The Demilitarised Zone

Over the weekend, the American and North Korean leaders got into an argument with the North Korean leader calling President Trump old and the American leader calling Kim Jong Un short and fat. High class diplomacy.

So what holds the North Korean army, by numbers likely not quality one of the largest armed forces in the world, back from sweeping down the Korean coastlines and overrunning Seoul? Well, that would be the role of the Demilitarised Zone, or DMZ. And thankfully yesterday, whilst your humble author was out sick, the Washington Post published a piece looking at the DMZ.

The title of the piece
The title of the piece

The piece uses a giant, illustrated in the background to provide context to the words and imagery sitting in the foreground. (That is how I justified covering it in the blog: map.) Overall the experience was smooth and informative about the sheer amount of destructive power waiting just miles north of Seoul.

Credit for the piece goes to Armand Emamdjomeh, Laris Karklis, and Tim Meko.

The Importance of Cartography

Today I wanted to share with you a piece from the BBC that explores the importance of cartography, or mapmaking, in relief efforts particularly in Malawi, a country located in southeastern Africa.

My favourite still, perhaps, was an image of a hand-drawn map
My favourite still, perhaps, was an image of a hand-drawn map

This is a still from a short video—it clocks in at just a tad under three minutes—that you can watch to see how volunteers are identifying and mapping villages that do not appear on today’s maps. The importance, as they explain, is that if the village does not appear, it is as if the village does not exist. Consequently it can be quite difficult for aid to reach these villages during disasters like the 2015 floods.

Credit for the piece goes to Ruth Evans.

Voting in Virginia

Today is Election Day here in the States, but neither for the presidency nor for Congress. 2017 is an off-year, but it does have a few interesting races worth following. One is the New Jersey gubernatorial election across the river here from Philadelphia. Further down the Northeast Corridor we have the gubernatorial election in Virginia. And then I am going to be following the special election for a Seattle suburb’s state-level district. Why? Because it all gets to setting the table for 2022.

These three elections are all important for one reason, they relate to the idea of solid political control of a state government. The analogy is what we have in Washington, DC where the Republicans control the executive branch and both chambers of the legislative branch. In New Jersey, Democrats control the state legislature while (in?)famous Chris Christie, a Republican, is governor. In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, is governor whilst the General Assembly is solidly Republican—we will get to that in a minute, trust me—and finally in Washington, the governorship is Democratic, the lower chamber of the state legislature is Democratic, but the state senate is Republican by one seat. And one of those very seats is up for a special election today.

So why am I making the big deal about this? Because solid political control of a state allows for biased redistricting, or gerrymandering, in 2020, when the US Census will reapportion seats to states, and thereby electoral college votes. If the Republicans win in Virginia, which is possible in what the polls basically have as a toss-up, they can redistrict Virginia to make it even harder for Democrats to win. And if the Democrats win in New Jersey and Washington, as they are expected to, they will be able to redistrict the state in their favour. Conversely, if the Democrats win in Virginia, and Republicans in New Jersey and Washington, they can thwart overly gerrymandered districts.

Which gets us to Virginia and today’s post. (It took awhile, apologies.) But as the state of Virginia changes, look at the dynamic growth in northern part of the state over the past decade, how will the changing demographics and socio-economics impact the state’s vote? Well, we have a great piece from the Washington Post to examine that.

The growth has been in northern Virginia thus far
The growth has been in northern Virginia thus far

It does a really nice job of showing where the votes are, in northern Virginia, and where the jobs are, again in northern Virginia. But how southern Virginia and Republicans in the north, might have just enough votes to defeat Democratic candidate Ralph Northam. The last polls I saw showed a very narrow lead for him over Republican Ed Gillespie. Interestingly, Gillespie is the very same Gillespie who architected the Republican’s massive victory in 2010 that obviously shifted the House of Representatives to the Republicans, but more importantly, shifted state legislatures and governorships to the Republicans.

That shift allowed for the Republicans to essentially stack the deck for the coming decade. And so even though in 2016, Democrats won more votes for the House of Representatives, they have far fewer seats. Even if there is a groundswell of new support for them in 2018, that same gerrymandering will make it near impossible for the Democrats to win the House. And so these votes in Virginia, New Jersey, and Washington state are fun to follow tonight—I will be—but they could also lay the groundwork for the elections in 2022 and 2024.

Basically, I just used today’s post to talk about why these three elections are important not for today, but for the votes in a few years’ time. But you really should check out the graphic. It makes nice use of layout, especially with the job bar chart organised by Virginia region. Overall, a solid and terrific piece.

Credit for the piece goes to Darla Cameron and Ted Mellnik.

What Does Your Name Mean? (Country-level Edition)

Shoutout to my very good friend Jonathan Fairman for passing this one along.

Browsing the internets, I often find these little adverts saying something about “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Name” or “10 Things Your Name Says About You”. They grab my attention because, as you all know, genealogy is kind of a thing that I do and I am curious where lots of names in my family come from.

