a whole lot classier than they actually are. And instead of keeping our shameful secret to ourselves, we're blurting it out like kiss-and-tellers.

Blame the recession, the boom in eating out as a pastime for the yoof (in my day, everyone was taking far too much speed ever to think about eating) and the fact that gourmet junk food is easy to blog about. You can have the palate of a navvy and still be able to tell a good burger from a bad one. Despite the mystique created by the new breed of purveyors, they're easy and cheap to produce and can absorb beefy mark-ups. The whole movement has somehow become shorthand for cool; why, I don't know. It's not as if we're eating like style mavens; we're eating like children. (Yep, alcoholic milkshakes are big, too.)

There's no sign of it stopping, either. The latest junk food trend to land is ramen. At last something lighter and healthier, huh? Not a chance. This is tonkotsu, the Japanese version of dirrrty, with extra pipettes of pig fat in case your bowl of squeezed pig writhing with Pot Noodlyness isn't lardy enough.

This was the year of the donut and the corndog, of the fried chicken and a thousand permutations of burger. Like our arteries, we're about to reach saturation point. They may be posh fat and carbs and salt, but the effect's the same: it's enough to make me long for a plate of steamed turbot with a green salad. I accept that gourmet junk food isn't going away any time soon. But, please, can we stop getting so worked up about it?

See also in food

• "Secret" items on menus: knowing about the off-menu special doesn't make you look cool, it makes you look nerdy.

• Deep-fried mac'n'cheese.

• Food on things that aren't plates: boards, slate tiles and – the ultimate paradigm – John Salt's bricks.

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

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I’m 23 And Afraid I’ve Hit My Travel Peak

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HikerI first stepped out of America when I was seventeen.

For ten days, I roamed throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Those ten days were probably the most influential of my life, because they acted as a turning point.

By the time I came home to Pittsburgh again, I was head over heels in love with travel.

Six years later, that love has stayed with me. My life is now largely defined by travel and my obsession with it.

The best months of my college experience were those I spent studying abroad in Cologne, Germany. I once flew to England for a weekend to see my favorite band in concert, and though it was the music that initially made my knees go weak, I was just as in love with setting foot in a foreign country.

Three months after graduation, I shipped out to northern Japan, where I plan to live until 2015.

Every year, I have a goal to take an international trip and get out of my country of residence. Since 2008, I’ve succeeded. This year I hit eight different countries, five of which I’d never been to before, on three different continents. My ultimate goal is to fill my passport before I move out of Japan.

But as much as I love travel, there is a constant, nagging fear that I have hit my peak. The past six years have set an extraordinary precedent. The bar is pretty damn high. How much higher can I go?

I’ve lived in three countries at this point and I average between one and three international trips a year. Once I leave Japan, can I expect to keep leapfrogging across the globe for the rest of my life?

I’m content for now to while away my days in Aomori, but I know that eventually my feet will get restless again and I’ll want to search out a new home. It’s a lifestyle that I could definitely see myself having.

But what if I can’t sustain a lifestyle like that? I’ve done more traveling at 23 than a lot of people are able to do in their entire lives. I am extremely lucky, and I know it.

I’ve gotten this far without throwing down any permanent roots, but I am deathly afraid that once this period of my life is over, I will spend the next half a century constantly yearning.

Once you have a life of travel, it’s hard to go back. And once you’ve obtained this lifestyle, it largely becomes an issue of “chasing the dragon” to top yourself. I’ve gone bungee jumping off the Macau Tower, the highest jump in the world. Where do I go from there? There’s only skydiving.

I’ve done yoga on top of a deserted mountain on Lamma Island in Hong Kong. Somehow my living room floor just doesn’t cut it now. I was in Berlin for the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall. I can hardly imagine any other anniversary eclipsing the emotions I saw and felt that night.

I’ve eaten countless unidentifiable entrees in Japan (and some that were identified that I wish hadn’t been). That new sushi restaurant that opened in my neighborhood outside of Pittsburgh? I’d rather pass than be disappointed.

It’s not that any of these things are bad. Far from it, in fact. They are comforting, familiar, and part of the everyday life that has shaped me. If my travel experience has provided mountainous spikes in my life, my everyday life has given me the constant plateaus to appreciate those mountains all the more.

But the idea that I will have the everyday life for every day of my life is terrifying to me. I want sunsets in India and sunrises in Peru. I want snowstorms in Finland and heat waves in South Africa. I want pappardelle in Tuscany and pan de anis in Peru. I don’t want to achieve “veteran traveler” status at 30 or so; I want it at 70.

