Is it really true that most residents of France couldn't speak French at the time of the French Revolution? Absolutely.
Continue reading this post (3367 words)
Where do most Americans live? I plot out the population of the lower 48 states by latitude and longitude.
Continue reading this post (1486 words)
With North Korea testing nuclear weapons and President Donald Trump mulling a response in kind, the world could soon see a resurgence in nuclear tests for the first time since the end of the Cold War. I break down the numbers.
Continue reading this post (514 words)
I experimented with using a Kickstarter to fund a journalism project and was blown away by the results.
Continue reading this post (906 words)
History shows antecedents for today's changing relationships between cities and their surrounding regions.
Continue reading this post (604 words)
A profane oral history of the New York Yankees' 8-4 win over the Minnesota Twins in the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3, 2017, by the residents of the left field bleachers.
Continue reading this post (583 words)
When eating, most people want to save money, save time and eat healthily. Unfortunately, it's really hard to accomplish more than two of the three at once.
Continue reading this post (536 words)
Learn about African geography, Roman culture and... Looney Tunes? Thanks, internet.
Continue reading this post (963 words)
A clever and whimsical webcomic about precocious and imaginative children at a mountain orphanage.
Continue reading this post (668 words)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is fun, but it's undermined because its main characters are largely just along for the ride instead of making consequential choices that drive the movie's action.
Continue reading this post (766 words)
Who's a good dog? More and more of them, according to a statistical analysis of the world's #1 source for professional dog ratings and puptastic puns.
Continue reading this post (813 words)
Recommending a 'folk opera' album about immigrants to the American Midwest from Ireland and Scandinavia.
Continue reading this post (446 words)
People love to complain about Daylight Saving Time. I stand up for the embattled twice-yearly clock change.
Continue reading this post (720 words)
A talk I gave at a local event called "Let's Nerd Out" about the rise of democracy in 1870s France, adapted from an older post from this site.
Continue reading this post (323 words)
Few Americans are mourning the passing of 2016, a possibly deadly and definitely tumultuous year. But I try to live by the philosophy of the Roman Stoic Epictetus — concern yourself only with the things you can control. And for me personally, 2016 was a pretty good year.
Not everything was perfect, of course, but I improved both my quality of living and my self over the past 12 months. Here's my assessment of my 2016.
Continue reading this post (2045 words)
Longtime visitors may notice some differences around here. I’ve not just redesigned this website, but have moved it to an entirely new architecture and hosting services.
Continue reading this post (599 words)
On Tuesday, actress and author Carrie Fisher died, setting off a wave of lamentations not just for the beloved Fisher, but for the entire calendar year 2016.
Her death and those of seemingly countless other celebrities, athletes and world leaders have created an impression that the year 2016 has been particularly bad, an annus horribilis for the Anglo-American world.
But is that impression of 2016's mortality accurate?
Continue reading this post (2219 words)
English has "municipal" as an adjective for things pertaining to cities, but no equivalent adjective for counties. Here's an idea to add one.
Continue reading this post (338 words)
The Cubs' 2016 World Series victory drew huge ratings. Here's how they compare to past Series (with charts!).
Continue reading this post (196 words)
Earlier this year, programmer David Barry released a fun estimation of how rectangular each country's borders are. I adapt his code to look at the rectangularity of U.S. states and counties.
Continue reading this post (2217 words)
A political science book offers a theory to understand why some rulers stay in power and others get overthrone — a perfect way to understand the Game of Thrones.
Continue reading this post (4006 words)
I break down the more than 20,000 words in the "Hamilton" lyrics with word clouds, reading level and more. Don't say no to this.
Continue reading this post (905 words)
In these days of high-octane political rhetoric and a party system defined more by "voting against the opposing party rather than for their own party," it's worth casting back into American history to another time when political tensions ran so high that each side believed the other would lead to the destruction of American ideals. Unlike now, things got so divisive that some states talked about seceding from the union and even stockpiled arms and mobilized militias to achieve their political goals through force.
I speak not of 1860, when all those things happened on the road to a brutal and bloody civil war, but rather of 1800 — when all those things happened but were averted just shy of bloodshed.
Continue reading this post (2260 words)
In their post-apocalyptic comedy novel “Good Omens,” authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman describe the nefarious handiwork of the demon Crowley, an agent of Hell on Earth with a particularly acute grasp of human nature:
Continue reading this post (483 words)
Almost eight years ago to the day, Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the vital caucus state of Iowa shot itself in the foot. I helped pull the trigger.
Continue reading this post (2339 words)
I realize that I am somewhat biased, as someone whose idea of recreation is reading late-18th Century biography. So keep that in mind but try to set my funny sense of fun aside when I tell you that the new musical “Hamilton” is the most electric listening experience I’ve had in years. A bunch of guys in breeches and frock coats singing about arcane two-century-old political disputes? Well, I did like “1776,” but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” is something else entirely. Read my review and hear some samples after the jump.
Continue reading this post (1152 words)
While researching historical elections this week for a future blog post, I stumbled across a fascinating piece of data: a table from an 1876 almanac summarizing the literacy rates in each of the 87 French départements at the time. The results varied wildly, from near-universal literacy in Paris and the country’s industrial northeast to majority illiteracy in the interior of La France profonde.
Continue reading this post (1213 words)
Today, my colleague Rachel Stassen-Berger and our competitor J. Patrick Coolican had a Twitter fight about how Patrick reacted to one of Minnesota’s senators attending a rock concert.
Continue reading this post (774 words)
Continue reading this post (261 words)
In 1870, Napoléon III abdicated as Emperor of the Second French Empire. Parliamentary deputies from around the country met to determine the next form of French government, and there was little reason to expect a republic. But France ended up with one anyway.