Europe is More than the Big States

First, I want to start with a housekeeping note. Your author will be travelling for work and then a short autumn holiday. And so while I may be able to sneak a post or two in, I generally would not expect anything until next Friday, 12 October.

But let’s end this string of posts with a map. It is a choropleth, so in one sense there is nothing crazy going on here. The map comes from the Economist, which published an article on life expectancy throughout Europe and the big takeaway is that it is lower in the east than the west.

Apparently life is pretty good in northern Spain
Apparently life is pretty good in northern Spain

The great part of the map, however, is that we get to see a more granular level of detail. Usually we just get a view of the European states, which presents them as an even tone of one shade or one colour. Here we can see the variety of life expectancy in the UK, France, and Belgium, and then still compare that to eastern Europe.

Of course creating a map like this demands data to drive it. Do data sets exist for the sub-national geographic units of EU or European states? Sometimes not. And in those cases, if you need a map, the European state choropleth is the choice you have to make. I just hope that we get to see more data sets like this with more granular data to present a more complex and patterned map.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.


Throughout recorded history, calendars have profoundly impacted the development of human society. They allowed us to mark the rain or flood seasons to prepare for planting or reaping crops along the banks of rivers like the Nile. Calendars allowed us to account for the seasons and create the mythologies around them. We also have calendars for lunar cycles and other celestial objects.

But the calendar looking to impact human history last week was this one:

But what was really happening on those dates…
But what was really happening on those dates…

That is the calendar of Brett Kavanaugh, nominee for the US Supreme Court. First, I find it remarkable that someone kept a calendar from 1982. Secondly, we are using this to corroborate or prove false allegations of sexual assault by said nominee.

The New York Times had this on their front page of Thursday’s print edition. And it did a great job of focusing the reader’s attention on arguably the most important story of the day.

As some of you are probably aware, the Senate Judiciary Committee, who must first vote on a Supreme Court nominee, interviewed one of the accusers. Republicans were forced to admit she is credible enough of a witness that instead of being confirming Kavanaugh, he is now being reinvestigated to see if these allegations are true.

Credit for the piece goes to Brett Kavanaugh.

Millennials Are the Worst

Happy Friday, everybody. We made it to week’s end. But wouldn’t you know it? Millennials are still terrible. Admittedly this piece is over a year old, but I could not remember ever seeing it before.

If you do not recall, last year there was a debate about the spending habits of millennials and why they are not out there buying homes and properties. The point was that we waste our money on experiences like expensive coffees and, most specifically, avocado toast. So amidst all this, the BBC decided to look at how many pieces of avocado toast would be needed to purchase an apartment in 10 global cities. Neither Philadelphia nor Chicago were on that list, but New York is.

Note they even have local prices for avocado toast to make the index more accurate.
Note they even have local prices for avocado toast to make the index more accurate.

Ultimately, I have never had avocado toast. But it sounds pretty good. But I find it a stretch to think the reason I do not own a home is because I am trying to eat 12,135 slices of avocado toast.

Credit for the piece goes to Piero Zagami.

Running Up the Debt

I was reading the paper this morning and stumbled across this graphic in a New York Times article that focused on the increasing importance of debt payments.

Those interest payment lines are headed in the wrong direction.
Those interest payment lines are headed in the wrong direction.

The story is incredibly important and goes to show why the tax cuts passed by the administration are fiscally reckless. But the graphic is really smart too. After all, it is designed to work in a single colour.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

Kavanaugh’s Fading in Competitive House Seats

Another day, another allegation of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh. We are presently at two and are expecting a third tomorrow. But the question is, will these allegations sink his nomination? Probably not. But could that confirmation hurt Republicans in the mid-terms? Possibly.

The New York Times posted an article about how Kavanaugh’s support in battleground congressional districts is slipping. To be fair, the chart is simple, but it does its job. And usually that’s all we want a chart to do.

Just a few points can make all the difference…
Just a few points can make all the difference…

Me the person interested in politics, however, will take this a bit further. If Kavanaugh’s support continues to fade—this survey was taken before these new allegations were public—will Republicans supporting the nomination face a backlash from their constituents?

