Merlin/The Wire China/Randonautica





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July 4 · Issue #260 · View online

A weekly newsletter that gives you 6 brief personal recommendations of cool stuff. For a searchable archive of past issues check out

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As an experiment, we are soliciting short video reviews of cool tools from our readers for our YouTube channel. Use your phone (horizontal mode), and film the tool, not yourself, while narrating your review in 3 minutes or less. We pay for anything we publish. If you are interested in participating, use this form.

Bird song ID
I love this fantastic phone app that identifies bird songs. Merlin does a remarkably great job identifying birds from their sounds, even when they are far away, and even when more than one bird is singing. It works all over the world but you need to load in the library for your geographical area. It’s the Shazam for birds. And it’s free for Android or iOS. — KK
One-stop China news source
I am convinced that China will make more of a difference in the coming decades than the US will, so I am eager to increase my understanding and awareness of what is happening there. To that end, I pay for The Wire China newsletter and magazine ($19/month), which is a daily feed of news about China in English. It may be more China than most readers want, but I find it a necessary counterbalance to all the US-centric stuff I otherwise get. It’s the best single source of China news, and aimed at those doing business in China. — KK
Take a random journey
My dog Pablo and I have been taking random walking journeys using the Randonautica app. Each day before our walk, I use the app to generate a point (anomalies or blind spots) within whatever radius I choose, and then google maps will direct us there. One of the tenets of randonauting is that you are testing “the theory of quantum randomization and the possibility to change a life path or shift into a new, better space and time.” To be honest, I don’t really understand how it works, but what has changed is that my walks have become more meaningful to me. Pablo is enjoying all the new plants and flowers he gets to smell, and I set an intention before all my walks and stay open for answers from the Universe. — CD
Sink Plunger
The superpower of this inexpensive Luigi sink plunger is that it can push a much greater volume of water than a toilet plunger. Use it to create a tight seal with the sink drain, press it down, and lift up with force to suck out the gunk clogging the pipe. — MF
Parchment paper tip
If you use parchment paper that comes in a roll, you might be frustrated by the way it curls up in the baking pan. Recomendo reader Michael Ham has a tip to fix this issue: “Saw your note on parchment paper. Quick tip that many do not know. You’ve probably noticed that PP does not lay down well - it keeps its form. If you want to mold it to a pan, just rinse it in water, ring it out like a towel, and it will mold to any pan and keep that form.” — MF
Favorite journaling pens
The quest for the perfect pen never ends. Right now, my favorite pens to journal with are these Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pens Bold Point in Assorted Colors ($13, 5pk). I only use them for journaling because the ink just glides out so effortlessly in such a deep, rich color that I am able to write pages and pages in cursive without ever having to lift up my pen. I alternate colors on different days and when I flip through the pages, I feel like I am looking at a garden with so many different flowers. — CD

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