The Aggregate March 30, 2020

COIVID-19 Edition

Hello! I am Lars Erik Schonander. Here is my weekly newsletter with a weekly analysis with interesting data, along with links related to things I found particularly interesting that week. Any Questions? Send me a message or just respond to this email!

The Weekly Data:

OpenTable has been publishing a daily dataset on the restaurant statistics it has been collecting in the cities and countries it operates in. The data is based on looking at how the given restaurants are doing this year compared to last year. Zero would mean a restaurant would be doing about the same on OpenTable as it did last year. Normally, restaurants would cross the 0-1 line during the year.

There was a gradually decline in performance from the start (2/18) to the middle of March, and the real collapse only begins around the 2/3 mark of the month. Australia does better for longer, but in fairness they are more isolated then the other countries on the list.

OpenTable also has city level data. This data is not as helpful because it does not have all the restaurants in the country, only the ones used by Open Tables platform. Back on the 18th, it is noticeable that Ohio is doing the worst, but this is good, because it represented governor DeWine’s initiative in trying to stop covid-19.

I initially filtered for the worst states around the 15th of March, but every state listed on OpenTable is at -100 essentially. That large grey spike represents Mardi Gras in Louisiana back in February. The lockdown in Ohio is obvious considering instead of a gradual curve downward, it is a crash to zero when Governor DeWine decided to close down the state of Ohio.

Now, some links…

Nemesis: Umami

Emily was entranced by the décor of the new restaurant ­– a honeycomb of yellow ambient light, a strong glow through amber liquor bottles stacked two stories high, and wood communal tables polished to formality, somehow retro in style while feeling like a live digital render. More hilarious was the menu, which contained only $30 French dip sandwiches (with or without cheese), savage tiny cocktails with savory mixers, and instagrammable 15-layer cakes. Peering down from the mezzanine, she saw groups of young people who looked like they could be in any global luxury environment drinking these cocktails in the amber light and snapping photos of precarious, impossible slices of cake, and it hit her. The restaurant felt contemporary because it was boiled down to only its most savory elements and most photographable ones, and the intersection of these clarified something; all of a sudden it did not seem like a coincidence. Right then she texted Martti: People no longer want sex. They want umami.

William Davies (LRB): Society as a Broadband Network

What is society? The most notor­ious answer we’ve been given in the last forty years was a tri­umphant negation, uttered by Margaret Thatcher in an interview with Woman’s Own magazine in 1987: ‘There is no such thing!’ The left has ensured that Thatcher’s words have not been forgotten; the right has oc­casionally sought to remind people of her next sent­ence: ‘There are individual men and women and there are families.’ But does anything connect those individual men and women with those families?

Rachel Podd (Trinity University): La Grande Mortalità: Florence and the Black Death

Abstract: The epidemic which devastated Medieval Europe, known as the Black Death, struck particularly hard among urban populations, including the Italian city of Florence. A major center of art, religion, and politics, the city that existed after the plague abated in 1350 was far from the city of 1347. Through careful analysis of primary sources, chief among them Il Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio and the Chronice of the Villani Brothers, the scholar can deduce several major trends caused by la grande mortalita. Deeper divisions developed between the rich and the poor, even as status symbols became less indicative of class. Death ritual was profoundly altered, plague saints moved to the forefront of religious thought, and a compulsive focus on the sacrament of Mass developed. These primary sources allow the modern reader to better understand circumstances not experienced before or since.

Toby Shorin (Subpixel Space): Premonitions

For three weeks, I have wondered: how much of what I’ve thought and written about on this site is even relevant now?

Everyone who thinks about culture must ask themselves this on a regular basis. But these circumstances call for a more serious reevaluation. The pandemic has fractured the discourse, exposing how many layers of assumptions formed the bedrock. Access to goods. Mobility. A functioning global economy. Health. Friends and collaborators are wondering the same thing. Surrounded by a cacophony of blame and helplessness and cope, it’s hard to hear yourself think.

Finally, last Friday’s unusually warm evening, spent on the roof of my NYC quarantine zone, gave way to clarity. The right questions came: which of my beliefs remain unchanged? What assumptions will remain in place? What trends will be accelerated, which delayed, and which stopped entirely? What do I care about that has become newly relevant, and what no longer matters?

Anna Gross and Madhumita Murgia (The Financial Times): China and Huawei propose reinvention of the internet

China has suggested a radical change to the way the internet works to the UN, in a proposal that claims to enable cutting-edge technologies such as holograms and self-driving cars but which critics say will also bake authoritarianism into the architecture underpinning the web.  The telecoms group Huawei, together with state-run companies China Unicom and China Telecom, and the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), jointly proposed a new standard for core network technology, called “New IP”, at the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  The proposal has caused concerns among western countries including the UK, Sweden and the US, who believe the system would splinter the global internet and give state-run internet service providers granular control over citizens’ internet use. It has gained the support of Russia, and potentially Saudi Arabia, according to western representatives at the ITU. 

What I’m Reading

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev: 9780375758393 ...

I started Father and Sons by Ivan Turgenev to pass the time. Compared to other Russian novelists during the period, Turgenev is not as a famous, but his work is still enjoyable to read and a interesting look into the political and social norms that pervaded Russia in the mid 19th century, when reforms were taking place, but not enough reform, leading to discontent among the more politically active liberals. The period was before socialism was a functioning ideology in Russia, so the radical group here are the Nihilists.

There is something a little bit tragic in the book, in that one knows that despite the worries that both the conservatives and radicals have, the political future of Russia after the period the novel takes in is a turn for the worse.

What I’m Working On

For my job at Lincoln Network, I been collecting the many initiatives technology companies have been to make life easier during the current pandemic. A piece on tech companies response to Covid-19 should be out within the next week or so.


Thanks for taking the time to read this, I will be back next Monday. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter or reach out via email.


Loading more posts…