Earlier this year I posted a short piece that compared my DNA ethnicity estimates provided by a few different companies to each other. Ethnicity estimates are great cocktail party conversations, but not terribly useful to people doing serious genealogy research. They are highly dependent upon the available data from reference populations.
To put it another way, if nobody in a certain ethnic group has tested with a company, there’s no real way for that company to place your results within that group. In the United States, Native Americans are known for their reluctance to participate and, last I heard, they are under-represented in ethnicity estimates. Fortunately for me, Western European population groups are fairly well tested.
But these reference populations are constantly being updated and new analysis being performed to try and sort people into ever more distinct genetic communities. (Although generally speaking the utility of these tests only goes back a handful of generations.)
Last night, when working on a different post, I received an email saying Ancestry.com had updated their analysis of my DNA. So naturally I wanted to compare this most recent update to last September’s.
Sometimes when you look at data and create data visualisation pieces, the story is that there is very little change. And that’s my story. The actual number for my Irish estimate remained the same: 63%. I saw a slight change to my Scottish and Slavic numbers, but nothing drastic. My trace results changed, switching from 2% from the Balkans to 2% from Sweden and Denmark. But you need to take trace results with a pretty big grain of salt, unless they are of a different continent. Broadly speaking, we can be fairly certain about results at a continental level, but differences between, say, French and Germans are much harder to distinguish.
The Scottish part still fascinates me, because as far back as I’ve gone, I have not found an identifiable Scottish ancestor. A great-great-grandfather lived for several years in Edinburgh, but he was the son of two Ireland-born Irish parents. I also know that this Scottish part of me must come from my paternal lines as my mother has almost no Scottish DNA and she would need to have some if I were to have had inherited it from her.
Now for about half of my paternal Irish ancestors, I know at least the counties from which they came. My initial thought, and still best guess, is that the Scottish is actually Scotch–Irish from what is today Northern Ireland. But I am unaware of any ancestor, except perhaps one, who came from or has origins in Northern Ireland.
The other thing that fascinated me is that despite the additional data and analysis the ranges, or degree of uncertainty in another way of looking at it, increased in most of the ethnicities. You can see the light purple rectangles are actually almost all larger this year compared to last. I can only wonder if this time next year I’ll see any narrowing of those ranges.
Last week I wrote about how CBS News’ coverage of the California recall election featured a misleading graphic. In particular, the graphic created the appearance that the results were closer than they really were.
This week we had another election and, sadly, I find that I have to write the same sort of piece again. Except this time we are headed north of the border to Canada.
I was watching CBC coverage last night and I noticed early on that the vote share bar chart looked off given the data points. Next time it popped up I took a screenshot.
First we need to note these are three-dimensional and the camera angle kept swinging around—not ideal for a fair comparison. This was the most straight-on angle I captured.
Second, at first glance, we have the Conservative share at a little more than 3/4 the Liberal vote share. That looks to be about right. Then you have the New Democratic Party (NDP) at roughly half the vote of the Conservatives. And the bar looks about half the height of the blue Conservative bar. Checks out. Then you have the People’s Party of Canada at roughly 1/4 the amount of NDP votes. But now look at the bar’s height. The purple bar is nearly the same height as the orange bar.
Clearly that is wrong and misleading.
The problem, I think, is that the designers artificially inflated the height of the bars to include the labels and data points for the bars. The designers should have dropped the labelling below the bars and let the bars only represent the data.
I created the following graphic to show how the chart should have looked.
Here you can more clearly see how much greater the NDP victory was over the People’s Party. The labelling falls below the charts and doesn’t distort the height comparison between the bars. In some respects, it wasn’t even close. But the original graphic made it look else wise.
I just wish I knew what the designers were thinking. Why did they inflate the bars? Like with the CBS News graphic, I hope it wasn’t intentional. Rather, I hope it was some kind of mistake or even ignorance.
Credit for the original piece goes to the CBC graphics department.
Last month on another Friday I shared some graphics from a video by CCP Grey that looked at the origin and history of the name Tiffany. It’s a great video and I highly recommend it. But last week he published…an addendum I guess you could call it.