Travel makes us greedy — not for things, but for experiences. We are collectors; the problem is, we have no cases to fill or awards to win. There is no point at which we can proclaim, “Finished! I’ve gotten everything that I can!” because there isn’t a finish line.

If my traveling days eventually come to an end, I worry that my wanderlust won’t. It’s awfully hard to survive with one without having the other. I’ll be like those has-been athletes who are forever recounting their glory days of college or high school.

But instead of that winning touchdown pass, I’ll be endlessly repeating the story of the time a random French man kissed me under the Eiffel Tower because he liked my hair (or so I gathered with my horrific French and his broken English)…or the time I randomly ran into Chris O’Dowd while walking down Regent Street in London…or the time I bottle-fed a lamb on the set of The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand.

If the past you leave behind consists of a beautifully erratic path across the globe, how can you not be endlessly plagued by nostalgia?

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Why Latin American Countries Are The Happiest In The World

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EcuadorThis month an index of global happiness was released, and the results showed that many countries in Latin America were the world’s happiest.Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador,Venezuela, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Costa Rica were all at the top of the survey. Colombiawas ranked 11th, and Mexico and Brazil ranked around 20th.

Experts have suggested many reasons for the results. One includes the ability of Latin Americans to look beyond immediate problems and live life day-by-day, despite what is going on externally. It suggests that constant problems make people adapt and live positively, perhaps because it is difficult to constantly fear the worse and still live a productive life. Other explanations include cultural aspects that teach Latin Americans to keep a positive face on things, even if there are personal problems.

These are both interesting suggestions. The fact that having less might make someone feel as if he has more to be positive about could come from an appreciation for the smaller things in life. This could also be a reason why countries like France andGermany did not do well on the survey: if you are higher up, you will hit the ground harder if you do happen to fall. Regarding a positive attitude, I think the culture of Latin America does not just place a happy face on every situation, as families and close friends do have constant, open, and honest discussions, both positive and negative. It might be that in difficult times the support people get from those around them helps lift everyone in general. Even if negative things do happen, it is the support from families and close friends that makes the negativity more bearable. 

In addition, there is also a culture in Latin America that does not promote negativity with every aspect of life. Being constantly negative may not thrive when a community of open and honest individuals is there for support. There is simply no room to seek out the worst-case scenario when you have so many in your corner.

While not exclusive to Latin America, the culture of family, support, and living a life to spend time with your family, I think, is an important part of Latin American culture that keeps people positive. Being with those close to you and finding other friends and partners that value that way of life is a key part of Latin American culture. That might be the main reason why people remain positive: they are never truly alone. Interestingly, many discussions and documentaries about immigrant groups in the United States show an internal conflict among many who move to the US and who do not wish to lose their support systems in a new culture rooted in individualism. While being motivated and entrepreneurial is valued, a life being with your family, where you are never truly alone, is the basis for many cultures in many parts of the world. Many new Americans frown on the thought that children can detach themselves from their family at 18 years of age. They believe people can only truly thrive as a family.

– Rich Basas is a Latin America blogger and Europe blogger at the Foreign Policy Association. Read the blogs here for both Latin America and Europe.

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20 American Vacation Spots That Are Most Overrun With Tourists

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disneyland character mickey mouse goofy minnie

Every day, 10,000 people enter New York’s Grand Central Terminal—with no intention of catching a train. They come to slurp bivalves at the Oyster Bar or cocktails at the Campbell Apartment.

They gawk at the ceiling embellished with gold constellations, browse shops, and take tours. It’s enough to make the landmark one of America’s top five most-visited attractions.

Click ahead to see the most-visited attractions >

Location, of course, plays a role, and many of the most popular attractions are found in major cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Size, too, matters. While the National September 11 Memorial had an impressive 4.5 million visitors during its first year (it opened on Sept. 12, 2011), it was dwarfed by Central Park with 100 times the area.

Yet for every traveler drawn to the big city, there are others who embrace the great outdoors. With its accessibility and size, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural choice for millions—more than 9 million to be precise, making it the No. 16 most-visited attraction in the nation.

Like it or not, the white-tailed deer, black bears, and brilliant foliage of the Great Smokies can’t quite compete with the popularity of Disney among Americans and international visitors; five theme parks made it into the top 20.

