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Archive for August, 2009

German Election Stats web map with SVG

2009/08/31 3 comments
Election Atlas for Germany

Election Atlas for Germany

I really don’t have much to say about this web map (I think it’s more a proof of concept for SVG since there’s not much explanatory text or anything yet). Just one little niggling thing—you can roll over the Value Distribution chart  (bottom right) and it highlights the country for the bar. So, nice, here’s me on the chart and, hey, there’s me on the map. But when you roll over the map, the associated value distribution bar isn’t highlighted. Why not? Everything else updates the same way. Anyway, it’s too bad SVG isn’t developed or being used more. The Redlands may strike me down (or maybe even Adobe) but sometimes you just don’t need that much infrastructure to make your point with a map. And there’s really no getting away from the Googlefication of the map if you go that route.

View the map here.

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Categories: GIS Tags: , ,

Neat – doppler radar mistakes wind turbines for tornadoes

2009/08/30 Comments off

I live in a tornado-prone area, so this immediately caught my eye.

Software can easily filter out buildings, cell towers and mountain ridges on radar screens. Yet because weather radar seeks motion to warn of storms, there’s no way to filter out the spinning blades.

Microwave radio signals are beamed toward a particular point and meteorologists listen for the “reflection.” Experts can pick out the shape of a storm, or a tornado.

The splatter of green, yellow, orange and red on Doppler screens that are caused by wind farms can look very much like a tornado or a storm.

via The Daily Herald

Part of me found it quite amusing; another part a little terrifying.

It also speaks to the potential pitfalls of relying solely on software to make life and death decisions. As the article notes, it’s dangerous for a meteorologist to ignore a signal near a wind turbine (assuming it’s just the blades) when there actually is a tornado and it’s also dangerous for the meteorologist to report false information, that there is a tornado, (assuming it’s not the turbines) when there is no tornado. The latter situation reduces the efficacy of the warning system, the boy crying wolf scenario. You get Type I and Type II errors all for trying to be a good eco-citizen.

I’d think, though, that they could get the coordinates of the turbines and add some code to go ‘hey, there’s a tornado near wind turbine x and the tornado’s not moving really anywhere so maybe it isn’t a tornado.” I guess that’s harder than it sounds.

Categories: Technology Tags: , ,

Egg-pocalypse x 2

2009/08/27 Comments off

We previously discussed the downfall of western society based on the availability of pre-cooked hardboiled eggs in the super market here at Sparsile Commons (see And I just thought it was a midwestern thing). So when I ran across this concept for cooking instructions on the egg, I knew that we were one step closer to doom.

via Eat Me Daily

via Eat Me Daily

Disaster! Doom! What if I don’t want to spiegel that egg? I bet that nice dotted line gets smeared during printing anyway.

Categories: Design, Uncategorized

!Nessie

2009/08/26 Comments off

This is not Nessie:

Image of Loch Ness

Image of Loch Ness (Latitude 57°12'52.13"N, Longitude 4°34'14.16"W)

This is a boat. Obviously moving at a pretty good tick since there’s also a wake. The images in Google Earth do not have the resolution to identify large sea creature, especially mythical sea creatures. If it were Nessie, then Nessie would be ultra-ginormous and really, really hungry since Loch Ness is not the most fertile water body in the world. So we would know about Nessie since it would have rampaged through the quaint Scottish villages along the coast.

Story at The Daily Mail

Categories: GIS, Science Tags: ,

Fear and failing

2009/08/23 2 comments

Remember the ski school instructions for the n00bs? Pizza to slow down and french fry to speed up. I was thinking about that  the other day during a run of shifted priorities and server disasters. I think we need a similar analogy for project management—cheetah and ostrich. Cheetah for the lean, mean, effective plan; ostrich for the haphazard, awkward lack of planning.

Cheetah! I have a plan. I see the end point. We’re going to make it! We are on fire!

Ostrich! Oh noes! The program doesn’t work. Maybe if I ignore it, that stack trace will just go away.

Cheetah! Dude, we are on fire!

Ostrich! Is that smoke pouring out of the server?!

Not quite the same as pizza and french fry, but you get the idea.

Consider working for people who always take the ostrich approach to PM. And then extend the lack of planning to an inability to consider all of the projects and the priorities when responding to new requests or problems. Or even bouncing between the two states—frustration city with disaster lurking in the burbs. Then there’s no time to plan, no time to think things through and the cycle continues because now you have to keep going back to redo things that were close but not quite right due to the lack of planning. But it also speaks to a failure in communication and to fear. If you don’t make a plan then there’s really no reason why the failure is your fault, but once your name is in there as responsible for some or all of the project, well, that’s pressure. And thus the fear.

What they (the planless) don’t realize is that having a plan is like a fear quencher. You know what to expect, at least in somewhat broad terms; you know who to go to for each part and you know what you’re going to get at the end. Far less scary than contemplating the great unknown of your project. So avoid the disastacle* and make a plan. And then follow the plan. That last part is just as important.

* still my favorite disaster term. Hooray, Better Off Ted!

Categories: Coding Tags: ,

Shocker! People don’t search by programming languages on weekends so much

2009/08/16 Comments off

So some engineering student used the StackOverflow.com data to see if C# and Java were ‘serious’ languages (i.e. languages that people used mostly at work) and Python and Ruby on Rails were ‘play’ languages (languages people used for fun). He figured that you would see this in the search terms – C# and Java during the week; Python and Ruby on Rails on the weekends. Here’s what he came up with:

StackOverflow results

StackOverflow results (normalized)

And then there’s some talk about big spikes on weekends and on Mondays. I’m not seeing anything that screams statistically significant. So I went to Google Trends for outside corroboration. Here’s the results for the last 30 days:

C# v Java v Python v Ruby on Rails v Lego

C# (red) v Java (orange) v Python (purple) v Ruby on Rails (green) v Lego (blue)

and threw in Lego, working on a similar assumption that more people would look up Lego on the weekends. Seems pretty clear—searches for C# and Java drop on weekends (and you can ignore the blip on the lower chart—that was related to the island of Java); Python and Ruby not so much; and Lego goes up on weekends. Not even remotely scientific, but I think a clearer case for C# and Java being used more for work than play given the dropoff. Obviously, for a real comparison, one would need better data for Python and Ruby on Rails in particular as well as a filter to remove Java the place from Java the computer language. I like that there are more searches for Lego any day of the week than there ever are for C#. That’s awesome.

Apropos of nothing

2009/08/15 Comments off

The staff in my office are falling out into two distinct schools of internet time-wastery. The issue—which site, the Daily Bunny or the Daily Otter, is better. It is a fascinating sociological study.

The two sides:

The Daily Bunny

The Daily Bunny

The Daily Otter

The Daily Otter

Personally, I do not want to know you if you don’t like otters.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,