But where do countries names originate? We all probably know America comes from Amerigo Vespucci. But how about Mexico? Thankfully Quartz put together a piece exploring country name origins. And it turns out that most can be grouped into four different types. Being named after a man, like America, well you guessed it, that’s one of the four.

Tribal names are another…
Tribal names are another…

Credit for the piece goes to Thu-Huong Ha.

What If Designers Ruled the World? Or At Least the Country

Happy Friday, all. We made it.

So today we enjoy an xkcd post about how graphic designers would change the country if they seized control.

It's a good start, designers.
It’s a good start, designers.

Though to be fair, if this graphic designer seized control of the country, he would not be interested in just adjusting state borders. He’d probably work on the margins and bounds and then establish a whole new baseline grid.

Credit for the goes to Randall Munroe.

Arctic Sea Ice Levels Continue to Decline

You may recall how over two years ago I posted about a piece from the New York Times that explored the levels of Arctic sea ice. It showed how the winter sea ice of 2015 was the lowest level ever recorded. Well last week the Times updated that piece with new data. And instead of the static graphic we enjoyed last time around, this time the piece began with a nice animation. It really helps you see the pattern, so you should click through and check out the whole piece.

Go hit play and you'll see the trend
Go hit play and you’ll see the trend

But this isn’t just a visually top heavy piece. No, the remainder of the article continues to explore the state of Arctic sea ice through a number of other charts and maps.

Credit for the piece goes to Nadja Popovich, Henry Fountain, and Adam Pearce.

Earthquake Early Warning

Last month, two massive earthquakes devastated Mexico. Now, if you were like me, you were captivated by the photos and videos of the quakes striking and tearing down buildings and infrastructure. But, think about it for a second, how did people know to take out their mobiles and record the tremors for posterity’s sake?

Well, the first thing you should know is that earthquakes consist of a number of different waves of energy. Some move quicker and are less damaging than the slower travelling ones. And it turns out that scientists have been able to use that speed differential to build early warning systems along and around fault lines.

The Washington Post did a really nice job of explaining how earthquake-prone California is developing just such a system to deal with its tremors. I won’t spoil all the details, you should go read the article if earthquakes are of any interest to you.

The Shake Alert system
The Shake Alert system

Credit for the piece goes to

German Election Results

On Sunday Germany went to the polls. Angela Merkel won a fourth term, but the anti-immigrant nationalist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), won nearly 13% of the vote. That places a nationalist party in the German parliament for the first time since World War II.

A lot of the graphics I saw were straight-up bar charts of the final vote share. But Die Welt, a German paper, did have this piece with an interactive choropleth. There is nothing revolutionary in the map itself. But it does show how support for the AfD exhibits clear geographic patterns, namely large support in what was East Germany.

AfD support was strongest in the former East Germany
AfD support was strongest in the former East Germany

But the really nice part about the Die Welt piece is the interactive coalition builder at the end. They present several different possibilities. Unfortunately, I cannot read German, so the narrative on the page eludes me. But it was fun to explore the potentials. But with the SPD announcing it would go into opposition, we are not likely to see a grand coalition.

Which combination will prevail?
Which combination will prevail?

Credit for the piece goes to the Die Welt graphics department.

Nambia

C’mon. You knew I was not going to let that one slip by.

President Trump, in a meeting with African leaders, twice name-dropped Nambia and in one mention held it up as having a nearly self-sufficient healthcare system. Funny thing to mention as the US is on the brink of eviscerating its healthcare system. But I digress. The point is that when you are speaking to the president of a country, you take a minute to learn how to pronounce the country’s name correctly. Even write it phonetically in the text if you have to. (I’ve done that.) So where is Nambia?

This was just too too good to pass up…
This was just too too good to pass up…

The Cassidy-Graham Healthcare Bill

I meant to post this yesterday, but accidentally saved it as a draft. So let’s try this again.

Yesterday the New York Times published a print piece that explored how the Cassidy-Graham bill would change the healthcare system. This would, of course, be another attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. And like previous efforts, this bill would do real damage to the aim of covering individuals. We know the dollar amounts in terms of changes to aid given to states, but in terms of the numbers of people likely to lose their coverage, that would have to wait for a CBO score.

Hyperlinked to the online version of the article
Hyperlinked to the online version of the article

The graphic makes really nice use of the tall vertical space afforded by two columns. (You can kind of see this too in the online version of the article.) At the beginning of the article, above the title even, are two maps that locate the states with the biggest funding gains and cuts. I wonder if the two maps could have been combined into one or if a small table, like in the online version, would have worked better. The map does not read well in the print version as the non-highlighted states are very faint.

The designer chose to repeatedly use the same chart, but highlight different states based on different conditions. This makes the small multiples that appear below the big version useful despite their small size. Any question about the particular length can be referenced in the big chart at the top.

With the exception of the maps at the top of the piece, this was a great piece that used its space on the page very well.

Credit for the piece goes to Haeyoun Park.