What it's like to take a 36-hour sleeper train from LA to Seattle

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, which it bills as “A Grand West Coast Train Adventure,” is its last remaining full-service sleeper train. The Coast Starlight is home to what would have previously been standard: a dining car, an observation car with floor-to ceiling windows, a movie theater, and a full slate of entertainment options, including the two complimentary wine tastings. Nicole Dieker takes the trip.

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Japanese arcade recreates gritty walled city of Kowloon


Kawasaki's Warehouse arcade, near Yokohama, is a fantastically detailed, gritty recreation of the old walled city of Kowloon, near Hong Kong. The Tokyo Times photos depict a place that's like a fevered Gibson dream, and note that there's an accompanying, spooky soundscape. This is going on my must-see list for our next Japan trip.

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Exaggeration postcards: sight-gags-by-mail

Retronaut rounds up a series of "exaggeration postcards" from 1907-1967, representing a golden era of visual-comedy-by-mail. Hard to characterize the Texas Jackalope card as an "exaggeration," though -- it's more of an out-and-out lie (albeit a beautiful one).

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How to request your US Border file (and what you're likely to get)


Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the United States Customs and Border Protection agency for his own travel records, including the notoriously comprehensive "Passenger Name Record" -- what he got was '72 pages of shit,' a redacted jumble of arbitrarily collected and retained nonsense. He didn't get his PNR. If you want to give it a try, he's signposted the procedure.

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Singapore's Changi airport is pretty awesome


Bren, a self-confessed "noodle fanatic," has written a guide to the delights of Singapore's Changi airport, which he calls "Disneyland for backpackers." It is certainly a nice airport, the best airport ever built on the site of a notorious death-camp, but Bren misses its best feature: the outdoor rooftop pool. I always try make Singapore my stopover when I fly to Australia, and do an hour's worth of nighttime lengths in the pool before re-boarding. I like his play on William Gibson's classic moniker for S'pore, too: Disneyland With the Death Penalty."

Changi really does rock: butterfly gardens, cheap amazing food, great electronics, cheap massage, free Playstations, and free movie-theaters!

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How to find a cheap hotel room

Which online service offers the best deals for hotel rooms: Expedia, Hotels.com, TravelPony Booking, Hotwire, or Priceline? Nomadic Matt has the answer!

Orikaso: folding, cheap, amazing polypropylene flat-pack dinnerware



Orikaso is a line of super-cheap, incredibly durable, brilliantly conceived flat-pack plates, cups and bowls, created by Jay Cousins (here's his blog). They're made out of super-durable, long-lived, environmentally sound polypropylene. Folding them takes bare seconds, and once folded, they stay folded and are perfectly water-tight. They unfold in seconds, and are (theoretically -- I haven't tested this) top-shelf dishwasher safe. My favorite piece is the cup, which has lots of grace-notes, like metric volume measurements on both side and imperial on the other, and a handle that's so clever I actually giggled the first time I used it. The whole thing is basically a magic-trick.

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Vietnamese swimmers ferry passengers across flooded rivers in plastic bags

When remote areas of Vietnam are flooded out, entrepreneurial swimmers set up informal ferries in which passengers climb into sturdy plastic bags and are then swum across the river against the current. The Vietnamese explanation accompanying the video is beyond Google Translate, but I'd love it if anyone out there could help flesh this out, because it's pretty amazing. (via Kottke)

Crowdfunding Without People: a photobook of deserted places

Marko Rakar writes, "Croatian journalist and editor Oleg Mastruko visited more than 47 countries in the past 10 years and made a number of postapocalyptic pictures in deserted places. Pictures include abandoned airforce bases, Cairo's City of the Dead, old military factories, a Nevada ghost town, were markedly void of people, 'a vision of failed civilization,' as Mastruko describes it. Oleg is currently running a campaign at Indiegogo in order to fund a picture book called 'Without people.'

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Now: XKCD helps you visualize the time of day all over the world


In Now, the latest XKCD cartoon, Randall Munroe provides a handy, continuously updated way to visualize the current time all over the world. I happen to know that Munroe is an inveterate long-distance driver who likes to pass the hours on the road by calling friends; I imagine that a wheel like this would be handy for helping him figure out which continent he should be searching for in his address-book in order to find conversational partners at any hour of day.

XKCD: Now

Reporters document Sochi's Potemkin hotels

As journalists descend on Sochi for the most corrupt Olympics in history, they're discovering the region's Potemkin hospitality industry. The hotels that were meant to billet them while they reported on the games are half-built, unbuilt, falling to bits: but at least they've had their portraits of Vladimir Putin installed. Slave labor just isn't what it used to be.

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Torpedo charger: light saber-y cigarette-lighter USB charger with its own battery

The Brunton Torpedo charger is a light-saberoid* cigarette-lighter USB charger with an integrated battery. Use it to charge up to two devices in your car, then take it with when you go and it supplies 2800mHa of power (enough for two phone recharges) on its own. Sounds like a great travel-bag item, perfect for rental cars: charge your phone while you navigate with it in a strange town, then pocket the charger and use it to recharge halfway through the day.

Brunton Torpedo 2800 2x Charger

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Shanghai hotel provides smog-masks for guests


Redditor Mthomaseddy snapped this photo of the elegantly packaged "gas mask" (apparently an air-filter mask, not something to be used in gas-attacks) that was waiting in his room at the Shanghai Fairmont when he checked in. China's pretty damned smoggy these days.

Shanghai hotels know how to pamper you (via Super Punch)

Drawstring travel-pouch that opens to lay flat


The Lay-N-Go Traveler is a water-repellent polyester drawstring bag that opens out to lay flat, making it ideal for carrying small, fiddly travel-stuff that you're forever losing in the dark corners of your pouches and sacks. It's got a pocket for tucking in the drawstring, and it locks in place with a fastener when it's closed. 20" in diameter, $30.

Lay-N-Go Traveler (via Lifehacker)

Glitter nail-polish is the best tamper-evident seal


At a talk at the 30C3 in Hamburg, Ryan Lackey proposed an ingenious solution to detecting tampering with your computer, phone or tablet: paint the seams and screw-tops with glitter nail-polish and snap a photo of the random pattern formed by the glitter after it dries.

Security-conscious travelers have long used tamper-evident seals over their devices' screws and seams, but as Lackey points out, those seals are easy for spies, customs officials and other snoops to reproduce, especially if they can work in private (as happens when your laptop is taken away for a border inspection). But reproducing the random pattern of glitter polish is substantially more expensive that replicating a security seal -- it also takes longer, and there are no set procedures for doing so.

Lackey also recommends using stickers as an alternative seal; it's unlikely that a spy agency or a customs official has access to your favorite vintage Wacky Package sticker.

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