The piece takes a look at a research path he took for the video. It happened to involve some history and genealogy, two things I personally enjoy, and found it to be a fascinating insight into his research process.
The screenshot above hints at the idea that sometimes work is not linear and, especially when I’m doing genealogy work, there are often tangents and dead ends. In other words, to an extent, I can relate.
One of the long-running critiques of Fox News Channel’s on air graphics is that they often distort the truth. They choose questionable if not flat-out misleading baselines, scales, and adjust other elements to create differences where they don’t exist or smooth out problematic issues.
But yesterday a friend sent me a graphic that shows Fox News isn’t alone. This graphic came from CBS News and looked at the California recall election vote totals.
If you just look at the numbers, 66% and 34%, well we can see that 34 is almost half of 66. So why does the top bar look more like 2/3 of the length of the bottom? I don’t actually know the animus of the designer who created the graphic, but I hope it’s more ignorance or sloppiness than malice. I wonder if the designer simply said, 66%, well that means the top bar should be, like, two-thirds the length of the bottom.
The effect, however, makes the election seem far closer than it really was. For every yes vote, there were almost two no votes. And the above graphic does not capture that fact. And so my friend asked if I could make a graphic with the correct scale. And so I did.
One really doesn’t need a chart to compare the two numbers. And I touch on that with the last point, using two factettes to simply state the results. But let’s assume we need to make it sexy, sizzle, or flashy. Because I think every designer has heard that request.
A simple scale of 0 to 66 could work and we can see how that would differ from the original graphic. Or, if we use a scale of 0 to 100, we can see how the two bars relate to each other and to the scale of the total vote. That approach would also have allowed for a stacked bar chart as I made in the third option. The advantage there is that you can easily see the victor by who crosses the 50% line at the centre of the graphic.
Basically doing anything but what we saw in the original.
Credit for the original goes to the CBS News graphics department.
Today we have a quick piece, but one that I read at the weekend, you know, the 9/11 20th anniversary one. The article served as a quick summary of the day for those who either don’t know or don’t remember. After 20 years, there are a lot of people who have come of age in a post-9/11 world that were either not born or too young to recall those before times.
And so this map helped to identify the location of the three sites impacted by the planes: the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Except look closely at the graphic.
Little is where it belongs. The World Trade Centre marker is on Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The Pentagon is nearer to Fredericksburg than Washington. And Shanksville is in Maryland.
You can leave the dots for Washington and New York, as they are correctly placed. But why not just use some typography to put the World Trade Centre beneath New York and the Pentagon beneath Washington?
What makes it peculiar is that Shanksville is in Maryland, so it’s dot is just wrong. And so here’s a rough fix for that part of the graphic.
It was just an odd graphic for an article about one of those days that will be long-remembered in history.
Credit for the piece goes to the BBC graphics department.
It’s been a little less than a week since our last Covid-19 update for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois. At the time we had just come back from the Labour Day holiday here in the United States and that left us with two big questions. First, what would the data show after we began to process the tests after the extra time off? Second, would the holiday itself cause any increase in the numbers of new cases?
We also need to remember that last week we had seen some positive signs in some states. And we can start with those states today.
In New Jersey and Illinois we had the clearest evidence of this fourth wave peaking and new cases, whilst still climbing, slowing down with the seven-day average beginning to fall. The good news continues to be that both states continue to show signs their fourth waves have peaked. In fact, Illinois appears to be beginning a downward trajectory. New Jersey has flattened the curve, in other words exhibiting steady numbers of new cases each day.
Delaware appeared to have peaked, but after a brief dip following the holiday, the numbers have begun to shoot back up again. The seven-day average as of yesterday hit 457 new cases per day, exceeding that spike just prior to Labour Day. In other words, it appears that the fear of the holiday increasing rates of new cases, just as they appeared to be peaking came true in Delaware.
