The Brexit Deal Vote

Today’s (one of) the day(s). For those of you who haven’t followed Brexit, the British Parliament will vote this evening on whether to accept the deal Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the European Union…or not. And if not, well, the government now only has three—instead of the original 21—days to figure out a Plan B.

Of course this vote is only happening today because the government punted back in December when it was clear they were going to suffer a substantial loss. And back then, the BBC prepared this article about Brexit, where it was and where it was going. Funny thing is, after a month, not much has changed.

The screenshot below is of the process. As I noted above, the most critical change is that the government no longer has 21 business days to figure out what’s next. So instead of, to use the American football phrase, running out the clock, May will have to come up with something and present it to Parliament before 29 March, the day the UK leaves by statute.

How neat and orderly it must all seem…
How neat and orderly it must all seem…

I think the thing missing from the graphic is the chaos that happens if the deal is rejected. And while that may have been far from clearly the most obvious result two and a half years ago, it is now. And Parliament is scheduled to start voting around 19.00 GMT, or 14.00 EST for those of us on the East Coast or 13.00 CST for those of you in the Midwest.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

The World Grows On and On

I mentioned this this time last year, but I used to make a lot of datagraphics about GDP growth. The format here has not changed and so there is nothing new to look at there. But, the content is still interesting. And the accompanying Economist article makes the point that high growth rates are not always what they seem. After all, Syria’s high growth rate is because its base is so small.

The 2019 GDP growth forecasts
The 2019 GDP growth forecasts

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.

New Plans for Old Subways

The New Yorkers among my readers know about the whole planned shutdown of the L train for repairs owing to Hurricane Sandy (tangentially mentioned in the graphic I commented upon yesterday). For those of you who don’t know, basically the salt water from the storm seriously damaged the tunnels and a whole lot of work needs to be done to repair them. The plan was that a segment of the line would be shut down, to no obvious insignificance to commuters along the route, and it would reopen in a year and a half.

Then the state governor realised that might be bad optics and since he controls the agency running the New York subway system, he cancelled the shutdown so engineers can look at a different type of design.

I love pieces like this one from the New York Times. They are not crazy and wide-ranging, instead we have illustrations to compare the plans. They do a really nice job complementing the story without overwhelming it.

The proposed design
The proposed design

Plus, I’m a sucker for train and infrastructure stories.

Credit for the piece goes to Anjali Singhvi and Mika Gröndahl.

PECO Outages Five Years Ago

Christmas time is a time when people receive gifts. Well this year was no different and I received a few. One, however, was in a box stuffed with old newspaper pages. And it turns out one of said pages had a graphic on it. So let us spend today looking at this little blast from the past.

The piece looks at PECO outages, PECO being the Philadelphia region’s main electricity supplier. The article is full page and is both headed and footed with photography, the graphic in which we are interested sits centre stage in the middle of the page.

Full page design.
Full page design.

Overall the graphic is fairly compact and works well at showing the distribution of the outages, which the bar chart below the choropleth shows was historically significant. (Despite my years in Chicago, I was somehow in the area for all but the storm written about and can confirm that they were, in fact, disruptive.)

Ice storms suck.
Ice storms suck.

The choropleth works, but I question the colour scheme. The bins diverge at about 50%, which to my knowledge marks no special boundary other than “half”. If that yellow bin represented, say, the average number of outages per storm or the acceptable number of outages per storm, sure, I could buy it. Otherwise, this is really just degrees of severity along one particular axis. I would have either kept the bins all red or all blue and proceeded from a light of either to a dark of either.

I probably would have also dropped Philadelphia entirely from the map, but I can understand how it may be important to geographically anchor readers in the most populous county to orientate themselves to a story about suburbia.

Lastly, I have one data question. With power lines down during an ice storm, I would be curious to see less of the important roadways as the map depicts and other variables. What about things like average temperature during the storm? Was the more urban and built-up Delaware County less susceptible because of an urban heat bubble preventing water from freezing? Or what about trees? Does the impact in the more rural areas have anything to do with increasing numbers of trees as one heads away from the city?

Those last data questions were definitely out of scope for the graphic, but I nevertheless remain curious. But then again, this piece is almost five years old. Just a look at how some graphical forms remain in use because of their solid ability to communicate data. Long live the bar chart. Long live the choropleth.

Credit for the piece goes to the Philadelphia Inquirer graphics department.

Feathered Raptors

Well we made it to Friday. Admittedly, for many of us it was a short week.  But we can end it all the same with this piece from xkcd. It asks the question, are feathered dinosaurs scary? Back when they made the first Jurassic Park, we didn’t know how prevalent feathers were and so the dinosaurs were scaly. Now the Jurassic World films keep the dinosaurs scaly because, well, anti-science?

