The Passport Index: a beautiful guide to the passports of the world

The Passport Index features beautiful high-resolution images of the covers of all the world's passports, with interactive features ranking passports by how much visa-free travel they entitle their bearers to, and the ability to assemble grids of the places your passport(s) permit entry to. (via Dark Roasted Blend) Read the rest

Howler Monkeys are coming for your soul

Beautiful beaches. Lush jungles that thrive in volcanic soil. Friendly people and amazing local cuisine. You can keep 'em all. One of the things I enjoyed most about my last trip to Costa Rica were the calls of local howler monkeys. It didn't matter that I knew what was making their horrific calls. Hearing their low, simmering rage-filled grunts and screams never failed to make the lizard bits of my brain insist that my face was about to be eaten and that I would soon be dead.

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Surfer hotel in a modded truck

The Truck Surf Hotel is a modded Mercedes Actros outfitted with a hydraulically-expanding two-story inn. Inside is a living room, kitchen, four double rooms with bunk bed, one double room with a single larger bed, bathroom, and shower. Over the course of a week vacation package, the hotel travels to surf destinations in Portugal and Morocco. The trip is around $700-$900 depending on the destination and season; airfare not included.

Truck Surf Hotel (via Uncrate)

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BBC journalist has earwax cleaned out by hungry jungle grub

Will Millard visited the jungles of West Papua to hang out with the Korowai, a local group of hunters and gatherers late to the uncertain benefits of modernity. They reportedly use small grubs to clean their ears, and in this video Tribesman Markus offers him a hungry one.

In filming its new documentary, the BBC learned that earlier ones about the Korowai (including one of its own) contained fabricated elements.

Also:

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What airplane cabin depressurization looks like

I was expecting to see an explosive worst-case scenario, a can-opener at 30,000 feet. But this simulation of a less explosive leak has a nightmare quality all of its own. Read the rest

These standing airplane "seats" may be tomorrow's economy class

Following other proposals for standing "seats" on airplanes (link and link), the Skyrider 2.0 saddle seat "is the new frontier of low-cost tickets,” according to Italian company Aviointeriors. Rather than pitch the Skyrider as an inexpensive option for fliers, I think they'd do better positioning it as a healthy luxury like standing desks. From the Boston Globe:

For airlines that have been trying to shed weight and save on fuel costs by introducing thinner seats and eliminating seatback screens, the Skyrider 2.0 makes perfect sense. According to Aviointeriors, the design allows a 20 percent increase in passengers per flight. It also weighs 50 percent less than a standard economy seat, lowering the fuel cost per passenger...

The reduced legroom brings the seat pitch (the distance between one seat and the next in front) down to 23 inches. By way of comparison, the seats on low-cost, low-rated Spirit have a seat pitch of 28 inches.

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Airbus is making bunk beds in jet cargo holds

European jet manufacturer Airbus is going to add bed modules to the cargo hold of its Airbus A330 widebody jet starting in 2020. I'm getting sleepy just looking at the photo on Bloomberg.

Under Airbus’s plan, the sleeping berths would be installed as modules that could be quickly replaced with regular cargo fittings during an aircraft’s typical airport turnaround. Holds have in the past been designed as cabin crew rest areas and for ablutions.

Airlines will be able to retrofit old planes with the modules or build them into aircraft coming off the production line, according to the manufacturer. Airbus is also studying the possibility of offering similar sleeper compartments on its A350 airliner.

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Finding a "secret" Chinese restaurant in Madrid

The folks at Great Big Story went to Madrid to find a hidden Chinese restaurant known as "The Underground."

Underneath a plaza in Madrid lies one of Spain’s greatest culinary secrets. Cafetería Yulong Zhou is home to some of the best Chinese food in the country. Getting there, however is another story. With no exact address or email, trying to find the restaurant takes some expert sleuthing. With the help of a friend and a hint, we embarked on the journey. Spoiler alert: the dumplings made the trek totally worth it.

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Your passports are full of tech

In close to a decade of work as a full-time journalist, I can't recall a single instance where I referenced my work for one outlet at another. There's a few reasons for this.

First, outside of an occasional mention of something I've written on Twitter, self promotion's always felt awkward and kind of gross to me.  When I'm not online, I live a quiet, nomadic life. I don't like a ton of bother and my Imposter Syndrome assures me that I'm not worth it. Second, the moment my work's approved by an editor for publication, I cease to consider it mine. As a freelancer, I'm employed on a pay-for-work basis.  I don't own the words I write for Macworld or USA Today. They do. I take pride in the work I do, but most of the companies I work for have talented social media specialists that do a better job at getting the word out about something that I penned than I ever could. So, I leave it to them.

That said, I wrote something that I thought was much more interesting than the work I typically get asked for by joints aside from Boing Boing. So, here I am, sharing it with you.

