Art, Maps

Bay Area Homicide Constellation Map

This is a map of murders throughout the Bay Area. Constellations are formed by connecting homicides from 2013 that are in close geographic proximity to each other. Homicides from 2014 are also layered on to provide a bit more context, although not used to form the constellations.

sf_bay_area_homicide_constellations_696

“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”
Eskimo Proverb

Detailed Views

Here’s a detailed view of San Francisco and Oakland, which have some of the most interesting constellations. As with clouds in the sky, different people will see different things. San Francisco jumps out as a dog to me. In Oakland I can see a whale or shark (facing south toward Hayward) or a caterpillar (facing north toward Berkeley).

sf_closeup

Just north of Berkeley we have a cluster in Richmond, forming what to me resembles a child swinging in a hammock.

richmond_closeup

A bit to the east is Antioch and Pleasanton. Antioch is the main cluster in the middle and Pleasanton is the smaller cluster to the west.

antioch_closeup

East Palo Alto is a notable cluster that stands out due to its concentration and isolation. The data has eight 2013 murders in East Palo Alto, contrasted with almost nothing in the richer surrounding cities of Palo Alto, Atherton, and Menlo Park.

east_palo_alot_closeup

The sprawling city of San Jose also produces a sprawling map — connecting the dots of the 2013 killings produces a disarming image that looks an awful lot like a human face.

san_jose_closeup

The Data

San Francisco publishes a decent amount of crime data on its data portal, DataSF, however homicide data is not included. The data used in these maps was collected and published by the San Jose Mercury News.

2013 map and kml file.

2014 map and kml file.

Method

Both the 2013 points and the 2014 points were used in the map. To form the constellations, however, only the full set of 2013 data was used. Constellations were formed by connecting the 2013 points using Delaunay triangulation and then filtering down the resulting lines to only include lines shorter than a certain distance. That left clusters of points that are all close together.

Here’s the map of only 2013 points connected using Delaunay triangulation.
2013_delaunay

There is no connection between any of these locations besides their proximity to each other. A line connecting two points is not meant to signify any relationship (again, other than their geographic proximity).

Tools

The data was processed using QGIS for the initial exploration work and to create the Delaunay triangulation lines. I then brought the data into MapBox Studio, which was used to style the points and lines and to export a high resolution image. The rest of the processing was done in Photoshop.

High Resolution Files

All images are licensed under the CC BY-NC 2.0 license. If you’d like to print your own copy the dimensions should work with an 18×12 print.

High-res version with the “old paper” background (32 MB)
High-res version with a white background (12 MB)

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Art, Maps

2014 South Napa Earthquake – 3D Print

Two weeks ago on the night of August 24, 2014 I was shaken awake by the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Napa, CA. It was the largest earthquake to hit the Bay Area since the 1989 World Series quake. Where I was in San Francisco wasn’t close enough to the epicenter to do much other than wake people up. But while watching the reports start coming in on Twitter it became clear that up in Napa there was quite a bit of damage. Unable to sleep, I started downloading the data to understand what the difference was between what I had felt and what it was like right in the epicenter.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been experimenting with 3D printing the shake intensity from the Napa quake.

epicenter_angled

The full piece consists of 9 printed panels, and I’ve chosen to mount and frame the piece highlighting the paneled composition.

all_tiles_above

The source data comes from the USGS and represents the Peak Ground Velocity (PGV), which is a measure of how intense the ground shaking was, which is closely related to damage.

The graphic below renders the source PGV data around the epicenter:

source_data

I’ve converted the source GIS data to a 3D model using some software I wrote called shp2stl, which is available for anyone to use. The conversion extrudes each polygon proportionally to its PGV value. So a spot twice as high (on the Z axis) on the model had a peak velocity twice as great.

A few shots of the 3D model itself:

model_3

model_4

A view from above that shows the epicenter and extends down to include San Francisco shows how concentrated the shaking was and how little it affected other areas. I can attest to the fact that apart from the nuisance of being woken up at 3am, the earthquake didn’t do much down in SF.

napa_sf_2tile_above_696

Another overall shot of all the tiles that make up the full map:

all_tiles_angled

And more detailed shots of the epicenter:

epicenter_angled_details

epicenter_above

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Art, Maps

A City Cut in Two by a Tornado

This is a map of Moore, Oklahoma. On May 20, 2013 an EF5 tornado struck this city of 58,000 people, killing 24 and injuring 377 others. The destruction within the direct path of the storm was near complete.

moore_tornado_1

This piece focuses on the city boundary of Moore and the destruction that ripped right through the center of the town. The tornado track has been removed from the map, and the city has been split open.