What about Virginia and Pennsylvania? Well in the former we had some indications prior to Labour Day that Virginia may have been approaching a peak of new cases. And now you can throw that out the window. Over the three-day holiday weekend, Virginia added just under 11,000 new cases. This past weekend, only two days, Old Dominion added just over 9,200. Not surprisingly the seven-day average spiked upward yesterday to 4,700 new cases per day. If the fourth wave continues at that pace, it will soon surpass the rates we saw last winter.
And in Pennsylvania the data is also not great. We had seen perhaps the beginning of a decline after a peak prior to Labour Day. In the week since? Well, the numbers of new cases have started climbing once again. In fact, yesterday the seven-day average climbed to just under 4,100 new cases per day. That is still below the spring peak and well below winter, but surpasses the numbers we saw just before Labour Day.
In other words, the fear of Labour Day creating new cases appears to have come true.
So then what about deaths? We know that deaths from any increase in cases won’t manifest in the data for a few weeks.
Starting with good news, let’s look at Pennsylvania. Two days after Labour Day the Commonwealth’s seven-day average for deaths reached 30.1 deaths per day. In the almost week since that rate has steadily dropped to 24.3 per day. Ideally we would want to see that trend extend beyond five days. Because if the Labour Day surge persists, it wouldn’t be beyond belief to imagine deaths rising again in coming days.
But that’s also about it for good news. True, Delaware went from 0.9 deaths per day to just 1.0. But that’s more of a stable rate than anything. All the other states have seen their death rates continue to climb of late. Although, we would also expect deaths to peak sometime after the peak in new cases, so this trend makes sense.
In New Jersey deaths climbed from 12.4 to 13.1 per day. Not terrible, but again still an increase in deaths. The worst increases were in Illinois and Virginia. In Illinois deaths have continued to climb, rising from 30.7 last time we wrote to 34.7. But Virginia has seen the worst, despite an apparent dip around Labour Day. Instead people are dying at increasing rates, climbing from 16.7 deaths per day to 27.1 as of yesterday.
Unfortunately, until we see new cases truly peak in Virginia those numbers are likely to continue climbing in coming days and possibly weeks.
When the remnants of Hurricane Ida rolled through the Northeast two weeks ago, here in the Philadelphia region we saw catastrophic flooding from deluges west of the city and to the east we had a tornado outbreak in South Jersey. At a simplistic level we can attribute the differences in outcomes to the path of the storm. As Ida was no longer a hurricane she developed what we call warm and cold sectors along the frontal boundary. Long story short, we can see different types of weather in these setups with heavy rain in the cold and severe weather in the warm. And that’s what we saw with Ida: heavy, flood-causing rains in the cold sector north and west of Philadelphia and then severe weather, tornadoes, in the warm sector south and east of the city.
But I want to talk about the tornadoes, and one in particular: an EF3 tornado that struck the South Jersey town of Mullica Hill. EF3 refers to the enhanced Fujita scale that describes the severity of tornadoes. EF1s are minor and EF5s are the worst. The Philadelphia region has in the past rarely seen tornadoes, but even moderate strength ones such as an EF3 are almost unheard of in the area.
This tornado caused significant damage to the area, but was also remarkable because it persisted for 12 miles. Most tornadoes dissipate in a fraction of that length. The Mount Holly office of the National Weather Service (NWS) produced a few graphics detailing tornadoes Ida spawned. You can see from the timeline graphic that the Mullica Hill tornado was particularly long lasting in time as well as distance travelled, surviving for twenty minutes.
To briefly touch on the design of this graphic, I think it generally works well. I’m not certain if the drop shadow adds anything to the graphic and I might have used a lighter colour text label for the times as they fight with the graphical components for visual primacy. Secondly, I’m not certain that each tornado needs to be in a different colour. The horizontal rules keep each storm visually separate. Colour could have instead been used to indicate perhaps peak severity for each tornado or perhaps at specific moments in the tornadoes’ lives. But overall, I like this graphic.
NWS Mt Holly also produced a graphic specifically about the tornado detailing its path.
Here we have a graphic incorporating what looks like Google Earth or Google Maps imagery of the area and an orange line denoting the path. At various points faint text labels indicate the strength of the tornado along its path. A table to the left provides the key points.