Credit for the piece goes to Nate Cohn.

Our Lives Are a Mixed Bag

Last Thursday the Economist published an article looking at quality of life across the world. The data came from the Social Progress Imperative and examined quality of life, excluding economic performance. And as the article details, the results were mixed at best.

But, hey, the chart was really nice. We have a small multiple set looking at the overall index across all regions across the world and then the US, China, and India in particular.

Unfortunately the US is heading in the wrong direction…
Unfortunately the US is heading in the wrong direction…

I think this chart hits almost all the right notes. My only qualm would be the component indices being placed alongside the overall index. I wonder if breaking the whole thing out by component would work. As it is, it generally works well, I am just curious because there is the one issue of the United States where our well-being line falls beneath that of the overall index. But then again, the story is the overall index.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.

Supreme Court Picks

I was initially going to ignore this one graphic, but the absolute craziness of this past week’s Bret Kavanaugh nomination hearings/process made this feel at least somewhat relevant. But hey, at least it’s Friday?

I'm going with Marbury v. Madison all the way.
I’m going with Marbury v. Madison all the way.

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.

The Carolinas and Florence

As you all probably know, Hurricane Florence crashed into the Carolinas this past weekend. And while I was on holiday, I did see a few articles about the storm and its impact. This one from the New York Times captured my attention because of its use of—surprise, surprise—maps.

Hurricanes are just not fun
Hurricanes are just not fun

In particular, as the user scrolls through the experience, he or she sees the change in population density of the region from 1990 to 2010. Spoiler, a lot more people now live near the coast.

In terms of the graphic, however, I wonder if a simpler approach could have communicated that part of the story more clearly. Could the map have simply shown the change in density instead of visually transforming from one number to the next? Or maybe a summary map could have followed those transitions?

Credit for the piece goes to Stephen M. Strader and Stuart A. Thompson.

My Family Shrub?

One of the main objectives of my long weekend in Boston is to research my family history. Usually when you do that kind of research you see familiar visualisation forms: trees. And in this book on a New England ancestral family, I saw trees. But the problem is history is never as neat and clean as we would prefer it to be. Or at least as I would prefer it to be. And this is the tree I discovered for my ancestor George, the guy labelled N-1.

People need to stop naming their kids the same old names. It can make my research a pain in the arse.
People need to stop naming their kids the same old names. It can make my research a pain in the arse.

Normally family trees are direct lines of descent. But here the problem is that the current research cannot clearly state who the parents are of George. He can be one of two Georges, one the son of Francis and Tabitha and the other of Timothy and Elizabeth. So instead of a single trunk, we have more of a shrub-like set of parallel branches with lots of leaves.

But what I really liked about this graphic is that, one, it appears to have been made by being typeset on a typewriter instead of some fancy design software (the book was printed in 1984). And then for the researcher like me, the author took care to remove the names of people inconsequential for this particular line of enquiry. It shows the Georges of interest, including the known cousin labelled as C-1, and their parents but omits siblings. It is a very nice touch. (And made my life easier.)

Credit for the piece goes to Henry L. Bunker.

iPhone Screen Size

Your humble author has returned. And on my trip up to Boston I took plenty of photos with my Nexus 5X, a Google-designed smartphone. That is correct, this designer does not use an iPhone. But I am aware of the latest things coming out of Apple—after all this is being typed up on a Mac—and so the larger screen size caught my attention.

The Economist put together a piece looking at the screen sizes of the iPhone models over the years and then used that to project into the future the likely sizes of the phone’s display.

Bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and…
Bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and…

Now the article hints at what I would be particularly interested in: the screen sizes of comparable Android models. How have they changed over the years? I still cling to my smaller screen size mobile as I am not a fan of the phablet.

The chart itself is simple and well done, plotting the models without any fuss. But the most important part is the benchmark line of the iPad mini’s screen size. And the user can clearly see the forecast merger of the sizes.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.