I think feathered raptors would be terrifying
I think feathered raptors would be terrifying

Credit for the piece goes to Randall Munroe.

Anak Krakatau

During my winter holiday to London the volcano Anak Krakatau erupted, sending enormous amounts of material sliding into the ocean. The displaced water had to go somewhere and travelled as a tsunami that devastated the Indonesian coastline.

Of course Anak Krakatau is one of several remnants of the much larger volcano of Krakatoa that erupted several times, perhaps most famously in 1883. Anak Krakatau specifically emerged in the late 1920s and has been building ever since until it collapsed almost two weeks ago. But by how much did it collapse?

Until just a few days ago, the skies above the volcano have not permitted detailed photography. But within the last day or so we have started to get images and the BBC put together this piece that looks at Anak Krakatau before and after.

Before on the left, after on the right
Before on the left, after on the right

It is a fairly common convention these days, the slider overtop the two images. But conceptually it shows clearly how the shape of the island has changed, in particular the new bay that has emerged. The other remarkable feature is the extension of land to the presumably east (right) of the image.

Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.

Treasury of Atreus

Oh, hello. Apologies for the break from posting, however, after the Thanksgiving holidays I fell ill. Consequently I spent the entirety of December either sick or on holiday. Neither of which is conducive to posting. But I have largely recovered and so we begin a new year with a new post.

This piece comes from my visit to the fantastic British Museum. It describes the Treasury of Atreus. It was neither a treasury nor of Atreus. Instead it served as a tomb for an unknown man, but someone of great importance. The signage displays the structure of the tholos, or tomb, and how it was oriented.

The sign explaining the Treasury and the fragments to the right along with the massive columns .
The sign explaining the Treasury and the fragments to the right along with the massive columns .

Signs like these make exhibits far more insightful, for me at least. The design of the tholos could be explained solely through words, however a graphical representation does wonders for me and, likely, others who learn better visually.

This sign could be like any sign, however, until I read the small sentence explaining the doorway to the right of the sign represents the facade of the Treasury with the two columns part original and part reconstruction. When you realise that and then see it, the true scale of the Treasury becomes known.

The actual columns, or parts thereof, of the Treasury of Atreus
The actual columns, or parts thereof, of the Treasury of Atreus

Credit for the piece goes to the British Museum’s design staff.

Ratings the Foods

For my American audience, Happy Thanksgiving. Coffeespoons will be on holiday for the remainder of the week. But don’t worry, we’ll be back. For my non-American audience, we basically celebrate a tale of the Pilgrims feasting with Native Americans after a successful harvest.

Today’s graphic is really just a series of tables. I think I missed this back in 2016 because, surprise, I had just moved to Philadelphia and was still settling into things—including running Coffeespoons. Anyway, FiveThirtyEight published an article trying to discover the most popular dishes. This is just a sampling , a screenshot of the meats. But you should go check it out to see if your favourite dishes made the cut.

Where's the beef?
Where’s the beef?

Mine did not. I am not a big fan of turkey and am doing a pork roast tomorrow . I guess I could go with the ham in a pinch though.

Credit for the piece goes to Walt Hickey.

More on California’s Dry Heat

Yesterday we looked at the wildfire conditions in California. Today, we look at the Economist’s take, which brings an additional focus on the devastation of the fires themselves. However, it adds a more global perspective and looks at the worldwide decline in forest fires and both where and why that is the case.

California isn't looking too…hot. Too soon?
California isn’t looking too…hot. Too soon?

The screenshot here focuses on California and combines the heat and precipitation we looked at yesterday into a fuel-aridity index. That index’s actual meaning is simplified in the chart annotations that indicate “warmer and drier years” further along the x-axis. The y-index, by comparison, is a simpler plot of the acres burned in fires.

This piece examines more closely that link between fires and environmental conditions. But the result is the same, a warming and drying climate leaves California more vulnerable to wildfires. However, the focus of the piece, as I noted above, is actually on the global decline of wildfires.

Only 2% of wildfires are actually in North America, the bulk occur in Africa. And the piece uses a nice map to show just where those fires occur. In parallel the text explains how changing economic conditions in those areas are lessening the risk of wildfire and so we are seeing a global decline—even with climate change.

Taken with yesterday’s piece with its hyper-California focus, this provides a more global context of the problem of wildfires. It’s a good one-two read.

Credit for the piece goes to the Economist Data Team.