A map tucked away in the corner of a famous painting speaks volumes about history, cartography, art and politics. An exegesis.
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The climax of Marvel's latest superhero movie illustrates how writers can and can't use magic to solve problems — and how understanding these narrative laws lets them subvert our expectations.
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How Queen Elizabeth's record-breaking reign stacks up to past monarchs — and how her presence in the lives of Britain's prime ministers compares to her predecessors.
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Is it really true that most residents of France couldn't speak French at the time of the French Revolution? Absolutely.
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Where do most Americans live? I plot out the population of the lower 48 states by latitude and longitude.
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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.
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I experimented with using a Kickstarter to fund a journalism project and was blown away by the results.
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History shows antecedents for today's changing relationships between cities and their surrounding regions.
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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.
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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.
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Learn about African geography, Roman culture and... Looney Tunes? Thanks, internet.
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A clever and whimsical webcomic about precocious and imaginative children at a mountain orphanage.
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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.
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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.
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Recommending a 'folk opera' album about immigrants to the American Midwest from Ireland and Scandinavia.
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People love to complain about Daylight Saving Time. I stand up for the embattled twice-yearly clock change.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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English has "municipal" as an adjective for things pertaining to cities, but no equivalent adjective for counties. Here's an idea to add one.
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The Cubs' 2016 World Series victory drew huge ratings. Here's how they compare to past Series (with charts!).
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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:
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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.
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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.
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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.