To determine these rankings, we gathered the most recent data supplied by the attractions themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and reputable media outlets.

Read on to find out which tourist attraction claimed the No. 1 spot with more than 41.9 million visitors in 2011. Were you one of them?

The Methodology: Our definition of tourist attractions included natural, cultural, and historic sites as well as recognized areas of limited geographic scope like the Las Vegas Strip. (We eliminated national parkways as they spread over extensive distances).

Accurate numbers weren't available for some popular attractions such as Waikiki Beach in Honolulu and the Atlantic City Boardwalk in New Jersey.

In the case of transportation hubs like Grand Central Terminal or San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge that bring in both travelers and locals, we focused as much as possible on visitor data that excluded the strictly commuting set.

Check out the most-visited attractions >

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Times Square, New York City

Annual Visitors: 41,900,000

Neon signs, megastores, street performers, and historic theaters lure tourists to this five-block intersection that has become increasingly family-friendly.

The addition of pedestrian-only areas with café tables, for instance, has made it more appealing to hang out here.

At the small museum within the visitors’ center, the 2007 New Year’s Eve Centennial Ball drops four times an hour.

Write a wish on a piece of confetti, and it—and two tons of other pieces of confetti—will flutter down on Times Square at midnight New Year’s Eve.

New York City



Central Park, New York City

Annual Visitors: 40,000,000

Locals and visitors alike find respite among these 843 acres of paths, lawns, lakes, and gardens in the center of Manhattan.

Walk, skip, skate, ride a bike, row a boat or ride in a horse-drawn carriage.

You can admire the views from 19th-century Belvedere Castle; check out the modest-size zoo; or join the fans who gather to pay quiet tribute to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields.

Central Park, New York City



Union Station, Washington DC

Annual Visitors: 36,500,000

Designed during the age of railroads and opened in 1907, this grand train station was built to be a monumental gateway—symbolized by its many arches—to America’s capital.

The Beaux-Arts gem is also a gateway to commerce, with more than 120 shops and eateries.

The 36 statues of Roman legionnaires lining the balcony were originally nude, but concerns that the public would be shocked led to the addition of strategically placed shields.

Union Station, Washington DC



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New York Magazine Chose A $15 Steak As NYC's Best In 2012

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peter luger steak

When it comes to knowing what's going on in New York City's culinary space, New York Magazine is second to none.

That's why we've been waiting with bated breath for its "Best of 2012" round-up, and we thought we'd share the magazine's steak pick with you because frankly, we were shocked.

New York Magazine has chosen Brooklyn restaurant St. Anselm's steak as the best of the year. A few things that floored us about this:

  • St. Anselm is in Williamsburg ... yes, Brooklyn. Yes, the same neighborhood as Peter Luger (but you'll have to delve a little deeper into the capital of Hipster nation for this one).
  • The steak is only $15.
  • The steak is only $15 (we're repeating that, it's not a typo).  

Here's some of what NY Mag had to say about the cut that made the cut:

They call it a butcher’s steak (you know it as hanger) because there’s only one per cow, and back in the day, butchers—greedy bastards to a man—would save it for themselves. Here, it’s the most popular item on the menu—a great beefy thing of beauty. It’s simply salted, expertly grilled, sliced across the grain, and loaded with flavor. A drizzle of garlic-steeped melted butter doesn’t hurt a bit. The coup de grâce, though, is the $15 head-scratcher price tag. Both Peter Luger and low-budget beefery Tad’s in midtown: Consider yourselves put on notice.

If you think we here at Business Insider are going to take this lying down, you have another thing coming. We'll let you know what we think of the steak soon enough.

 

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Vintage Photos Of People Partying On New Year's Eve Since 1876

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party, old, vintage

New Year's celebrations have been going on for a long, long time. But we've only been able to get photographic proof of it since the late 1800s. 

Taking a look at the Library of Congress' extensive collection of historic photographs, we found some fun examples of the ways we used to get down on New Year's Eve.

From the mundane to Philadelphia's famous Mummers Parade, pictures from 1876 to the 1940s show how things have changed and how they have stayed the same.

1876: New Year's Eve, seems pretty tame.



1907: New Year's Eve celebration at Restaurant Martin in New York City. Things have gotten livelier!



1909: Jewish women pray along the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City on New Year's Day.



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America's 10 Best Urban Running Trails

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runner, central park, nyc

Living in Manhattan, Daniel Rootenberg looks forward to that special time of day or night when he can leave the office and de-stress with a good sweat.

