Bullet trains in China/Smarty Pig/Going transparent


Recomendo: issue no. 76

Bullet trains in China
Japan has had a network of extremely high-speed bullet trains for 50 years. (The US has zero.) China now has an even more impressive network of high-speed bullet trains that cover great distances and are easy to ride. A popular route is Beijing to Shanghai in 4 hours, going 350 km/h (217 mph). Another great long trip is Beijing to Guangzhou (near Hong Kong) in 8 hours (averaging 305 km/h the whole way), which is the longest high speed route in the world, a trip I made with joy recently. Flying is faster and, depending on class, cheaper, but you get an intimate and revealing glimpse of this vast country slicing through at ground level. Booking tickets online is complicated but doable. As always, head to the Man in Seat 61 for the best advice on how to do this. — KK

Online Piggy Bank
I’ve been using Smarty Pig for years. It’s a website where you create a savings goal by specifying a date and an amount of money that you want to have saved by that time. Smarty Pig will transfer funds from your bank each month so that you meet your savings goal. I’ve used it for vacations, computers, insurance premiums, and holiday shopping. — MF

Going transparent
I really enjoyed Dave Eggers’ fictional book The Circle, but the movie is even better. This is a disturbing forecast of where always-on social media will take us. A place so transparent, it may be too clear. Much like a Black Mirror episode, but more plausible. The villain, deftly played by Tom Hanks, is likeable and relatable. I have said some of the things he says. Set in today’s Silicon Valley with perfect pitch, the story seems inevitable. If you are clicking on your phone more than 3 times a day, you should watch this. The Circle is now streaming on Amazon Prime. — KK

Find the right adjectives
In college one of my favorite tools was my Describer’s Dictionary. The Describing Words website does a decent job of doing the same thing online. It analyzes text from countless fiction and contemporary literary works and pulls out all the words used to describe nouns. Definitely worth bookmarking. — CD

Ground Beef Chopper
This OXO Good Grips Ground Meat Chopper ($12) quickly breaks up hamburger meat when making tacos or pasta sauce. Just chop away with the three fins until the ground beef is the way you like it. — MF

Get fast quotes
I take full advantage of the Request a Quote option on Yelp. Once you type out your request, Yelp gives you the option to submit the same message to similar businesses nearby. I click the max amount available (up to 10), and find that most people start responding right away! — CD

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-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 01/7/18