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10 Cool College Landmarks

Iowa State's distinguishing landmark is the campanile. Just thought I'd work that in there. I'd introduce you guys to Andréa, but you already know her as the author of the "Feel Art Again" posts here on mental_floss. A quick recap, though: Andréa attends Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and is our resident art historian. -Stacy Conradt

10 Cool College Landmarks
by Andréa Fernandes

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Each college needs something to make them stand out, whether it's a famous grad, a spook legend, or an awesome architectural wonder. After searching far and wide for cool college buildings, I'm beginning to wonder if I made the right college decision after all... Oh, who am I kidding, I love my school.

Anyway, I now present to you, in no particular order, 10 college landmarks that just might inspire you to go back to college.

1. Stata Center

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MIT's three-year-old Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences Center contains research facilities, classrooms, an auditorium, fitness facilities, a childcare center, and even "social areas" along an "interior student street." Designed by Frank Gehry and highly praised for its unique design, the building has not been without problems. Evidently, MIT has paid $1.5 million to fix problems that include cracks, drainage backups, and mold; the school is now suing Gehry for neglect, including the construction company as well.

2. Nott Memorial

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The centerpiece of Union College, in upstate New York, is the 16-sided memorial to the school's 1804-1866 president, Eliphalet Nott, whose tenure is the longest of any American college president. Over 130 years old, the building is a National Historic Landmark and houses the Mandeville Gallery for art, science, and history exhibitions.

3. Sun Yat-Sen Hall

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At St. John's University in Queens, NY, the Institute of Asian Studies is housed in Sun Yat-Sen Hall. Concerns arose at the school in fall 2006, when rumors surfaced that the treasured building would be demolished and replaced with new offices and a cafeteria. Thankfully, the pagoda was merely up for a renovation. The Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery is also located in the building; display items in the gallery are about 50 percent Chinese, 50 percent Japanese, and include a samurai sword.

4. Grey Towers Castle

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Arcadia University's trademark castle is 110 years old and is home to the Mirror Room (the ballroom of years past), a Grand Hall (with a carved wood staircase), student residences, and, of course, gargoyles. The castle, which was designed by Horace Trumbauer, was inspired by Alnick Castle in England. If you're ever in the Philadelphia area in October, you can stop in for the school's annual Haunted Castle event.

5. Student Center

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Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) only acquired its student center four years ago. The building, now almost 100-years-old, was originally the Congregation B'nai B'rith Synagogue and has also housed St. Andrew's Independent Episcopal Church. Featuring balconies, carved wooden pillars, Moorish-style domes, and stained glass, the student center now houses a café, a SCAD-designed bench, workstations, and Napping Pods.

6. Cadet Chapel

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The United States Air Force Academy's 150-feet chapel actually houses three chapels—Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish—as well as two worship rooms for people of any faith. Walter Netsch, Jr.'s creation is made of aluminum, glass, and steel with 17 spires, though apparently, "There is no significance to this number."

7. Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium:

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The auditorium at Arizona State University was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's last works. Built in 1964, the auditorium was designed by Wright to be "as acoustically perfect as possible." Apparently, Wright played a joke on the school (supposedly for turning down his original idea): from overhead, Gammage looks like a toilet. (Check it out on Google Maps if you don't believe me.)

8. Library/ETC

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At Evergreen Valley College, a community college in California, the combined library and educational technology center contains 21st-century resources in an environment that provides an "indoor/outdoor feel." The building, which has no specific back, contains "branches" that support the elevated ceiling in the reading room. The many windows let in ample natural light for a comfortable reading atmosphere. Designed by Steinberg Architects, the building received an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects' chapter in Santa Clara Valley.

9. Memorial Church

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The chapel at Stanford is decorated with mosaics with tiles in over 20,000 shades of color. Known as "MemChu," the chapel has been the wedding site for 7,500 couples in the last 105 years. The chapel contains four organs and the university organist has been known to treat early morning visitors to impromptu concerts.

And finally, one that was just to good not to include, even if it's not in the States...

10. School of Drama

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In Melbourne, Australia, Victorian College of the Arts' School of Drama is a whimsical building that houses class, lecture, and performance spaces. A performance was held inside before the building was even completed! Designed by the architectural firm CS+T, the school "features random balconies with perforated metal balustrades, curved and skewed walls in an array of contrasting colours and a series of non-rectilinear windows." The drawbacks to a building this cool are the potential safety and access problems; fortunately, these were dealt with "very successfully."

I know there's no way I found all the cool college architecture, so tell me:
What's the coolest or most unique college building you've ever seen?

Check out the rest of our College Weekend festivities.

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Yes, You Can Put Your Christmas Decorations Up Now—and Should, According to Psychologists
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We all know at least one of those people who's already placing an angel on top of his or her Christmas tree while everyone else on the block still has paper ghosts stuck to their windows and a rotting pumpkin on the stoop. Maybe it’s your neighbor; maybe it’s you. Jolliness aside, these early decorators tend to get a bad rap. For some people, the holidays provide more stress than splendor, so the sight of that first plastic reindeer on a neighbor's roof isn't exactly a welcome one.

But according to two psychoanalysts, these eager decorators aren’t eccentric—they’re simply happier. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told UNILAD:

“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!”

Amy Morin, another psychoanalyst, linked Christmas decorations with the pleasures of childhood, telling the site: “The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods.”

She also explained that these nostalgic memories can help remind people of spending the holidays with loved ones who have since passed away. As Morin remarked, “Decorating early may help them feel more connected with that individual.”

And that neighbor of yours who has already been decorated since Halloween? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, homes that have been warmly decorated for the holidays make the residents appear more “friendly and cohesive” compared to non-decorated homes when observed by strangers. Basically, a little wreath can go a long way.

So if you want to hang those stockings before you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead. You might just find yourself happier for it.

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11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal
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Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).

1. FURNITURE

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Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.

2. TOOLS

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Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.

3. BEDDING AND LINENS

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Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.

4. HOLIDAY DÉCOR

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If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.

5. TOYS

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Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.

6. ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND JEWELRY

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Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.

7. PLANE TICKETS AND TRAVEL PACKAGES

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While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.

8. FOOD AND SNACK BASKETS

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Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.

9. WINTER CLOTHING

Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.

10. SMARTPHONES

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While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.

11. KITCHEN GADGETS

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Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).

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