From a graphical standpoint, I think this could use a bit more work. The orange line looks too similar to the yellow roads on the map and at a quick glance may be too indistinguishable. Compare this approach to that of the Philadelphia Inquirer in its writeup.
Here we have a map with desaturated colours with a bright red line that clearly sets itself apart from the map. I think a similar approach would have benefitted the NWS graphic. Although the NWS graphic does have a stroke weight that varies depending upon the path of the tornado.
I also have a graphic made by a guy I know who lives in the area. He took that maximum tornado width of 400 yards and used screenshots of Google Maps in combination with his own direct evidence and photos and videos from his neighbours and their social media posts to try and plot the tornado’s path more granularly. Each red mark represents storm damage and a width of 400 yards.
I’m not going to critique this graphic because he made it more for himself to try and understand how close he was to the storm. In other words, it wasn’t meant to be published. But I’m thankful he allowed me to share it with you. But even here you can see he chose a colour that contrasted strongly with the background satellite views.
All of this just goes to show you the path and devastation one tornado caused. And that one tornado was just a fraction of the devastation Ida wrought upon the Northeast let alone the rest of the United States.
Well, it’s the end of another week. I’ll save the bigger posts I have planned for next week and instead end with this little astronomy/geometry gem from xkcd. It takes a look at Saturn’s polar storm that takes the shape of a hexagon, not a circle or anything else.
Last time we looked at the state of the Covid-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois we had some encouraging signs. In particular we had evidence of a potential slowdown in New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois and I wrote that I would not be surprised if we saw a peak in new cases. Virginia was the only state where things were bad and getting worse, though the rate at which they were getting bad had begun to slow. Finally, Pennsylvania had some conflicting data with its new cases and I wanted to see another week’s worth of evidence.
So a week or later, where are we?
First, the obvious caveat that the Labour Day holiday may affect these numbers in both the short term collection of data and the medium term potential for a surge of new cases from gatherings and parties.
If we look to last week’s good news states of New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois, we do indeed see what we’ve long been waiting for since this summer: potential peaks in this fourth wave. New Jersey and Illinois. We can see the trend most clearly in New Jersey and Illinois where the beginnings of a decline from the peak appear as a slight dip from what we hope was the peak of the fourth wave. In Delaware that peak is still apparent, but the decline is less so.
Additionally for Delaware, over the last week the numbers rose above those of the third wave, i.e. in terms of cases the fourth wave is worse than the third wave of the spring. We had already seen Illinois reached that unfortunate milestone and fortunately for New Jersey the Garden State peaked at a point nearly half of the third wave’s peak.
What about last week’s bad news state? Well, Virginia, which does not report data on weekends, had an additional day of zero earlier this week. You can see that with the peak on Tuesday, which exceeded 10,000 new cases in one day. Of course, that’s really over three days and so we are talking about 3,000 per day. Unfortunately that extra holiday affected the seven-day average and caused a sudden fall. If we look closely at the data we can see that the trend probably points to a situation that continues to worsen. Two weeks ago the seven-day average was generally about 2800; last week it was about 3100; and heading into this week—excluding the Labour Day aberration—it looks to be about 3300. The very rough differences of 300 to 200 could point to a slowing rise in new cases, the necessary precursor to a peak, but we’d need to see how the rest of this week plays out before we can make any determination. But I’d probably say we are beginning to see the first signs of arriving at a peak in the coming weeks, maybe not next but perhaps in two or so.
And then we have Pennsylvania, where we had conflicting data and I wanted another week’s worth before making comment. I think the Commonwealth has indeed peaked, but unlike in New Jersey, Delaware, and Illinois, this peak looks more complicated. Note how we do have the recent spike I alluded to last week, but subsequent to that spike the numbers have been lower. I say complicated because in the aftermath of the holiday weekend we are seeing a slight tick upwards in the number of new cases, but it’s still below that spike. Consequently I’m reasonably confident we’ve just begun to peak here in Pennsylvania, but I’ll clearly want another week’s data before saying that with more authority.
What about deaths? How have those progressed over the last week?