Moore lies just south of Oklahoma City. The city boundaries are shown below.

moore_boundaries2

The path of the tornado was published by NOAA after the event.

moore_track

The center of the tornado path left only debris. The aerial imagery alone makes the path extremely clear.

moore_tornado_satellite_google

Google Crisis Response

FEMA/Jocelyn Augustino

FEMA/Jocelyn Augustino

To capture the concept of a city cut in half, this piece is a 3D printed representation of the boundary of the city with the tornado track cut out, splitting the city in two. The city boundaries are 3D printed with white plastic mounted on wood.

moore_tornado_5

moore_tornado_3

moore_tornado_4

Iterations

I went down a few paths prior to settling on the simpler, more abstract map. I first attempted to map the population within the city to show that the tornado struck right directly through populated areas. These images show the initial prints I made that show population.

I found the population data interesting, but it muddled the narrative. Instead of focusing on the visceral reaction of a town split down the middle, you start trying to quantify the data. The next attempt was to manipulate the tornado track in various ways. These versions show the “splitting” by ripping the model in three parts and pulling the tornado track out a bit. You can see that I eventually opted to drop the population data entirely.

That got me closer to the result I was looking for, bringing the focus to the track. But I wasn’t really trying to focus on the area that was damaged. What hit me hardest when looking at the maps of the path was how such a hole was left in the middle of this city. How there was simply nothing there.

moore_tornado_2

And so I ended up removing the track entirely, leaving a giant gash through the middle. The result finally got me the kick in the gut I was looking for. A city split in two.

Personal Thoughts

I created this immediately following the tornado, but it didn’t feel right to blog about it in the immediate aftermath, hence the delayed writeup.

My job involves mapping events like the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. But in doing so I often lose the ability to see the real human impact these events have. I sell software to insurance companies. When a tornado tears through a town, or when a hurricane hits the coast, the usage of our software spikes. Our business benefits when these things happen. Our customers are trying to estimate the damage, calculate the losses, and understand the financial impact. So much of it is about numbers. It’s too easy to see these maps and not recognize that people are dead and an entire city has been shaken to its foundation.

So when the next tornado hits, or the next earthquake, hurricane, or fire, I hope to remember that what really matters are the people. It’s not about the interesting maps, or the buildings destroyed, or the dollars lost. It’s always about the people.

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Maps

Woodcut Map of Golden Gate Park

This is a custom-made map of Golden Gate Park created by the people at Woodcut Maps. I met Gabe Smedresman nearly two years ago at some SF meetup group. He had just launched his new project, woodcutmaps.com, and once I heard about it I was determined to get something made. I had just bought a house on the north side of Golden Gate Park, and I wanted something personal to commemorate our new home.

The map I had made focuses on the park, but includes streets to the north and south to provide context.

woodcut_sf_1

The Woodcut Maps folks made a few customizations to the design for me. The entire map was rotated a slight bit to get the streets running east-west to be perfectly horizontal. The actual streets in San Francisco run at an ever so slight diagonal, but to give the map better symmetry I wanted things to line up perfectly. They also added a small marker for my home on the north side of the park.

woodcut_sf_2

I had originally intended this to be the top of a coffee table. It measures 34″ by 18″, and I believe for a very brief period right when I had it made it was the largest map Woodcut Maps had created (but that record was quickly broken). But instead of mounting it as a tabletop, my wife decided it was so gorgeous that it deserved to be front and center in our living room. So we mounted it on a wood frame and put it above our fireplace.

woodcut_sf_3

I was amazed at how manual the process was to construct these maps. The pieces are all laser cut, but then they are assembled by hand. Here’s a shot of the assembly process. Some of the pieces are really tiny, and it takes a lot of patience working with tweezers to get it all done.

photo (12)

Since Woodcut Maps is a local San Francisco startup I was able to meet up with them in person to see the process. They even saved a few parts of the construction for me to complete. Here’s a few shots of me putting the last bits of Stow Lake together.

woodcut_sf_4

woodcut_sf_5

One last detail shot to show the walking paths around the De Young museum and the Academy of Sciences. I love this park!

woodcut_sf_6

If you want to support a cool local San Francisco business, go check out what they’re doing at Woodcut Maps.

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Art, Maps

Point Nemo Wood Map

The most remote spot on Earth sits in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, over 1,600 miles from land in any direction. It is quite literally the middle of nowhere. And yet, because it’s exactly the middle of nowhere, it’s actually an incredibly remarkable somewhere. This beautifully unique spot is called Point Nemo.

point_nemo_wood_map1

This map brings focus to this distant pole of inaccessibility. Centered on Point Nemo we have a much simpler map than we’re used to. Instead of focusing on complex land features, we shift to look at the expanse of nothing. The islands closest to Point Nemo, Ducie Island, Motu Nui, and Maher Island, are marked and the 1,670 mile radius around the pole is delineated.

point_nemo_wood_map2

Continents just barely peak out from the edges with Antarctica to the south and the tip of South America to the east, bringing just enough context to the nearly limitless expanse of sea.

point_nemo_wood_map3

Creating the Point Nemo laser-cut map

I created the map by first using GeoJSON and D3, which provides enough flexibility to create arbitrary map projections. In this case I needed an equidistant projection centered on Point Nemo. Mike Bostock, the creator of D3, created two examples (here and here) that use the azimuthal equidistant projection that were incredibly helpful.

