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Verge Favorites: Sam Byford

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The 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.

Salty Watermelon Pepsi

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Every summer in Japan, Pepsi releases a ridiculous brew that no sane person in any other country would drink, much less pay money for. Japan isn't any other country, though, and trying each bottle out has become an annual ritual for me. While previous years have featured undrinkable flavors such as azuki, baobab, and shiso, 2012's was actually pretty good: Salty Watermelon. You'd think this'd be a bad combination, but it worked as surprisingly well as the real thing, with the sweetness and saltiness accentuating each other just the right amount. It was my favorite Pepsi since Ice Cucumber — and, now that the year's nearly over, I'll never get to drink it again.

Richard Lloyd Parry — 'People Who Eat Darkness'

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The safety of Tokyo and Japan in general is one of the nicer parts of living here, but cram 35 million people into a single urban area and there's bound to be trouble somewhere. People Who Eat Darkness, written by the Times' Asia editor Richard Lloyd Parry, is about as good an account of Japan's dark side as you're likely to find. Starting off as an investigation into the 2000 murder of British hostess Lucie Blackman, it ultimately turns into a portrait of serial killer Joji Obara and an indictment of an incompetent police force blinded by complacency.

Adidas Adidrills

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One thing about living in Japan: you sure do have to take your shoes off a lot, and that's part of the reason I've taken to wearing Adidas Adidrills all over the place. They're cheap and flimsy slip-ons that look somewhere between gym pumps and actual shoes, and I kind of love them. My only regret is that, at size 13, I can only buy more when I'm out of the country.

Ricardo Villalobos — 'Dependent and Happy'

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2012 saw the return to form of Ricardo Villalobos, probably my favorite electronic music producer of all time. Villalobos had spent the last few years largely in the wilderness, releasing some good singles but never quite reaching the heights of classics such as Thé Au Harem D'Archimède or Achso. Dependent and Happy, however, is 79 minutes of exactly what he does best — snaking, claustrophobic minimal techno to give your headphones a workout. Close to a decade after his debut full-length, there's still no-one who makes drums sound like Villalobos can.

Soulver

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Soulver is one of those apps that you won't believe you ever lived without. What does it do? Basically, it lets you forget math. That might be a slight exaggeration, but for people like me it's the truth — finally, a calculator that works through natural language input, coming off as a cross between Wolfram Alpha, Fantastical, and Excel. In practice, it dramatically speeds up calculations; remembering how to work out percentages might not be too difficult, for example, but I find it a whole lot easier to type in "17% of 4623" or "89257 as a % increase of 23045." The time saved when wading through dense financial reports is the only thing it finds incalculable.

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