Here too I’d be remiss if I failed to reiterate the caveats above that Labour Day can skew with the seven-day average—as we saw with Virginia—though any clustering of a surge of deaths would likely be weeks away given death’s status as a lagging indicator.
Here, unfortunately, we have not reached peak deaths for the fourth wave, at least not for all five states.
Starting with the bad news, we have two states where the numbers continue to climb. In Pennsylvania and Illinois, the two largest states in the data set, we have deaths continuing to climb. Both states’ averages exceeded 30 deaths per day yesterday. For Pennsylvania that is the first time since early June. We need not go much further back for Illinois, which had last recorded an average of 30 deaths per day in late May.
In fact, Illinois yesterday reached an average of 30.7 deaths per day. The state’s peak during the third wave was not much higher, 31.7. Given that we are seeing higher numbers of new cases in the fourth wave than we saw in the third, I would expect the deaths to continue climbing and exceed the third wave’s death rate in coming days.
Pennsylvania’s seven-day average peaked at 51 deaths per day earlier this summer and the Commonwealth’s average of 30.1 yesterday is still far below that level. Given that this fourth wave appears to be less severe in terms of new cases than the third wave, I doubt we reach the level of 51 per day, but I wouldn’t put a level in the 40s out of reach.
Next we have three states where we probably have some good news. Delaware is probably the easiest to report. Since the state has so few people with which to begin, we can expect to see fewer deaths. Indeed, this fourth wave may have peaked and did so at only 3.4 deaths per day. But yesterday that number fell to 0.9. However, I wonder if that is due to the Labour Day holiday. I would want to see more data before saying with more authority that Delaware may have peaked in terms of deaths.
Virginia and New Jersey both present cases where the seven-day averages are now down from some high numbers about two weeks ago. In late August, New Jersey reached a level of 14.3 deaths per day and Virginia hit 21.4. Yesterday’s averages had each state at 12.4 and 16.6, respectively. That looks good. But we can also see that in the last two days both states reported their highest number of daily increases since the beginning of the fourth wave. Yesterday New Jersey reported an additional 29 deaths. Virginia reported 30 yesterday, not the highest, but for that we need look only to the day before when it reported 48.
In other words, I want to see if these recent high numbers of new deaths are the result of delays from Labour Day or if we are beginning to see an actual reversal in the trend. Both at this point appear plausible. I would suspect, however, that New Jersey, given its peaked number of new cases, is more likely to be on actual downward trend in deaths. That said, given the recentness of that peak, I would still expect deaths to rise. I want another week’s worth of data to better evaluate the Garden State.
Virginia seems pretty clear to me, the most likely cause in the dip in deaths of late relates to the holiday. With the numbers of new cases continuing to climb and a peak appearing to be at least a few weeks away, Virginia probably can expect deaths to resume climbing for a bit more time. And of course this wave is already worse, in terms of deaths, than the third wave. Unfortunately I think that story line will only get stronger.
We’re back and there’s a lot to touch on this week. But first, as a prelude to some of the Hurricane Ida coverage, I wanted to briefly point our attention to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer from about two or three weeks before Ida struck.
The article focused on the US Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect the back bay areas of the South Jersey shore, i.e. the areas between the outer barrier islands and the mainland. The article chose a few graphics from the report to draw attention to some of the proposed solutions, e.g. massive gates, new levee systems, and wetland restoration.
I wanted to focus on a different graphic in the report. This functioned more as an illustrated guide to the whole suite of solutions available to mitigating flood and storm surge disasters. Because, in the future, rising sea levels will threaten coastal communities. And as we saw just last week here in the Northeast, warmer seas plus warmer skies increase the potential for storms with crippling deluges.
The graphic shows how we can try to deal with surge waters from out beyond the barrier islands through to the back bay to communities inland both by protecting, adapting, and in some cases relocating.
All need to be on the table, because if last week showed us anything—not that many hadn’t been saying this for decades—it’s not just the bayous of New Orleans and Florida’s beaches that are at risk from environments and weather patterns altered by a changing climate, but even those areas more local (to the Northeast).
Credit for the piece goes to the US Army Corps of Engineers.