Category: Play

Quartz, Atlas and the Y Axis

I’ve gone into a bit of a rabbit hole this weekend. One of VIP‘s biggest sites, Quartz, has a growing set of data visualizations, charts, graphs, etc, at their new branch, Atlas.

In poking around, I found myself at the Github repo for their visualization tool, Chartbuilder. This tool is pretty rad – if you have node on your computer you can run it locally, or you can also use their hosted version, here.

It took maybe six minutes to go from a CSV I’d never seen before (Lake Huron water levels) to a pretty nice little viz:

Lake_Huron_Water_Level_LakeHuron_chartbuilder (1).png

It offers a lot of flexibility, as well as simple ease of use. Anyone armed with a (properly formatted) CSV can go from numbers on a page to a useful visualization really quickly. I expect I’ll pick this up when I need something to go from numbers to graphic quickly, and the CSV is already nicely formatted.

I do love R and R Studio (ggplot2 for life), but sometimes I don’t want to spend much time tweaking something to be just-so, or searching Google (or Stack Exchange) for something I haven’t seen before.

One thing that’s worth bringing up, as data visualization becomes more accessible and easier for everyone to use, is this: going from a CSV to a chart can be an act of interpretation, and can create a message from the data that may skew your readers toward your perception.

(I’d argue that part of creating moral visualizations is presenting the data in a way that allows the individual to maintain positive liberty, but that’s a bigger discussion for another time)

Consider the viz above – you’d be understandably concerned about the water levels of Lake Huron – they do seem to be varying widely over the past century, and with a general downward trend.

This is a sneaky trick of the Y Axis – note that it only represents a span of eight feet. Look again, with the Y axis starting at 500:



… or, as some purists demand, with the Y axis starting at zero:


Lake_Huron_Water_Level_LakeHuron_chartbuilder (2).png


I am excited to mix Chartbuilder into my data toolbox, but remember well, dear readers: as visualization tools become easier to use and as the ideas of Big Data become stronger and stronger, there are lots and lots of ways irresponsible or malicious folks can weasel the facts.

Be vigilant out there, gang.

Also, happy Mother’s Day 🙂

Looking Forward: 2016 and Beyond

Looking Forward: 2016 and Beyond

I figure I’ll put together a 2015 recap soon – there are a lot of calendars and old Posts and such to dig through before I really have a great grasp on what the year really was about.

What I’m doing here is putting together a quick bullet-point list of things I’d like to put on my big-picture to-do list for 2016, or at least the first half of 2016. I figure I’ll hash these out in greater detail as they become more focused, but for now I think an outline of how I’d like 2016 to go is appropriate.

Big Picture:

  • Have perpetual, recurring, family activities. Swim classes, regular rituals, etc.
  • Eat more, better food.
  • Make fitness a practice and not a means to an end.
  • Focus on fewer things, more deeply.

More measurable:

  • Produce side revenue of ~50% of my take-home salary.
  • Release an interview every Thursday.
  • Do at least 2 more 30 Day Challenges (maybe with d3? more R? Python?)
  • Publish twice weekly on s12k, focusing on remote work and remote leadership, with an average word count of > 500 words

Feeling Grateful

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 8.06.44 PM.png

This time of year inspires in me, like most folks, a feeling of reflection and gratitude – the last year has gone really well, with the little one growing up in so many ways, with my own personal and professional growth, the podcast is picking up steam, not to mention a whole grip of new readers here at the blog!

Today my aunt and her partner went home to Philadelphia after a really lovely weekend visit, and one thing they commented on was my enthusiasm for food – eating it, preparing it, and talking about it. Thinking about this today, for some reason, has brought me back to a really singular moment.

When the Doctor and I lived in Providence, I worked for a small local chain of bakeries called Seven Stars – they’re beloved in that town, and I think rightfully so. Among other things, I actually did my first-ever growth experiment there! I feel immense gratitude to have had the trust and confidence of the owners there – that’s something that has made a huge difference in my whole life.

I remember I also, at one point. had the chance to spend a day in the production bakery, doing some light bake-work, rolling croissants and so forth.

While there, I remember this so, so very clearly, I took a bite out of a plain butter croissant fresh from the oven. It was explosive. It was remarkable. I’ve had red wine at midnight on the banks of the Seine and I had the extended tasting menu in the wine cellar at wd-50 (RIP), and that moment, in a T-shirt and a white apron in a commercial kitchen, stands among my finest and favorite culinary memories. For that, I am immensely grateful.

If you have a bakery in your town, a real artisan bakery that starts their croissants from butter and flour and laminates the dough in-house (this is rarer than you think) – you should do whatever you can to be their friend, and to find some way to replicate this experience. A fresh, warm croissant is simple, and delightful, and can stay with you forever.