Archive for the ‘USA’ tag

#  How Walmart Spread →

April 15th, 2014 at 10:14 // In Worth Watching 

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:


I looked this up in part because of a recent post from Shane Parrish which quote’s Sam Walton’s explanation of their strategy:

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.

#  Splitting the US by Closest Capital →

April 14th, 2014 at 10:05 // In Worth Distraction 

Cool: a map that redivides the United States not by which state capital is closest in any given land area:

map-of-united-states-split-by-closest-capitalRelated: the same technique, but splitting the US among to Major League Baseball teams.


#  Deceptively Busy →

April 11th, 2014 at 8:50 // In Worth Knowing 

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.”

#  Campaign Finance and the Self-Interest of the American Politician →

April 10th, 2014 at 11:17 // In Worth Considering 

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.

#  Let’s Stop Pretending College is for Everyone →

April 4th, 2014 at 10:35 // In Worth Reading 

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?

(via /r/TrueReddit)

#  Sinkhole of Bureaucracy →

March 31st, 2014 at 16:20 // In Worth Knowing 

Quite a story from the Washington Post about a massive inefficiency — sort of totemic of a whole class — in the US government bureaucracy. The trait, so often parodied, of a weird system that continues well past the point you’d expect it to:

Here, inside the caverns of an old Pennsylvania limestone mine, there are 600 employees of the Office of Personnel Management. Their task is nothing top-secret. It is to process the retirement papers of the government’s own workers.

But that system has a spectacular flaw. It still must be done entirely by hand, and almost entirely on paper.

The employees here pass thousands of case files from cavern to cavern and then key in retirees’ personal data, one line at a time. They work underground not for secrecy but for space. The old mine’s tunnels have room for more than 28,000 file cabinets of paper records.

#  How Investors Killed American Manufacturing →

March 21st, 2014 at 10:48 // In Worth Reading 

An intriguing argument, whether or not you’re convinced by it:

Over the first decade of the twenty-first century, about 5.8 million U.S. manufacturing jobs disappeared. The most frequent explanations for this decline are productivity gains and increased trade with low-wage economies. Both of these factors have been important, but they explain far less of the picture than is usually claimed.

I found myself pretty sold, though I’d clarify that these forces aren’t as intentional or chosen as the author/title seems to suggest. Technology and the narrow pursuit of efficiency are the issues.

(via 5 Intriguing Things)

#  The Design of Menus →

March 19th, 2014 at 10:08 // In Worth Considering 

An interesting little story about the inside of the design of chain restaurant menus. It’s self-evident that such things would be designed, but the process wasn’t one I’d given much thought.

Since it released the new menu, IHOP’s sales have been up 3.6 percent—a small bump, but a notable one in a market that finds most sales numbers trending downward. The increase, Franco says, has been “primarily driven by selection and upsell” within the menu itself. Customers are seeing more options. They’re ordering more side dishes and beverages. They’re taking more advantage of the food offerings, rather than going straight for the old short stack-with-a-side-of-sausage combo. Franco is convinced: “Our guests are ordering additional items,” she says, “because of the appeal of the menu.”

(via Next Draft)

#  America’s College Problem →

March 5th, 2014 at 12:45 // In Worth Considering 

This editorial is a great explanation of a problem I’d heard expressed a lot but never mentioned here, it seems. The problem:

Something else began to happen around 1980. College graduation rates kept soaring for the affluent, but for those in the bottom half, a four-year degree is scarcely more attainable today than it was in the 1970s. And because some colleges actually hinder social mobility, what increasingly matters is not just whether you go to college but where.

#  Average Commute Times in the US Map →

February 5th, 2014 at 16:14 // In Worth Seeing 

Awesome project from WNYC last year made an zoomable map of the US shaded by average length of commute in an area. Click the title link, or the map below to really get the full experience:


#  Animated Map of US Homicide Rates →

January 22nd, 2014 at 14:00 // In Worth Seeing 

An awesome work of original mapping whose source I succeeded in discovering. This guy is putting out great stuff — including that gay marriage laws piece I linked recently — so pay attention. His explanation of the motivation behind this:

Specifically, the homicide rate in the United States has reached a 50-year low. Using data I compiled from FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the GIF above shows the decline in the homicide rate for each state between 1965 and 2012. Every state in the country has seen a decrease in the rate of murder and non-negligent manslaughter committed within its borders.

#  Peaceful School Reforms →

January 20th, 2014 at 16:39 // In Worth Knowing 

Dave Pell’s NextDraft is a great way to find cool things on the internet. In a recent issue he linked two stories about novel methods schools to improve peacefulness and safety other than the too conventional in America metal detectors and police officers.

#  Perceptions of China vs USA →

January 10th, 2014 at 18:29 // In Worth Discussing 

A bit old news, but as I’ve said I’m a big map fan. The Washington Post has a very cool map of the countries that are more favorable to either the US or China. Some notes:

  • Pakistan’s strong favor for China wasn’t something I’d have immediately guessed. It makes sense that there are few fans of the US there, but I wonder if low-level India-China tensions push them further in that direction.
  • In South America, Venezuela’s favor for China doesn’t surprise me. Argentina’s does a little.
  • All Israeli neighbors seem to prefer China. If Israel didn’t exist I feel like that might be different.
  • Western Europe’s favor for the US is largely predictable, but why the favor slips toward China in Greece and Turkey isn’t obvious to me.

Comments are open, if you have any other notes, or explanations to some of mine.

(via @Amazing_Maps)

#  History of Same-Sex Marriage in America →

January 6th, 2014 at 11:15 // In Worth Seeing 

A nice and clear animated-GIF map of how the laws with respect to same-sex marriage laws have changed across US states over time.


(via /r/MapPorn)

#  Linguistic Locator Quiz →

December 27th, 2013 at 18:10 // In Worth Distraction 

The New York Times put together a pretty awesome quiz that uses an understanding of the nuances of the American lexicon to pin down where in the states your vocabulary best represents. It’s actually, I believe, based on the exact same dataset as that pretty cool video I linked two weeks ago.

(via /r/science)

#  The Divisions of US Land Area

December 19th, 2013 at 16:44 // In Worth Seeing 

This is a pretty cool animated GIF, which shows the way that American states, territories, and future spaces were organized over time. It also moves pretty fast, and because it’s an animated GIF, doesn’t natively allow you to pause. Which is why you should also use it as an excuse to try out this pretty neat tool: JSGIF, a little bookmarklet that makes it easy to pause and step through GIFs.


(via Christian Heilmann’s Oredev talk, where he’s primarily quickly highlighting the bookmarklet, but my attention was more caught by the map)

#  Video Map of US Dialects →

December 13th, 2013 at 19:01 // In Worth Watching 

This is a really neat project: The Atlantic called people around the US and asked them to say specific words with their distinctive regional accents. Then they made that into a beautiful video with a map for the area in which each pronunciation of the word is most common.

(via kottke)

#  Subsidized Sports →

September 26th, 2013 at 21:09 // In Worth Knowing 

This article is about all the bogus benefits the NFL has, but it’s approximately true of all major sports leagues in the United States, and the mentioned tax incentives are realized by copious other businesses at smaller scales. Still, if you’re unfamiliar with the whole political structure of it, it’s hard not to be incensed by a summary like this:

Taxpayers fund the stadiums, antitrust law doesn’t apply to broadcast deals, the league enjoys nonprofit status, and Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year. It’s time to stop the public giveaways to America’s richest sports league—and to the feudal lords who own its teams.

(via kottke)