This isn’t new by a long stretch, but it’s an awesome map: animating the spread of Walmart in its growth out of Arkansas and across the US. It cuts off in 2010, and inspired an animated GIF made with Excel. (!?) The GIF is below:
We figured we had to build our stores so that our distribution centers, or warehouses, could take care of them, but also so those stores could be controlled. We wanted them within reach of our district managers, and of ourselves here in Bentonville, so we could get out there and look after them. Each store had to be within a day’s drive of a distribution center.
We saturated northwest Arkansas. We saturated Oklahoma. We saturated Missouri. We went from Neosho to Joplin, to Monett and Aurora, to Nevada and Belton, to Harrisonville, and then on to Fort Scott and Olathe in Kansas —and so on.
I say it a lot, but I love a good Ask MetaFilter thread. This one is about self-discipline, something I’m pretty passionate about — you should read up on another site I maintain, Frozen Toothpaste, for more from me about it. Perhaps start at its Productivity category.
For me, the key to discipline is intrinsic motivation. That is, pursuing activities that I’m naturally motivated to accomplish without any sort of outside pressure. “But wait!” you might be saying. “Then all I’d ever want to do is screw, play Flappy Bird, and eat ice cream.” Well, those things are nice, but turns out they don’t actually provide any sort of long-term fulfillment. Instead, pursuing intrinsic goals (that term again) that are challenging (but not too challenging) and meaningful make me (and other people) happier than hedonism.
Hanna Rosin brings up a topic I’ve got a keen interest in: how much modern (Yuppies or otherwise striving) Americans — such as myself — love claiming to be busy. The point that much of this is self-serving self-deception was (not shocking but) new to me:
“It’s very popular, the feeling that there are too many things going on, that people can’t get in control of their lives and the like,” Robinson says. “But when we look at peoples’ diaries there just doesn’t seem to be the evidence to back it up … It’s a paradox. When you tell people they have thirty or forty hours of free time every week, they don’t want to believe it.”
Almost all rational people the world over agree the America’s system of funding political campaigns is, at best, bad. But it wasn’t ‘til I read this recent column from David Brooks I felt like I maybe understood quite why:
But campaign finance laws weren’t merely designed to take money out of politics; they were designed to protect incumbents from political defeat. In this regard, the laws have been fantastically successful.
The laws rigged the system to make it harder for challengers to raise money. In 1972, at about the time the Federal Election Campaign Act was first passed, incumbents had a campaign spending advantage over challengers of about 3 to 2. These days, incumbents have a spending advantage of at least 4 to 1. In some election years, 98 percent of the incumbents are swept back into office.
Another in our regular series reminding you that if you don’t follow Oliver’s Burkeman’s “This column will change your life” in the Guardian, you’re missing out. In an idea I believe in strongly — my essay “On the Banality of Profound Truths” is something I refer to often even though I don’t love its prose — Burkeman argues that we pursue the interesting at the expense of the true:
If you care about the truth, Davis suggests, interestingness can mislead. That new book on how to get fit – or raise happy children, or invest your savings – caught your eye because it’s interesting. But is ittrue? (In science, this helps explain the “file drawer effect”: studies with interesting conclusions get published; boring ones, however true, get locked away.) Ultimately, interestingness is a form of excitement, and we all know how excitement can lure us off course: consider the thrill of an extramarital affair, or of driving at 120mph. But it’s intellectually respectable excitement, so it doesn’t ring alarm bells.
Not so different from the recent Touching Strangers (on LB) or First Kiss (on LB) ideas, photographer Pieter Hugo recently went to Rawanda to capture pairs of genocider and victims in close proximity to each other as the twentieth anniversary of the event comes to pass. There’s quite interesting images, and the presentation here is fantastic:
Really neat study from the Nate Silver-directed venture FiveThirtyEight: they did a pretty rigorous statistical analysis of Hollywood movie using the Betchdel test (on LB) of the portrayal of women and found pretty clearly that movies that do better on the test do better in the box office.
The article’s way more thorough and detailed that an one chart, and well worth a read.
Jason Kottke put together a great little summary of a phenomenon I’d never heard of: “slow TV.”
Slow television is the uninterrupted broadcast of an ordinary event from start to finish. Early efforts included burning Yule logs on TV around Christmas and driver’s views of complete British rail journeys (not to mention Andy Warhol and the pitch drop experiment), but Norwegian public television has revived the format in recent years. The first broadcast was of a 7-hour train trip from Bergen to Oslo, which was watched at some point by ~20% of Norway’s population.
This thing is mind-blowingly good. It’s simultaneously beautiful and a good way to get a sense of the data it presents, which is unfortunately rare.
I’ve snapped a static picture above, but you really should take a bit of time to interact if you’re the least bit curious. Some of the actions are a bit puzzling, but clicking around a few times give you a sense of its power and utility.
I’m not sure if this is a peculiarly American problem, but I heartily support Michael J. Petrilli’s argument that we should back off on the idea of making every high school student ready to attend a post-secondary institution and spend a lot more energy helping them find skills that will help them get ahead in a modern economy. He starts:
What if our own hyper-credentialed life experiences and ideologies are blinding us to alternative pathways to the middle class? Including some that might be a lot more viable for a great many young people? What if we should be following the lead of countries like Germany, where “tracking” isn’t a dirty word but a common-sense way to prepare teenagers for respected, well-paid work?
Venkatesh Rao is one of the most consistently interesting sources of thorough essays about novel but valuable ideas I know of. He is, typically, a bit too thorough for my patience, but I got further with this essay than most others. The central premise:
We generally fail to understand the extent to which both our sense of agency and identity are a function of memory. If you could coherently extend memories either forward or backward in time, you would get a different person, but one who might enjoy a weak sort of continuity of awareness with a person (or machine) who has lived before or might live after. Conversely, if you went blind and lost your long-term memories, you might lose elements of your identity, such as your sense of your race or an interest in painting.
Part of its interest and appeal to me is that it’s possible to read it as both an example of the banality of branding, but also (and I admit this requires more of a mental stretch) the universality of values that people aspire to embody or see embodied in the world.