He has no use for that stuffy square box they call the neighborhood gym and could care less about the latest state-of-the-art elliptical machine. All he needs are his two legs and a good route to jog—which, in his home city, means the pathways skirting the East and Hudson rivers, or through the urban oasis of Central Park.

See where to run on your next trip >

Little surprise, then, that when this vice president of finance at Shutterstock travels, he packs his running shoes. Rootenberg typically asks his hotel concierge for a route and a map, noting his preference for varied terrain and safety (as much as he enjoys exploring the streets of a new city, he doesn’t want to jog through crime-ridden or congested areas). Often, he says, he’s able to take in some of a city’s noteworthy sights while on his run.

“On my last trip to Chapel Hill, the concierge mixed historic buildings with less populated sidewalks,” he says. “It was perfect.”

More and more business travelers, it seems, can be found taking to the streets in the cities where they take their meetings. Not only is it liberating for these travelers to run after hours stuck in airport terminals and conference rooms; sometimes, jogging is the only chance they have to see some of the city they’re visiting. Taking a run also gives them an opportunity to share a common activity with local residents—and experience a camaraderie they’d never find on a lonely treadmill inside a hotel fitness center.

While running is perhaps the most accessible of workouts—all that’s needed are shoes and a route—the gentrification of many cities in the past two decades has made urban jogging even easier. New developments have created running trails that offer a slice of tranquility in otherwise highly energized hubs. In San Antonio, for example, the popular waterfront River Walk has extended both north and south of the city in recent years, giving joggers an additional 15 miles to explore. Similarly, both the Eastbank Esplanade in Portland, Ore., and the Hudson River Park in New York City have unveiled paved trails that offer both riverside and city-skyline views.

So, whether your next business trip brings you to the Financial District in Boston or the massive San Diego Convention Center on the harbor, make sure to throw your running shoes into your suitcase. And check out our list of great urban running trails for more inspiration.

See where to run on your next trip >

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Lakefront Trail, Chicago

Chicago is a city with an awesome and towering skyline—and this 18.5-mile path along the shore of Lake Michigan gives you ample opportunities to appreciate it. Start at the Navy Pier, then turn south along the paved lakeside trail. You’ll pass Buckingham Fountain, the Shedd Aquarium and Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears.

When you turn around for the return trip, you’ll be treated to a fabulous view of the city’s skyscrapers, including the Aon Center, the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower (currently the tallest building in the United States). The trail north of the Navy Pier will lead you to Oak Street Beach, a good place to rest after your run.

Lakefront Trail



Charles River Bike Path, Boston

Boston’s most cherished running route, this 17.1-mile path lines both sides of the Charles River in Boston’s Back Bay and Cambridge.

A favorite four-mile stretch starts at the Esplanade (a historic park that’s home to the Boston Pops’ Fourth of July concert and fireworks extravaganza), then heads west to cross the Charles at the Mass Avenue Bridge. Turning east then brings you to the Museum of Science, and across the river once again to return to the Esplanade.

In spring and fall, you’ll likely see the Harvard and MIT crew teams sculling in the river; but even in the middle of a winter snowstorm, you’ll be sure to see other joggers (since the city hosts the world-class Boston Marathon, it takes its running very seriously).

Charles River Bike Path



Central Park Reservoir and Outer Loop, New York City

Manhattan’s urban oasis offers two great options for runners to choose from. Those looking for a short, scenic jaunt (or a warm-up) can start at either of the park’s 86th Street entrances and run the 1.5-mile dirt track around the reservoir (the scenery here is especially lovely in early spring, when the surrounding magnolia trees are in bloom).

For a more strenuous workout, there’s also a six-mile Outer Loop that leads through the entirety of the park—a highlight of which is the sight of the city skyline rising above the wide lawn of Sheep Meadow.

Central Park Resevoir and Outer Loop



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The 10 Most Intriguing Health Findings Of 2012

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boy girl happy smiling joy

Entrepreneurs are more stressed, but happier than other workers. People who like their home cities report better health. Republicans are bummed about President Barack Obama's reelection. Middle-age puts you at the biggest risk of being fat.

Those findings are among the Gallup polling agency's top insights about health and happiness in America in 2012.

