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    The best writing of the week, July 28

    The best writing of the week, July 28

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    Your Sunday reading

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    We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.

    Grab the full list as a Readlist.

    On oranges

    Amy Harmon reports on Rick Kresse, the president of Southern Garden Citrus, and his quest to save the orange through genetic engineering.

    The New York Times: Amy Harmon - A Race to Save the Orange by Altering Its DNA

    An emerging scientific consensus held that genetic engineering would be required to defeat citrus greening. "People are either going to drink transgenic orange juice or they’re going to drink apple juice," one University of Florida scientist told Mr. Kress.
    And if the presence of a new gene in citrus trees prevented juice from becoming scarcer and more expensive, Mr. Kress believed, the American public would embrace it. "The consumer will support us if it’s the only way," Mr. Kress assured his boss.On Silicon Valley

    Alexis Madrigal maps the origins of Silicon Valley, finding the geographical center of its old industrial roots.

    The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal - Not Even Silicon Valley Escapes History

    In our Internet-happy present, it’s easy to forget that up until the mid-1980s, Silicon Valley was an industrial landscape. Hundreds of manufacturers lined the streets of Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Mountain View, and San Jose. This is the Silicon Valley when AMD, Apple, Applied Materials, Atari, Fairchild, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, National Semiconductor, Varian Associates, Xerox, and hundreds of other companies made their products right here in the Bay.On Sunil Tripathi

    Jay Caspian Kang reports on the misidentification of Sunil Tripathi as the Boston Bomber, Reddit, and the evolving nature of breaking news.

    The New York Times: Jay Caspian Kang - Should Reddit Be Blamed for the Spreading of a Smear?

    "Almost every news outlet that came to us said the same three things," Sangeeta added. "The first was, ‘How was that night?’ The second was, ‘Is Sunny still missing?’ And the third was, ‘This is a silver lining because now you’re getting his name out.’ It was interesting to see how formulaically they processed that arc. The costs to somebody who is in a fragile state are immense and not undone by a casual apology," she said. "This is precedent-setting for what will happen for other individuals."On growth

    Benjamin Wallace-Wells profiles Robert Gordon, an economist who argues the incredible growth and improvement in standard of living over the past three centuries as a historical fluke.

    New York Magazine: Benjamin Wallace-Wells - The Blip

    It meant that during the whole modern era from 1750 onward—which contains, not coincidentally, the full life span of the United States—human well-being accelerated at a rate that could barely have been contemplated before. Instead of permanent stagnation, growth became so rapid and so seemingly automatic that by the fifties and sixties the average American would roughly double his or her parents’ standard of living. In the space of a single generation, for most everybody, life was getting twice as good.
    At some point in the late sixties or early seventies, this great acceleration began to taper off.On Hall H

    Todd VanDerWerff does a fantastic job over at Grantland of conveying the crazy spectacle of Comic-Con's massive Hall H.

    Grantland: Todd VanDerWerff - A Day Inside Comic-Con's Hall H: Worshiping in the Ultimate Movie Church

    Hall H itself is basically a hamster habitat for humans. The room itself is a vast cavern, filled with mazes of chairs. It’s cold — horrifically so when only a handful of people are inside — and dry. Once you enter Hall H, you’re generally not allowed to leave, except under extraordinary circumstances. You’re trapped, kept in the habitat by the fact that if you leave, you’ll surely never survive that long line again. The whole experience is not exactly, how shall I say this, aesthetically pleasing. It’s a utilitarian public space, meant to placate the most people as quickly as possible, not unlike many of the films shown there.On ideas

    Using the examples of anaesthesia, antisepsis, and cholera rehydration solutions, Atul Gawande explores why some innovations catch on almost immediately while others lag for years. With more recent studies, he looks at the decidedly non-technological solutions that can help life-saving ideas spread faster.

    The New Yorker: Atul Gawande - Slow Ideas

    In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, "turnkey" solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability.On restaurant bots

    John Herrman reports on the rise of bots in San Francisco designed to swoop in to online reservation sites with superhuman speeds.

    BuzzFeed FWD: John Herrman - Why Robots Are Stealing Your Dinner Reservations

    "In under a minute, all the reservations were being taken," he says. The bots had taken over.
    Who exactly was running these bots was unclear, but Mónica quickly put together a reservation bot of his own. Asked if he knew anyone else who was using one, he responded: "Every single engineer in SF that is also a foodie. Starting [with] my co-workers here at Square."For more great reads, visit our friends at Longreads.

    Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.

    Today’s Storystream

    Feed refreshed Two hours ago Striking out

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    Andrew WebsterTwo hours ago
    Looking for something to do this weekend?

    Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


    A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
    Thermae Romae Novae.
    Image: Netflix
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    Twitter
    Jay PetersSep 23
    Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

    Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


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    Twitter
    Tom WarrenSep 23
    Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

    Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


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    External Link
    If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

    Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

    Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


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    External Link
    Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

    Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

    Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.


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    TikTok
    Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

    Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.


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    External Link
    Jay PetersSep 23
    Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

    Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

    “Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

    In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.


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    External Link
    Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

    Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.


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    Youtube
    James VincentSep 23
    Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

    Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

    The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.