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Verge favorites: Matt Stroud

Verge favorites: Matt Stroud

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Verge staffers aren't just people who love technology. They're people who love stuff. We spend as much time talking and thinking about our favorite books, music, and movies as we do debating the best smartphone to buy or what point-and-shoot has the tightest macro. We thought it would make sense to share our latest obsessions with Verge readers, and we hope you're encouraged to share your favorites with us. Thus a long, healthy debate will ensue where we all end up with new things to read, listen to, or try on.

The Paper Chase, 'Now You Are One Of Us'


The cover art for Now You Are One Of Us is a black-and-white photo of a man’s body hanging from the ceiling (or maybe levitating off the floor) of a white-walled room. Pretty morbid. But if you flip it over, the song titles are these hilariously paranoid phrases that seem to satirize every notion you’ve ever had about a dreary, dark band obsessed with death and fear. The first track is, "It’s Out There And It’s Gonna Get You." Second is, "We Know Where You Sleep." Track three is, "The Kids Will Grow Up To Be Assholes." The lyrics move in a similar direction. One of the repeated themes is "a bearhug from your armless brother." Pitchfork described track six as sounding like "‘Eleanor Rigby’ sung by Charles Manson." I probably would’ve bought this album just for the song titles, even if the music sucked. But fortunately the music is incredible — both discordantly orchestral and guitar-laden, with occasionally beautiful tones intermingling with a monstrously heavy rhythm section. Plus, because the man behind the band is best known for his work as a sound engineer, the entire thing sounds seamless and immense on just about any stereo. The MP3s are on my iPod at all times.

Olympus TP-8


In person, it’s easy enough to record a conversation. But over the phone it can get tricky. Some reporters deal with this by having conversations over speakerphone or talking with people over Skype. Instead, I and many others prefer to use the Olympus TP-8. It’s a microphone that goes into your ear while you’re having a phone conversation. It’s got an eighth-inch jack that plugs into any recording device and the sound quality is unbelievably good; the TP-8 picks up even the slightest inflections in both the interviewer’s and interviewee’s voices. It’s a little expensive ($17.50 per unit on Amazon) and a little flimsy (the cord is thin and tends to fray so I order a few at a time) but I nonetheless consider it one of the most important tools I use day-to-day.

Print subscription to 'Car & Driver'


Car & Driver expertly turns complex engineering topics into fun and often laugh-out-loud funny stories to read. It’s done this since 1955, when it was called Sports Car Illustrated. While a lot of C&D’s tests these days are for ludicrously expensive automotive toys that almost no one can afford, there are still practical reviews of subcompact cars, the always useful "10 Best" list, and playful stuff like "The 10 Most Unusual Engines Of All Time" or "Hunting Adventure in a $340,000 Critter Gitter." If I’m looking to geek out on something that doesn’t involve my phone or my laptop, C&D’s my choice. And since I can get an annual subscription for $10, I don’t see that changing for a while.



Searching criminal records tends to be a uniquely convoluted pain in the ass everywhere you go. But searching for lawsuits is easy if you use PACER — "Public Access to Court Electronic Records." With PACER, you can search for pretty much any person or company, and find court documents in easy-to-read PDF form that are connected to any federal lawsuit in the United States filed in the last decade or so. It’s unimaginable the kinds of hidden information one can find here. The one bad thing about PACER, however, is that it’s not free. Documents are typically $0.10 cents per page. And when you have hundreds of pages of documents in most cases, that can add up quickly. That’s why people like Aaron Swartz attempted to liberate these documents, and groups behind extensions such as RECAP are attempting to "build a free and open repository of public court records." But until a public repository is complete, PACER is still the way to go.

A bicycle with gears and brakes


I ride a 2009 Surly Crosscheck with a modified front fork that can carry cargo if called upon to do so (the Crosscheck is a cyclocross design; my fork is from Surly’s Long Haul Trucker touring bike). But when I’m traveling in a city away from my personal bicycle, I’m not picky. I’ll ride any bike. Two wheels, whether attached to a motor or not, is my preferred mode of transportation. My only additional preference is that the bike should have gears and brakes. I live in Pittsburgh, where riding a bike tends to involve constant elevation changes, so singlespeed bikes tend to make me ache whenever I look at them. And riding a bike without brakes just seems irresponsible. But maybe that’s because I’m over 30.

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