As part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, tens of thousands of Americans are surveyed every year about all aspects of their lives, from their financial security and health habits to their emotional state and overall satisfaction with life. Here are 10 findings from these polls that Gallup's editors say intrigued them the most this year:

1. Stressed entrepreneurs are happier and healthier than other workers

Entrepreneurs experience more worry and stress than other workers, but they also report more positive experiences on the job, Gallup found in 2012. In particular, entrepreneurs are more optimistic and more likely to report that they learned something new or felt enjoyment in the past workday.

And being your own boss comes with a health edge, too. Entrepreneurs are less likely to have chronic diagnoses, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. They also are much less likely to be obese than other workers (19 percent vs. 25 percent), Gallup found. [7 Things That Will Make You Happy]

2. Fewer young adults go without health insurance

After a provision in the Affordable Care Act allowed children to stay on their parents' health plans until age 26, a growing number of young Americans have reported having health coverage. Since that rule went into effect in 2010, the number of uninsured 18- to 25-year-olds without insurance dropped by 3.8 percentage points to 24.2 percent in 2011. In 2012 that figure shrank to 23.4 percent, according to the polling group.

At the same time, the percentage of uninsured 26- to 64-year-olds is still trending higher — standing at 19.4 percent in the third quarter of 2012, up from 15 percent in January 2008, when Gallup first started tracking Americans' health insurance coverage.

3. Liking where you live could be good for your health

This year, Gallup found that people who say they are satisfied with their community are less likely to report physical pain,obesity, headaches or a diagnosis of asthma or high cholesterol than those who aren't satisfied. People who like their home cities scored an average of 78 on Gallup's physical health index, compared with an average score of 69.1 for those who don't like where they live.

It might be that location can determine access to healthy food and opportunities for exercise. For example, people who said their community offered a safe place to exercise scored a full 16 points healthier on the physical health index than people who said they didn't have a safe place to work out, Gallup found. And people who felt safe walking alone at night scored 9 points higher on the same health scale compared to those who didn't.

4. Republicans life ratings drop in good year for Democrats

Democrats' outlook on life generally improved in 2012, while Republicans' life ratings declined — and at no point in the year did their attitudes diverge as much as they did in November. In the month that President Obama clinched his reelection, Republicans' score on the collective life evaluation index (which measures optimism regarding current life and anticipated future life situations) dropped to 40.3 from 47.0 in October, Gallup found. Democrats, meanwhile, became slightly more upbeat, with their score on the same scale climbing to 56.9 from 53.7 in October.

5. Middle-age could make you fat

For Americans, being middle-aged is the highest risk factor for being overweight, and this holds true even when controlling for ethnicity, race, marital status, gender, employment, income, education and region, according to Gallup. Being black is the second biggest risk factor for a high Body Mass Index (BMI), a measurement used to gauge how much fat a person is carrying around. [8 Reasons Our Waistlines Are Expanding]

6. Doctors seem to be practice what they preach

U.S. doctors have better health habits than other working adults, according to Gallup. Doctors are less likely to smoke, less likely to be obese, and more likely to say they exercised three or more days a week, compared with nurses and other employed adults as a whole, the polling group found this year.

Their better health is in part explained by their education — more highly educated Americans in general have better health habits. Nevertheless, the finding still suggests that physicians are setting a good example for their patients.

7. Putting strengths to work boosts well-being

Workers are more likely to be engaged in their work and to report lower levels of stress when they use their strengths at work, according to Gallup. But many American employees feel like their talents are being wasted — 21 percent say they use their strengths for just three hours or fewer per day and they're more likely to report experiencing worry, stress, anger and sadness.

But these emotional burdens start vanishing when talents get put to use, Gallup found. Americans who say they use their strengths for 10 hours or more per day (about one in four do) report more happiness and energy and say they feel better-rested.

8. Stay-at-home moms are at risk of depression

Compared with employed moms, stay-at-home moms were more likely to tell Gallup pollsters that they experienced a lot of sadness and anger during the previous day. Women who don't have jobs for pay but stay at home with young children also are more likely to report having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives, while employed moms are about emotionally well-off as working women who don't have kids at home, Gallup officials said. These trends held true across age and income groups.

9. Warmest year coincides with more exercise

For the United States, 2012 is expected to rank as the warmest year ever on record. At the same time, Americans this year reported exercising more than ever. In each month this year (except for April), more Americans said they worked out on three or more days per week than did so in the same month for each of the past four years, Gallup found.

