I’ve been fascinated by this map all day.

It was the accompanying image for a short news article about new travel regulations for Irish passport holders traveling to the US. I immediately notice the Alabama label. Alabama is not frequently one of the top five state labels, unless the map labels all start with A. Is Alabama a primary location for Irish travelers? Great, I say. I love Alabama, and the Irish would love pork BBQ.

But then I notice that the other labels are in fact, not states, but cities. Although you could argue the New York label represents the state, and no way I’m wandering into that District of Columbia morass. For this discussion: 4 cities, one state. What gives?

I decide RTE must have grabbed this graphic from a previous story. But what story? What news item linked DC, LA, NYC, Berkeley and the State of Alabama? Then I notice the icons. Clearly New York and Los Angeles belong to the same solid-centered circle category, and DC is as always isolated by its square dot taxonomy. But Berkeley and Alabama? How do each of these geographic areas rate a concentric circle icon?

Berkeley and Alabama. Politics? No. Climate? No. Number of letters? No. Proximity to the Mississippi? No.

My analysis breaks down because I don’t know much about Berkeley. I wiki it. Maybe Berkeley has a statue of Vulcan? No. The stadium at UC Berkeley is for soccer. The city has public transportation. I don’t get it!

I can only imagine a news feature for the 3% of Ireland’s inhabitants who have never visited the United States that explains that in addition to the political center of Washington, DC, the entertainment mecca of LA and the locus of everything else, NYC, the United States has many more places that you will likely never go–cities like Berkeley, California, that is loved for its own merits, and other larger areas, called states, that have been part of the US since 1819. Alabama, for example.

My neural network continues to sizzle, and the map remains a mystery. Maybe I’ve been in Ireland long enough to be disoriented (but not disorientated) by a map of the US that does not contain Boston.

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