Happy Birthday to the Reccs!

Also, "Chicago's Pulse"

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Hi friends,

This issue marks the Reccs’ first birthday! Thanks to all of y’all for supporting me in writing this newsletter this past year. It has come a long way. I’ve had so much fun with it and look forward to many issues yet to come.

I’d love to hear if you had a favorite issue or recommendation! You can just reply to this email.

The Not-really-a-read Read: Chicago’s Pulse

We’re continuing with the impromptu grab-bag of data-oriented posts this month.

First, I retrieved data for all 161.9m rideshare rides and all 6.8m Divvy Bike† rides taken in Chicago between January 2019 and December 2020. Then I aggregated the data at the week-level and made an animated plot.

In this graph, one can see the seasons’ impacts on bike rides, as well as COVID’s enduring toll on rideshares.

Also interesting is the spike in Divvy Rides at W44 2020. That week Chicago was graced with an allhallow summer after a week of rain. Looks like folks took advantage of the good weather!

†For the uninitiated, this is our local bikeshare. It is akin to Bluebikes in Boston, Citi Bikes in NYC, or baywheels in SF.

The Links

  1. How The Economist handles India’s map censorship*

  2. Accidental Vandalism* [$] The painting is obviously better now, both aesthetically and in a meta statement-about-the-piece-and-art-writ-broadly way. I look forward to debating this and similarly ridiculous stories at in-person gatherings sometime this year.

  3. A Soul’s View of the Optimal Population Problem*

  4. Obligatory economics x The Masters recc* [$]

  5. Fictional restaurants* [$] I am both impressed and saddened by this development.

  6. Greenland’s internal politics are incredibly important* [$]

  7. Bears, like humans, try to conserve energy* [$] (s/o Arthur Schott Lopes)

  8. Swan won’t stop knocking on local man’s door*



A year ago I was hesitant to start the email thread that would become this newsletter. Later on, I was hesitant to put it on Substack and make it available to anyone. In both cases, it felt self-important in a way I don’t like to be.

But I knew I really enjoyed writing, and I was encouraged by wonderful friends, and so I did it.

As a result, for a year I’ve been able to enjoy the special part of my life that is writing this newsletter (and sharing it with y’all).

All that is to say, this week, if there’s something you’ve been wanting to do but have been stopping yourself—just do it.

Graph(s) of the week

  1. [Mortgage Bankers Association] Surging demand for mortgages and a soft labor market have pushed lenders to tighten their lending practices considerably these past few months.

    The downstream impact here is that if you are low-income or have a volatile income then you’ll have a harder time getting a mortgage.

    That being said, this drop is about half as severe as the net effect we experienced between the boom—bust of 2004 and 2008.

    While many cheered on tightening restrictions after the Great Recession as protecting consumers from loans they couldn’t afford, there certainly is also something to be said about would-be responsible borrowers with bad credit getting boxed out.

    Although an owner-occupied home is generally a meh-to-bad investment for capital appreciation, there are many other benefits that particularly are important to low income folks—chief among them are stability and a forced savings mechanism.

  2. [Pew] Some good news.

  3. [WSJ] Biden’s jobs plan, for those who have not yet seen it broken out. Lots of good stuff in here.

Keep the faith,