Corner Stores Are the New Darlings of the Global Tech Industry

Corner stores don’t look like much. Maybe the one nearest to you has dusty shelves lined with bags of chips and cookies, and the cashier sitting next to the cigarettes and mini–shampoo bottles only takes cash. In some places, these mom-and-pop shops are simple roadside stalls or kiosks. They have largely operated the same way for decades: Many still order their products over the phone and manage their books on paper.

theatlantic.com

Fresh Hell

As new Covid-19 cases perilously ticked up this week amid fears of the Omicron variant, the Biden administration touted its new initiative allowing privately insured Americans to—after filling out the necessary paperwork, of course—be reimbursed for at-home Covid-19 tests. But why not, and here’s a truly novel concept, just make them free and have them available everywhere? One reporter put this question to White House press secretary Jenn Psaki, who, flummoxed by any logical, straightforward proposal that smacks of benevolence without clear benefit to a corporation’s bottom line, shot back: “Should we just send one to every American? . . . Then what happens if you—if every American has one test? How much does that cost?” Psaki was right to worry about the cost of measures to staunch the still ongoing mass death event: we’ve got other priorities. The next day, the Democrat-controlled House approved a $768 billion defense budget, $24 billion more than President Biden asked for, because why the hell not? We may have just put an end to our twenty-year misadventure in Afghanistan, but the world remains a dangerous place. It’s essential that we agitate for military confrontations with Russia over Ukraine and China over Taiwan and that we prepare “additional measures” against Iran.

thebaffler.com

Billie Eilish’s Music Revealed What Her SNL Sketches Couldn’t

The first time Billie Eilish appeared on Saturday Night Live, the then-17-year-old put her famously green hair in two topknots, donned a graffiti-print outfit, and climbed the walls of a rotating room to underscore her eerie, enigmatic image. She rose to fame creating dark, ASMR electro-pop that distilled the fears of her generation with wry directness. Yet months later, she swept the 2020 Grammys with her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and her rising star turned meteoric. On this weekend’s SNL, pulling double duty as both host and musical guest, the now-19-year-old asserted part of her refashioned identity: that she’s made peace with fame.

theatlantic.com

housewarming

Somehow it’s party season. Here we are again, back in the past, and too far into the future. People put up decorations in doorways and windows, they mix up lethal punches in large bowls, they turn all of the lights on in their living rooms and text their friends to come over. There is less of it than usual, and more of it than there has been in so long. It seems awkward and it doesn’t, and then it still does. I hate it one day, and can’t get enough of it the next, and don’t want to stop and ask myself if any of this is really any different than it has been any other year.

griefbacon.substack.com

New Clues about the Origins of Biological Intelligence

In the middle of his landmark book On the Origin of Species, Darwin had a crisis of faith. In a bout of honesty, he wrote, “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I confess, absurd in the highest degree.” While scientists are still working out the details of how the eye evolved, we are also still stuck on the question of how intelligence emerges in biology. How can a biological system ever generate coherent and goal-oriented behavior from the bottom up when there is no external designer?

scientificamerican.com

This pseudoscience movement wants to wipe germs from existence

The COVID-19 pandemic has breathed new life into a 160-year-old rivalry. Science skeptics are flocking toward a fringe set of beliefs called “terrain theory,” an ideology that ranges from total denial of the existence of viruses and bacteria to the belief that lifestyle choices alone force otherwise benevolent microbes to transform into pathogens. The central gist is that the body’s “terrain,” not germs, creates disease—reasoning that offers legitimacy to skeptics of masks and vaccines. In the Facebook group “Terrain Model Refutes Germ Theory,” which has grown from 147 followers to 20,700 since the beginning of the pandemic, one member who tested positive for COVID-19 speculated that he fell ill because he broke his ankle. Another member argued that “measles is a developmental cleansing.”  

popsci.com

Don’t get too close to my fantasy

One of the early clichés about social media was that it would fulfill the Warholian promise of “15 minutes of fame” for everyone. Optimists understood this as a kind of democratization of attention, but that hope could not survive into the metricized era of the algorithmic newsfeed. New media channels were capturing greater amounts of attention, but this attention was not distributed evenly; it was canalized in various ways to maximize its exploitation. Hence the variations on the theme: “In the future we’ll all be famous to 15 people.” “In the future we’ll all have 15 minutes of privacy.” And so on.

tinyletter.com/reallifemag

Where are Alaska’s snowy owls?

A male snowy owl hovers briefly, aloft in the breezy Arctic air, before diving at field researcher Denver Holt. The bright-white bird descends within a meter of the man, making short, loud barks before retreating and swooping again. Holt is undeterred. In a few more strides, he reaches the owl’s nest — a bowl-shaped depression scraped out of the top of a mound — and crouches on his knees to quickly count the eggs and chicks inside. After decades on this landscape, he isn’t rattled by incoming talons. “I get hit on the head, the shoulders, the neck, all the time,” he says, his brown hair, accented with gray, tucked under a baseball cap with an owl on it. “One time a female ripped right through my Carhartt [pants], right through my long johns, and left four punctures on my butt. She got me good.”

hcn.org