Posts in category Geek

May 19th, 2014

Countryside map

The University of Namur’s library has some wonderful building, local, regional and national maps on their NEPTUN site. They provide a Google Map like pan and zoom functionality using a commercial Flash program called Zoomify. It’s unfortunate they chose to pay for functionality that’s freely available from OpenLayers or Leaflet. Regardless of this the data is not downloadable as a large file. I do not see why data such as this is not made easily and freely available. As a University it seems that it should be encouraging the sharing of past knowledge. In order to help them, and because a colleague asked me for a map, I have created a script that downloads all the tiles and reorganize them into one image. The script and instructions are on github. It’s obvious why it’s called Poseidon right?

November 23rd, 2011

Infographics serve to simplify the communication of complexity by showing shapes, relationships, metaphors, hues, flows and symbols to represent values. A visually clean and attractive layout is common. We are more quickly able to compare visual values such as areas than numbers. Numbers and words require a more steps: deciphering (reading), translating to meaning and finally absorption. Visual symbols are directly absorbed.

Last year I purchased the book Information is Beautiful (IiB) by David McCandless. Its premise made me add it to my virtual shopping cart instantly. The book is strictly infographics about all sorts of serious, curious and funny topics. I was rather disappointed when reading it and discovered many incomplete pages. I became frustrated with the book and glossed over it a little quickly after that, admiring more the designs than the actual data. McCandless calls it a “freak printing error” but I wonder if it wasn’t partially from the last minute rush. I’ve watched his TED talk and I feel he may be a bit full of himself.

Infographics can fail at many stages. There can be an error in the research as in McCandless’ vitamin supplements graphic. These require you to know well the data to detect errors. There are also representational errors where the values researched are not represented correctly relative to other values. These are easier to detect if the author/artist also displays the values that the graphics are trying to represent. I browsed through IiB a few months back and looked at the data theft infographic. I quickly saw many representation and design errors. I admire his listed source materials / bibliography but I do not think he took to heart Tufte’s lessons.


November 2nd, 2011

Three different clocks

A day has 24 hours in it. That’s 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. If you wonder why Americans don’t understand the need for using the metric system then ask yourself why you use this inconsistent time measurement system.

What if we could design a better time system that is easier to read and convert between units? Would it still have the same number of hours, minutes or seconds in a day?

Explore the designs.

October 25th, 2011

I don’t use credit cards as means of delaying payment over a longer period of time. I like their ease and simplicity. Swipe and go. I pay no fees. Life is simple. Of course when it’s time to view my credit card statements online it’s a big pain visualize my recent transaction history. Perhaps this is simply with my bank but it seems they want to make it as hard as possible or simply don’t care about user experience. If I want to view past transactions my only option is to download a PDF for each month. If I make a partial payment of my credit card balance owing, the system will only ever show me the total and never update to what remains. Only when the payment due date passes will it update and tack on interest and the remaining balance. I decided to create an interactive mock-up of what could be done to provide a more informative and usable experience when trying to understand the situation of your credit card debts.

February 17th, 2011

Disc Words

When I was playing ultimate frisbee back at UVic in the intramural league, the reoccurring challenge was to find a great team name that contained the word ‘disc’ within it. I don’t remember many. The discombobulators and discord are the only two I remember. The best names were not necessarily those with the word ‘disc’ included but they were admired nevertheless. Some great team names I have come across over the years are: Uvictim (for the the UVic team) and Hoof Hearted (get it?). I stumbled across a list of 10,000 English words a few months back and thought this would be a chance to see all the words that have the substring ‘disc’ within.


September 2nd, 2010

Gaëlle enjoys soup but is impatient. Instant soups are great satisfiers of children and parents alike for their relatively good taste, variety and ease of preparation. The only problem still present is the impatient daughter part or how to cool the boiling soups rapidly, and relevant to this QotW, to the correct temperature. Ice cubes are the solution but how many should you put?


June 13th, 2010

Although I would like the QotW to be more applied I sometimes consider interesting proportions between geometric shapes. Imaging you have two perfect spherical oranges on a table. They are touching and there is a compressed Eiffel Tower shape between them and the table. You have a bowl of grapes and would like to roll the biggest one possible through this hole. In terms of the size of the oranges, what is the largest grape that will pass through the whole without pushing apart the oranges?


May 30th, 2010

Introducing the new series of ‘Question of the Week’ (QotW) where I pose physics and math questions to myself and others. These QotW are meant to explore concepts and generally have a little fun. I am no expert in these so it may very well be that my solutions are wrong and I invite criticism and scrutiny.

QotW #1
When I clean dishes (I do!) and encounter a dirty jam jar, milk bottle or similar container I occasionally consider how much water to put in the container before shaking it. The idea being that the more water (mass) I have inside the more force the water will hit the dirty corners with. The catch is that the more water I put in the jar the less distance it will have to accelerate when I shake the jar and hit the other end. So the question is how much of the container should be filled with water to maximize the force with which the water hits the other side of the jar.


April 16th, 2010

I don’t read magazines. I enjoy the Weekly Guardian newspaper and surf many websites for news. In reading the American ‘bon appétit’ cooking magazine that Julia gifted me for Christmas I have rediscovered that magazines have too much advertisement. Not only are there many explicit ads, there are ads masquerading as columns, and then there are the insidious ads where the magazine is blatantly pushing brand name items in their columns.

I decided to sit down and count how many and what types of adds occur and determine the distribution of content across the span of the magazine. After analyzing the magazine I decided to poke a little fun at the amazing amount of advertising in bon appétit by creating an info graphic.


April 15th, 2010

While Google provides analytical tools such as Google trends, it is possible to make deductions from the number of hits a search gets. Things people are more interested in will have more results. For some reason I began thinking about using Google hits to see if people have greater pain on their left or right body part. I opened a spreadsheet and began doing Google searches for ‘my [left/right] [body part] hurts’ for many body parts.