Did the ATM Replace the Bank Teller? No.


The broader point, of course, is that just looking at how technology can substitute for a certain job is only one part of the analysis.

via CONVERSABLE ECONOMIST: ATMs and a Rising Number of Bank Tellers?.


It’s All Just a Joke to You, Until The Economist Puts It in Print

The television series “The West Wing” plays a role on these pages something like a muse, if potato-shaped and more often sleepy than inspiring. For better or worse, there is something about that program that leads me to, now and then, filter life through its steadicam eyes and the fast-talking heavy-handedness of Aaron Sorkin’s social explication.

It has been a touchstone for me on such diverse topics as war crimes, environmentalism and even the “appalling strangeness” of God. And yet I have far from an encyclopedic understanding of the show, which went off the air in 2006, and which I did not even start watching until 2005, and which I still have not watched a moment past a few episodes from the end of Season 4.

And so here I go again.

The Economist two nights ago published an article about cartography that glances at a long-lived dispute about how to best map the Earth.

MAPS of the world have the impossible task

via The Economist explains: Why world maps are misleading | The Economist.

The story goes like this: The world map you are used to seeing was devised by a 16th-century busybody named Gerardus Mercator. His design draws latitude and longitude as straight lines, which at the time suited the sea-going public just fine.

Despite his lack of experience at sea, Mercator knew what mariners wanted.

via The history of maps: Squaring the circle | The Economist.

But what his design also does is distort the various land masses, making Greenland appear larger than Africa, for instance, when we all know that’s not remotely the case.

A sphere cannot be represented on a flat plane without distortion

via Cartography: The true true size of Africa | The Economist.

These distortions, some would have you believe, are the source of many of the world’s problems. Europe’s lingering cultural and political dominance, these people would say, can be ascribed, in part, to its position atop the Southern Hemisphere, you know, lording over all of its now-former colonies. And so on.

Mercator’s famous projection, which marginalises the Orient and establishes the Americas as the “commercially powerful, territorially meaningful place” by placing it in the top left-hand corner of the world.

via Map-making: Errors and omissions | The Economist.

In any case, there eventually were a number of people, Arno Peters, a German historian, to name one, who thought they had a better idea. For his part, Mr. Peters designed a much different map, which to be honest just distorts matters in a whole other direction.

Which is just a long way of my telling you that this dispute, between the Mercator people and the Peters-type people, had an informal airing on “The West Wing,” in Episode 16 of Season 2. In the show, the Peters-type people are depicted as mousey crackpots, which I suppose is what they really are.

What is not as clear is why The Economist is bringing all of this up, over and over.

“Perhaps the time has come,” The Economist says, “to abandon the universal reliance on the Mercator projection in favour of maps that” — blah, blah, blah, and then it just gets all wishy-washy. I am not even going to copy it out.

“What the hell is that?”
“It’s where you’ve been living this whole time. Should we continue?”

The Thermal Theory of Midwestern Good Will


…a person (even a New Yorker) could be both dissatisfied and happy at once, and that the act of complaining was not in fact evidence of unhappiness, but something that could in its own way lead to greater happiness.

via Companions in Misery – NYTimes.com.

Not long ago, I was in a large city in the Upper Midwest in the common room of an eccentric bed and breakfast. It was morning, and I was quietly eating breakfast when a fellow guest learned that I lived in New York City.

He gasped. Oh, he asked, how can you bear to live there?

Without waiting for my answer, he began to tell me that New York was a cold and unfeeling place, populated by faceless strangers. Everyone in a hurry, he said, everyone obsessed with money. No happiness or kindness at all.

I oughta know, he said, I’ve traveled there for business.

He continued his monologue with an anecdote about a long, disagreeable cab ride. When at last it was over, he said, the cabbie was unable to open the trunk. And this was the last straw. With the help of the passenger of another cab, and while heaping oral abuse on the driver, he hacked open the trunk with a golf club, freed his luggage, and then won a brief footrace into the airport terminal without paying his fare.

By the end of this performance, we were both horrified.

He could not believe that a seemingly reasonable person would subject himself to the nightmare that is New York City.

I was surprised that this was what passed for an ambassador of Midwestern Living.

Yin, Yang and Yin


“There’s a feeling of a more stable backdrop that executives think will be with us for the foreseeable quarters.”

via Markets Buoyant, Merger Activity Picks Up – NYTimes.com.

In a few short days, however, much of that optimism has evaporated.

via Shivers in the Markets Portend a Freeze in Deal Circles – NYTimes.com.

“The fact that we’re getting all these deals suggests that C.E.O.s are feeling pretty good about things,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

via Mega-Mergers Popular Again on Wall Street – NYTimes.com.

Dangerous Business


When Mr. Stark left his office at 331 Rutledge Street in Williamsburg at about 11:35 p.m. on Thursday, two men were waiting for him in the darkness, the New York Police Department said Saturday.

via Charred Body of Kidnapped Man Is Found on Long Island – NYTimes.com.

The businessman, identified as Mahuddin Mahmud, 57, was found by a relative around 12:30 a.m. lying on his left side with burns to his face, and was almost certainly murdered, the police said.

via Body of a Brooklyn Landlord Is Discovered in a Basement – NYTimes.com.

A Timeout, and a Look Back

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.



The missile’s nine-megaton thermo­nuclear warhead — the most powerful ever deployed by the United States — was found, relatively intact, in a ditch 200 yards away from the silo.

via The Illusion of Nuclear Safety | Foreign Affairs.