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Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“Maps have always related and realigned our history; increasingly, we're ceding control of that history to the cold precision of the computer. With this comes great responsibility. Leading mapmakers used to be scattered around the world, all lending their distinctive talents and interpretations. These days by far the most influential are concentrated in one place — Mountain View, Calif., home of the Googleplex.

“There is something disappointing about the austere potential perfection of the new maps. The satellites above us have seen all there is to see of the world; technically, they have mapped it all. But satellites know nothing of the beauty of hand-drawn maps, with their Spanish galleons and sea monsters, and they cannot comprehend wanderlust and the desire for discovery. Today we can locate the smallest hamlet in sub-Saharan Africa or the Yukon, but can we claim that we know them any better? Do the irregular and unpredictable fancies of the older maps more accurately reflect the strangeness of the world?

“The uncertainty that was once an unavoidable part or our relationship with maps has been replaced by a false sense of Wi-Fi-enabled omnipotence.”

– From “The End of the Map” at

A quiz

What are the two most common causes of death for American women?

Wisdom of the ages

“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

Current wisdom

“The great moral question of our attitude toward the homeless, toward refugees and migrants takes on a deeper dimension: Do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent.” – Pope Benedict XVI at a Christmas Eve Mass.

Quiz answer

Heart disease (27 percent) and cancer (22 percent).

Snob words

stridulous (STRIJ-uh-luhs), adj. – making or having a harsh or grating sound, as in: “The editorial writer knew his ears would start bleeding if the new clerk with the stridulous voice went on reading the minutes aloud much longer.”

Today in history

On this date in 1845, Texas was admitted as the 28th state; sometimes, it still acts like a republic.

A big country

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation's population as we head into the new year on Tuesday: More than 315 million. We're not expected to top 400 million until 2039.

Now you know

We know chocolate contains some caffeine, but it would take more than a pound of it to equal the caffeine in one cup of coffee.