By modifying those examples to center the location on Point Nemo I was able to create the perfect map with code (click through and view source if interested). The map below draws the continents, then layers on the four points of interest (Point Nemo and the three closest points of land) and draws a circle for the radius around the pole.

nemo_d3_output

And since D3 just produces SVG, it’s easy to save the SVG and open it up in Illustrator to tweak it. A few quick edits and I was able to get the vector file ready for laser cutting and etching. I used Ponoko to cut and etch the design out of wood. If you’re interested in recreating this map, you can download the full vector file I sent off for laser cutting.

point_nemo_ponoko

Once the laser cut parts came back I used a light wood stain to stain the inner radius of the map to visually set it apart.

Geo, D3, Lasers, X-mas, oh my!

This map was my Christmas present for my dad this year. He’s a sailor, and I mean that not in the “day-sail with your buddies” type of way but rather the “single-handedly sail across oceans” kind of way. He hopes to make his way to Point Nemo one day, and this map was my little reminder to him to make it happen.

point_nemo_wood_map4

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Art, Maps

Haiti Earthquake Tree Trunk Map

haiti_earthquake_full

This piece is a representation of the January 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti. Laser cut out of different kinds of bamboo, it shows the shake intensity data radiating out from the epicenter near Port-au-Prince.

This devastating earthquake caused massive damage and an unknown number of deaths. Estimates were anywhere from about 80,000 to 300,000 casualties. Even this many years later it’s hard to know the full impact of this event. I remember watching the news for the weeks after this earthquake as they tried to find the dead and survey the damage.

haiti_shakemap1

This is the data from the USGS for the shake intensity. These lines are contour lines showing how strong the shaking was. Looking at this you can almost feel the ripple out from the center.

I was sitting my computer, looking at this data, and I was struck by the pattern here.

haiti_shakemap2

If we look only at the contour lines alone you get this really interesting image. While I was staring at this it occurred to me that his image looked just like the rings of a tree.

tree_trunk

I certainly don’t want to trivialize the Haiti earthquake. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives were lost. But there is something oddly beautiful to think about this one destructive natural process, an earthquake, and the visual similarity to this other natural process, the growth of a tree. A growing tree is something we universally consider beautiful and organic, and representative of life. But both of these are nature doing its thing. One has horrific consequences for us, one is wonderful. But fundamentally they’re just nature running its course. I wanted to create a piece that tried to connect those dots.

haiti_earthquake_closeup1

Which is how I ended up with the final piece. It’s made out of two different kinds of wood, and meant to evoke that same beauty that we see when looking at a tree trunk. That same sense of a natural process.

haiti_earthquake_closeup2

This serves as a reminder to me. It’s a reminder that sometimes there isn’t much of a difference between something horrific and something beautiful. Deep down the same natural processes were responsible for the destruction in Haiti and the growth of this planet. And these forces, for better or worse, are completely outside of our control. To me there’s a certain beauty in that.

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Data Visualization, Maps

Hurricane Blueprints

As we begin the 2013 hurricane season, I wanted to share something I created after last year’s monumental Superstorm Sandy. After the 2012 hurricane season I was trying to wrap my head around how large Sandy was and how that compared with prior storms. In particular, I wanted to understand how Sandy compared to 2011’s Hurricane Irene.

I thought a blueprint was the appropriate metaphor for comparing these storms. The windfields of the storms are mapped side by side so you can see how large the areas of severe winds were in each event.

hurricane_blueprint_1280
Larger version | Even larger version

All the storms shown are drawn to scale and have their original orientations preserved (so north is up in all the storms). You can see that Sandy, at almost 1,000 miles wide, is nearly twice as wide the prior year’s Hurricane Irene.

To show more detail, here’s a closeup of Sandy:

sandy_blueprint

And Hurricane Irene:

irene_blueprint

We ended up sending prints of these out to our SpatialKey customers who use our hurricane mapping software.

Credits

All storm data is directly from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center. The blueprint background is from psdGraphics.