There's no evidence that the high temperatures and exercise uptick are directly linked. However, Americans' seasonal workout habits suggest it's not a coincidence. Americans tend to work out more in the spring and summer than the spring and fall, hinting that weather plays a big role in the likelihood of exercise.

10. Disengaged employees are more likely to come down with a case of the Mondays

Heading back to work after the weekend is easy for employees who like their jobs, but it's a much more jarring transition for those who don't. Gallup found that employees who are disengaged at work experience a significant slump in mood when going from weekends to weekdays. In another finding, actively engaged workers who are enthusiastic about their work are unfazed by long commute times, which otherwise can be a drag on happiness.

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What It's Like To Run The Best New Hotel Of 2012, The SLS South Beach

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sls south beach pool

SLS Hotels opened its fourth property in South Beach to much fanfare in June, and the hotel quickly became a hotspot on the Miami party circuit.

Now, the Philippe Starck-designed property in the heart of Collins Avenue's art deco district has been named the best hotel opening of 2012 by Condé Nast Traveler Network blog HotelChatter, thanks to its stylish and well-equipped rooms  each comes with a complimentary iPad, and suites were designed by Lenny Kravitz  and gorgeous public spaces and restaurants.

They include eateries from culinary giants José Andrés and Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi and the latest iteration of Hyde Lounge, SLS's nightlife brand.

The 140-room SLS Miami Beach also made a splash during this year's Art Basel Miami Beach, hosting several major VIP events.

Presiding over the property is general manager Albert Mertz, who oversees a staff of 500 and makes sure everything from the poolside fare to the concierge service is up to snuff. Earlier this year, he gave Business Insider an inside look at his typical day so we could see what it's like to run one of the hottest hotels in Miami.

General Manager Albert Mertz arrives at the SLS at 7am every morning. Before arriving he's already spent an hour checking email.



Here he is greeting the lobby staff. 520 people are employed by the hotel, one of four SLS properties.



There's also a daily check-in with the concierge, to keep tabs on house VIPs.



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32 Scientifically-Proven Ways To Quickly And Easily Improve Your Life

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Here's a collection of posts that tell you "how to" improve something in your life -- generally in a quick and easy fashion. (None of us seem too keen on difficult things that take a long time.)

They're almost all based on science, not just some random guy on the internet's opinion.

Enjoy.

To resist temptation, exaggerate the threat

Your ability to resist that tempting cookie depends on how a big a threat you perceive it to be, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Authors Ying Zhang, Szu-Chi Huang and Susan M. Broniarczyk (all University of Texas at Austin) studied techniques that enable us resist food and other temptations. "Four experiments show that when consumers encounter temptations that conflict with their long-term goals, one self-control mechanism is to exaggerate the negativity of the temptation as a way to resist, a process we call counteractive construal," the researchers write.

For example, in one study, female participants were asked to estimate the calories in a cookie. Half the participants were told that they have the option of receiving the cookie as a complimentary gift for participation and half were not. The results showed that consumers with a strong dieting goal construed the cookie as having more calories and being more damaging to the attainment of their long-term goal of losing weight.

Another study demonstrated that counteractive construal is helpful in situations that involve a self-control conflict. In a study of 93 college students, the researchers found that students with a high grade-point average were more likely than other participants to estimate an upcoming party to last longer and take more time away from studying. Those students consequently reported lower intent to attend the party, but only when their academic goal was made salient.

The authors also found that environmental stimuli such as posters could subtly activate people's long-term diet goals and lead them to engage in counteractive construal. In one study, female participants entered a room that either had posters depicting fit models or nature scenery. "Participants who were exposed to posters depicting fit models (goal-priming stimuli) were more likely to exaggerate the calories in a tempting drink that they expected to consume later on, and consequently consumed less when offered the drink," the authors write.

"The mental construal of temptations may be distorted when people experience a self-control conflict, and such distorted construal, rather than accurate representations, determines consumers' actual consumption, helping them resist the temptation and maintaining their long-term goal," the authors conclude.

From Eric Barker's Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Follow him on Twitter.


To make yourself happy, think about the absence of a positive event

The authors hypothesized that thinking about the absence of a positive event from one's life would improve affective states more than thinking about the presence of a positive event but that people would not predict this when making affective forecasts. In Studies 1 and 2, college students wrote about the ways in which a positive event might never have happened and was surprising or how it became part of their life and was unsurprising. As predicted, people in the former condition reported more positive affective states. In Study 3, college student forecasters failed to anticipate this effect. In Study 4, Internet respondents and university staff members who wrote about how they might never have met their romantic partner were more satisfied with their relationship than were those who wrote about how they did meet their partner. The authors discuss the implications of these findings for the literatures on gratitude induction and counterfactual reasoning.

