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    The best writing of the week, January 26

    The best writing of the week, January 26

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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 entire list as a Readlist.

    On chat

    Ben Crair considers the awkwardness and anxiety caused by the typing indicators in chat and texting programs.

    The New Republic: Ben Crair - I Can See You Typing

    It makes visible the care with which we pick our words. And the more visible this care becomes, the more the reader distrusts the message. Conversation is supposed to feel natural, after all. The quip is less funny if it’s not offhanded. Flirtation is not so flattering if it appears to require labor. And the apology can seem less heartfelt when you know it’s been self-lawyered.On 'Minecraft'

    Simon Parkin writes about Kurt J. Mac's 3-year-long quest (he has 22 years left) to reach the edge of Minecraft, an end enabled by a glitch in the 'infinitely' game.

    The New Yorker: Simon Parkin - A journey to the end of the world (of Minecraft)

    But, at extreme distances from a player’s starting point, a glitch in the underlying mathematics causes the landscape to fracture into illogical shapes and patterns. “Pretty early on, when implementing the ‘infinite’ worlds, I knew the game would start to bug out at long distances,” Persson told me. “But I did the math on how likely it was people would ever reach it, and I decided it was far away enough that the bugs didn’t matter.”On Tor

    Dune Lawrence looks at the history of anonymity software Tor and how the NSA's been thwarted in its attempts to defeat its encryption.

    Businessweek: Dune Lawrence - The Inside Story of Tor, the Best Internet Anonymity Tool the Government Ever Built

    Countering Tor is clearly frustrating for the NSA, and Internet users have taken note. Hits to Tor’s download page almost quadrupled last year, to 139 million. “Encryption works,” Bruce Schneier, a cybersecurity expert who helped the Guardian analyze the Snowden documents, said at a talk in New York in January. “That’s the lesson of Tor. The NSA can’t break Tor, and it pisses them off.”On hacking love

    Kevin Poulsen tells the story of how mathematician Chris McKinlay data mined OkCupid to find his perfect match.

    Wired: Kevin Poulsen - How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love

    For McKinlay’s plan to work, he’d have to find a pattern in the survey data—a way to roughly group the women according to their similarities. The breakthrough came when he coded up a modified Bell Labs algorithm called K-Modes. First used in 1998 to analyze diseased soybean crops, it takes categorical data and clumps it like the colored wax swimming in a Lava Lamp. With some fine-tuning he could adjust the viscosity of the results, thinning it into a slick or coagulating it into a single, solid glob.On Ross Ulbricht

    David Segal profiles Ross Ulbricht, the alleged Dread Pirate Roberts and mastermind of the online black market Silk Road.

    The New York Times: David Segal - Eagle Scout. Idealist. Drug Trafficker?

    It could also be a coincidence that neither man nor pseudonym seemed motivated by greed. Mr. Ulbricht’s lifestyle was one notch above that of urban couch surfer. And the primary goal that D.P.R. professed was to unshackle humanity from what he regarded as economic tyranny. If a handful of miscreants — and yes, a few of their unfortunate roommates — were killed along the way, that is a shame. But Silk Road was like a tunnel under the gulag, and D.P.R. was digging for the sake of humanity.For more great longreads, 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 Sep 24 Striking out

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    Emma RothSep 24
    California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

    The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

    A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


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    Andrew WebsterSep 24
    Look at this Thing.

    At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


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    The Verge
    Andrew WebsterSep 24
    Get ready for some Netflix news.

    At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


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    Andrew WebsterSep 24
    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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    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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    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.