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Art, Maps

Hurricane Coasters

I’ve been creating maps of hurricanes for the last few years. My job involves writing software to assess the impact of an approaching storm, so during an active hurricane season I become a bit obsessed. When you watch these things so closely and so constantly they get burned into your memory. They almost enter your subconscious. They become inkblots on a Rosharch test. Irene, Isaac, Sandy. I started seeing hurricanes everywhere.

hurricane_rorschach

I decided to create something that took these shapes that I was so familiar with. These shapes that were burned into my head. These shapes had become such a constant presence in my mind I figured it was only fitting to make them a constant presence in my home as well, so I created a set of coasters.

hurricane_coasters

The hurricanes on these coasters are all to scale, so you can look at one storm next to the other and compare the sizes or orientations. The image below shows Irene compared with Sandy compared with Isaac. You probably remember Sandy from 2012. Irene was the big storm the year before. And Isaac was the one that swept by Florida during the Republican convention in 2012.

hurricane_coasters_all

These shapes now sit on my coffee table. You can compare the sizes to see that Sandy was so much wider than the other storms. And they even work well to hold drinks:

hurricane_coasters_in_use

Laser Cutting with Ponoko

I used Ponoko, which provides laser cutting as a service. I cut my designs out of two different kinds of bamboo, which gave me the two-tone look. Unfortunately, Ponoko seems to have discontinued one of the kinds of bamboo, so recreating coasters like this is a little more difficult now.

I used the Ponoko design template, and sent this design off for laser cutting:

coaster_designs

If you’d like to modify this design and use it yourself, feel free to download the vector EPS file.

I sent that same design off for laser cutting out of two different sheets of bamboo. Once I got the laser cut pieces back, I assembled them and glued them onto a base of corkboard (also ordered from Ponoko).

hurricane_coasters_construction

Overall I love Ponoko. It’s safe to say I developed a bit of a laser cutting habit (which can certainly start getting expensive). I’ve done a lot of work with Ponoko, and what I get shipped back from them always matches my designs exactly.

Why?

I love the idea of taking these massive things, like Superstorm Sandy, and shrinking them down to such a small scale. Bringing them down to coaster scale.

sandy_coaster

Hurricane Sandy was a huge force of nature. It was 1,000 miles wide. And in its path it left 285 people dead. There’s something I’m trying to get at here, a cognitive dissonance of sorts. We watch these massive events, these things that kill people, and it’s so incredibly hard to really understand that. And so we don’t. We watch the news and we track the data, but we don’t really understand what a thousand mile wide path of destruction really means. These coasters are an attempt to physically embody that discordance.

 

 

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Art, Data Visualization, Maps

Physical Maps – My 360|intersect Presentation

I recently had the privilege  of presenting at 360|intersect in Seattle. My talk explored creating physical map using various techniques like 3D printing, laser cutting, etc. This was a much more artistic exploration than a lot of my previous work, and I am incredibly proud of the pieces I produced. The full video of my presentation is embedded below. I’ll be documenting each of the projects I created in future blog posts, but for now here’s the 45-minute long presenation:

And if you just want to see an overview of the various projects before watching the video, here’s a quick preview of all the projects that I talk about in the presentation:

360_intersect_projects

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Uncategorized

Hackers and Depression: Inform Yourselves About CBT

My wife is a clinical psychologist. Over the past week we’ve had long discussions about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is a certain type of therapy that is focused on using evidence-based methods (read: there have been studies showing effectiveness), with a particular emphasis on rational reasoning and pragmatic ways to tackle issues like depression and anxiety. The overlap with programming in terms of the way of thinking is astounding.

As a community, we rarely talk about mental illness. It takes high profile cases like Aaron Swartz’s suicide to get us to even bring up the subject, but more than likely we’ll revert back to our isolation and pretend like depression isn’t a serious issue in the tech world. We need to face depression, not sweep it under the rug.

If you or someone you care about is dealing with depression, please take a look at CBT. This article is a joint effort between a programmer (me) and a psychologist (my wife). I bet it’s the first article about therapy you’ve seen that uses code snippets to illustrate points.

CBT is for Hackers:

The tragedy to me is this: one of the most effective and scientifically-backed treatments for depression appears to be a stunning fit for hackers, and yet few people know about it. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and it has some of its origins in computer science.

Born out of the cognitive revolution of the 1950s, a key idea within cognitive psychology is that by studying successful functions in computer science, it becomes possible to make testable inferences about human psychological processes. Cognitive behavioral therapists mirror hackers in how they see the world and approach problems. They share the same core values: an emphasis on problem solving as efficiently and effectively as possible, using logic to debug a system, gathering data to test out what works and what doesn’t, and implementing transparent methods that others can understand and replicate as opposed to simply putting your faith in a “magic black box”. CBT and hackers are long lost kindred spirits, yearning to be reunited.

Read the full CBT is for Hackers article.

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