Source: "It's a wonderful life: Mentally subtracting positive events improves people's affective states, contrary to their affective forecasts." from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

From Eric Barker's Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Follow him on Twitter.



To seem more credible when complaining, get angry

You've gotta get emotional. Smiling can help. And if it's not a highly justified complaint, you'll look more credible by getting ANGRY:

Emotion displays do not only signal emotions but also have social signal value. A study was conducted to test the hypothesis that expressing anger when complaining may lead to positive outcomes for the complainant because anger signals goal obstruction and hence the presence of real harm. The results suggest that the social signal value of anger enhances the credibility of the complainant and hence leads to better compensation, but only when the complaint itself presents room for doubt. For highly justified complaints the additional expression of anger does not add information and is discounted. In contrast, showing an affiliative-smiling demeanor was found to enhance credibility for both types of complaints. Overall, the present research confirmed the important role of emotion expressions as social signals. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Source: "When scowling may be a good thing: The influence of anger expressions on credibility" European Journal of Social Psychology Volume 39 Issue 4, Pages 631 - 638

From Eric Barker's Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Follow him on Twitter.



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This Entrepreneur Brilliantly Solved One Of Men's Biggest Clothing Complaints

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tom patterson tommy john

Five years ago, Tom Patterson was faced with a common irritation while driving to his sales job.

"My undershirt was riding up, just like it always did," Patterson, 33, told us. "The result was a 'fabric gut,' where the undershirt would create a bulge just above my belt."

I thought "I wonder if there's a better undershirt out there?"

Patterson went to department stores and found that every shirt he tried on left him with the same fabric bulge. One he wore the shirts a few times, they began to yellow and wear down.

Patterson began going to the garment district in Los Angeles and researching fabrics. He ended up buying micro modal, a soft fabric that's sleeker than cotton but still absorbs moisture.

Then, Patterson went to dry-cleaner with a sketch of his new design, $100 and an armful of fabric.

"The tailor's reaction was: 'why would you waste such beautiful fabric on an undershirt?'" Patterson said. "But he took the money and got to work."

The result was a sleek shirt that is longer than most undershirts and tapers at the bottom. The shirt fits snugly below the waist and doesn't ride up.

Patterson loved the product so he made about 15 more shirts and passed them on to friends. Once they gave him the green light, he moved to San Diego with his girlfriend and found a manufacturer.

Three years after he started selling undershirts, Patterson's Tommy John label is carried in 500 stores nationwide, including Nordstrom. He's expanded product offerings to include underwear.

"I would have never imagined I'd be in this business," Patterson, who runs his business from New York with his wife, said. "But it just started with wanting to know if there was a better way."

Here's a photo of one of his $38 undershirts contrasted with a Jockey brand one: 

tommy john vs jockey

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7 Retro Home Design Features That Are Cool Again

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houzz

It's true that everything rolls around again.

I sometimes wore my mother's old poodle skirts when I was in high school and, well, we've all seen the Flashdance look on today's middle schoolers.

Click here to see what's back in style >

There are some things that become symbols of an era's misguided choices, a shorthand for bad style. Avocado appliances immediately bring to mind '70s suburbia. And not in a good way.

But even those things that end up as the butt of jokes about decor delusions can make a comeback. And even things you were happy to see go (forever, you thought) can have a rebirth that makes them beautiful. In the '80s Eichlers were considered cheap and boxy. Now they are vintage treasures selling for millions.

Here are seven design throwbacks that have made a triumphant return.

Click here to see what's back in style >

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Shag Rugs

You might not go wall to wall in green shag anymore, but a long-fiber shag is definitely in. This grass-green area rug is a stylish nod to the abomination of the '70s.

Pictured: A beautifully textured neutral shag is warm, stylish and modern in this room. No Brady Bunch here.



Wood Paneling

Not too long ago wood paneling was an automatic rip-down. It was dark and dated and screamed "1970s rec room." Not so fast. Wood-paneled accent walls are back. But this time they are lighter, often horizontal and real.



Rotary Phones

What was once an obsolete piece of technology is now a retro design statement.

Pictured: The old-fashioned kitchen-wall rotary phone looks charming and vintage in this eclectic white room.



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