Earlier this month, I interviewed officials from the Department of State and an ethical hacker for AFAR Magazine to get the skinny on what the hell's actually on a passport's RFID chip, who can read it and whether it's being read is anything we need to be worried about. Read the rest

How to get food in Japan without knowing how to speak Japanese

This is a fun video introduction to feeding yourself in Japan, even if you don't know Japanese. Really, it's pretty easy to get food in Japan if you're a foreigner, but this video shows you different options, from konbini (convenience stores, which are much better than the ones in the US), to chain restaurants (again, usually tastier than US chains), to shopping mall food courts (beautiful and mind bending), and actual non-chain eateries. Read the rest

DoNotPay bot launches a cheap airline ticket that automates the nearly impossible business of getting refunds when prices fall

The DoNotPay bot (previously) is a versatile consumer advocacy chatbot created by UK-born Stanford computer science undergrad Joshua Browder, with its origins in a bot to beat malformed and improper traffic tickets, helping its users step through the process of finding ways to invalidate the tickets and saving its users millions in the process. Read the rest

Learn to speak like a New York City subway conductor

As anyone who travels frequently by bus, plane or train can tell you, important service announcements are best when they're utterly incomprehensible: being able to hear and understand that your gate has changed or that you left your phone at a security checkpoint denies people of that rush of adrenaline and feeling of vitriol that makes getting from point A to B such a rewarding experience.

If you've ever wondered how the men and women behind the microphone are able to ensure that no one EVER has a clue of what in the hell they're saying, you'll want to head on over to Paste Magazine – they've got the goods on how New York City subway conductors warm up their voices before going on shift. It's all useful stuff. Knowing this one handy hint alone could help speed you on your way to a new career in the transportation industry:

When used correctly, your tongue can make any vital service change announcement sound like it’s dialogue in a movie where an explosion just happened and everyone’s ears are ringing. As a warm up exercise, try to keep your tongue completely still, hovering in the middle of your mouth. Now try announcing, “F trains are now running along the A line.” With your tongue motionless, you won’t be able to articulate a single consonant sound. Your passengers will have no idea what the hell is going on. Feel free to also try this exercise while holding your tongue between two of your fingers.

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Watch this guy trek across Russia's frozen Lake Baikal

Gregory Kaczor had a lifelong dream to skate across Lake Baikul, and he made this lovely documentary of his travels. It's cool how he uses chunks of ice to secure the tent, and the clarity of the ice and water below is something to behold. Read the rest

This restaurant in Spain hasn't closed its doors since 1725

Botin Restaurant in Madrid has been in operation for 293 years, a world record. The owners claim the oven hasn't once gone out. The house specialty is roast suckling pig, which is 25 euros.

Ever since the doors opened in 1725, the oven has been sizzling continuously, never to be extinguished. According to deputy manager Luis Javier Sànchez Alvarez, the oven is the crown jewel of the restaurant and the fundamental element of their most popular dish, the roast suckling pig. The recipes used today have been passed down from generation to generation, keeping the legacy of these traditional dishes alive. With the honor of being the oldest restaurant in the world, Alvarez hopes to keep the doors open for centuries to come.

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Supercut of Instagram travel photo clichés

Filmmaker Oliver KMIA was traveling in Rome where he noticed the throngs of tourists surrounding the Trevi Fountain all trying to get the same photo of themselves with the monument. "I couldn't secure a picture of the Trevi Fountain for my Instragram account but I still had a very nice time in Italy," he writes. And when he got home, he was inspired to make this video, "Instravel - A Photogenic Mass Tourism Experience."

"I'm basically making fun of something I'm part of," he writes. "The irony is strong."

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Photographer shows how similar tourist's Instagram travel images are in 'Instatravel'

Miami photographer Oliver KMIA edited together Instatravel, a "Photogenic Mass Tourism Experience" that rapid fires other people's Instagram travel images. By doing so, he shows their undeniable similarities.

He writes:

I came up with this idea last year while traveling in Roma. I wanted to take a look at the popular Trevi Fountain but I never managed to get close to it. The place was assaulted by hundreds of tourists, some of them formed a huge line to get a spot in front of the Fountain. Needless to say that I was very pissed by this sight and left for the not less crowded Pantheon.

I was shocked by the mass of people walking all around the city, yet I was one of them, not better or worst. Like all these tourists, I burned hundred of gallons of fuel to get there, rushed to visit the city in a few days and stayed in a hotel downtown. Then, I remembered a video I watched a few months earlier from the artist Hiérophante (vimeo.com/151297208). I decided to make this kind of sarcastic video but with the focus on travel and mass tourism. Hiérophante admitted that his video was "cliché" and that he got inspired by other videos. So I'm basically making fun of something I'm part of. The irony is strong.

While the era of mass world tourism and global world travel opened up in the 60s and 70s with the development of Jumbo Jets and low cost airlines, there is a new trend that consists of taking pictures everywhere you go to share it on social networks.

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The DHS has illegally stuffed America's airports full of $1B worth shitty, malfing facial-recognition tech

More than a dozen major US airports are now covered in facial-recognition cameras, installed by the DHS to scan people departing on international flights without the legally mandated federal review process. Read the rest

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