A Day in the Life of Benjamin Franklin

Earlier this week I was researching something for my day job that prompted me to look through an 1820 city directory for Philadelphia. Whilst looking for my information I came upon this graphic depicting how Ben Franklin advised people divide their time during the day.

But when do I check my e-mails?

Notably, this is all done in 1820, and so the typesetters used metal type, not graphics in our present-day sense, to create this. Although, that does leave room for a few issues of where these breaks actually occur. But overall this is remarkably similar to a day in the life in, well let’s just say January 2020 in the before times. An eight-hour work day with an hour’s break for lunch. And then four hours to yourself in the evening. Seven hours of sleep and then three hours to yourself in the morning.

Of course in the pre-electricity era, you can see how these times are focused around, you know, daylight. No lingering at the pub until well after midnight. It’s also notable how the emphasis on dining is at noon, not in the evening as we tend to do today.

Whilst this is billed as Franklin’s advice on how to structure your time, it should be pointed out that by 1820, Franklin had been dead just over 30 years. But that’s just one generation’s time removed.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Credit for the piece goes to I’m guessing the book’s printers, McCarty and Davis.

Some People Never Had Experience with…

Air is an art project by Marina Vitaglione and written about by the BBC. The project seeks to raise awareness of the air pollution in and around London. She used cyanotypes to capture the pollution in the area. She collected evidence of the pollution in circular areas on paper and then exposed them as cyanotypes.

Cyanotypes work by exposing a piece of paper coated in a substance that, when exposed to sunlight, turns blue. The parts protected from sunlight, in this case the pollution, stay their original colour and you are left with what here is air pollution.

Where is that protection that I needed?

This screenshot from the article compares the air pollution in Lewisham on the left to Wembley on the right. As the author explained in the article the “aesthetic, the cyan-blue tone of cyanotypes remind me of pure, cloudless skies, contrasting with the vision of grey clouds we have when we think of air pollution”.

If you want to read more about the process or see more examples of her artwork, I recommend reading through the BBC article. Or, for my London readers, you can see the artwork in person as part of the Koppel Project Exchange’s show What on Earth.

Credit for the piece goes to Marina Vitaglione.

Covid Update: 6 July

In trying to limit my Covid-19 updates to Monday, bank holidays definitely affect the schedule. For my international audience, that meant Monday was a day of no posting. It also meant that some states—Illinois—were not reporting data. Add to that Illinois had already stopped reporting data on Saturday and Sunday, I wanted to wait until we had Tuesday’s data before putting it all together. And so here we are.

Last week I discussed “divergent patterns at the margins”. We saw some states continue their progress in decreasing the numbers of new cases with falls in their seven-day averages. You could group the tri-state area in this category. Then in the other group we had Virginia and Illinois where the seven-day average had begun to rise.

New case curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

In the week since, this pattern largely held the same. Both Virginia and Illinois continued to see rising numbers of new cases. Compared to 20 June, before this pattern emerged, Virginia’s seven-day average sat at 129 new cases per day and Illinois was just slightly worse at 156. Yesterday those numbers were 180 and 328, respectively. A far cry from an emergency, yes, but also not ideal.

What about the tri-state area? Well we can now lump Pennsylvania and Delaware in with Virginia and Illinois since both states saw a rise in their seven-day averages. Back on 28 June Pennsylvania sat on an average of 177 new cases per day and Delaware was at 19. Yesterday those numbers were 181 and 27, respectively.

The difference here is that in both Pennsylvania and Delaware this recent rise is still below the numbers from 20 June. On that date Pennsylvania’s seven-day average was 261 new cases per day and Delaware’s was 28. So it’s not great, but it’s still not bad either.

How about New Jersey? The Garden State continues to see declining numbers of new cases. From the 20th to the 28th to yesterday the average has fallen from 179 to 176 to 162. Certainly not dramatic, but it’s progress nonetheless.

With deaths we saw broad and general progress, however, so that’s good.

Death curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

Last week I mentioned how I had hoped we would see Pennsylvania’s seven-day average of deaths slip into the single digits. Instead it had climbed higher. Well, Pennsylvania finally fell into the single digits and rests at 5 deaths per day.

When we look at the remaining states we see good news across the board. In Illinois the seven-day average fell from 9 to 7 deaths per day. In two states the numbers fell by half. New Jersey fell from 8 to 4 and Virginia went from 6 to 3. Finally, Delaware now averages just 0.1 deaths per day.

I don’t have the data on vaccination, because there are some holes and I want to see if I can fill that data out. But in the three states we track, we are talking about less than a percentage point increase in fully vaccinated people over the course of over a week. That continues to be not ideal.

Credit for the piece is mine.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

A little over a week ago the Philadelphia Inquirer posted an article about sharks. It wouldn’t be the American holiday of 4th of July without mentioning Jaws. Think of it, there really are no good Hollywood films about the Constitutional Convention or Declaration of Independence. I mean we have Mel Gibson’s The Patriot. But, that’s terrible. I digress, we’re here to talk about sharks.

A great white shark swam past the Jersey coast in mid-June. She swam just off the shore of Atlantic City’s beaches before moving on towards a shark nursery in more northern waters near New York and New Jersey.

Why are we discussing it? Because sharks have always fascinated me. It’s my blog. Oh, and it had a map.

Definitely a bigger boat

There isn’t much to say about this map, it makes a good use of contrasting red for the shark’s path against the light blue of the ocean.

Hopefully none of you were eaten by a shark over the holiday.

Credit for the piece goes to John Duchneskie.

Yep, Still Hotter

Like I said yesterday, I wanted to compare cities, surprise, Philadelphia vs. Chicago. And so with some extra time I was able to finish this graphic that took the data from Climate Central to compare the two cities.

What you can see below is that Philadelphia has seen more significant temperature growth in both summer highs and summer lows. And, importantly, the increase in low temperatures, i.e. nighttime, has been greater than that of daytime highs. That means that we have less of an opportunity to cool down after a hot summer day, adding stress to the system.

Chicago on the other hand has seen less overall growth, though it’s still present. And there too we see the same pattern of greater increases in low, i.e. nighttime, temperatures than of daytime highs.

It’s all unbearable

It’s remarkable to think that the flat where I lived seven of my eight years in Chicago had no air conditioning unit in the bedroom, only in the living room. It was, of course, an older concrete building from the 1960s/70s when, as the chart above shows, nighttime temperatures didn’t really require air conditioning.

But like I said yesterday, I’m just glad I’ve been able to crank the air conditioning the last several days.

Credit for the piece is mine.

You’re Not Crazy, It Is Getting Hotter

First, I should say that I don’t have a lot to say about this graphic because I went back to the source because I was interested in another city and I wanted to compare the two. In other words, expect a small graphic follow up to this maybe tomorrow.

Anyways, over the last few years since returning to Philadelphia after eight years away in Chicago, I’ve had numerous conversations with different people about how “I don’t remember it always being this hot before”, which is particularly relevant as the Philadelphia region endures excessive heat. Thankfully, it’s not nearly as bad as the Pacific Northwest. Also I have air conditioning blasting next to me as I type this out, so, you know.

The common refrain in these conversations, however, tends to be less about how we have high temperatures and more about how it’s difficult to sleep at night. And there’s a reason for that as this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer explains, our average summer low temperatures are rising, and rising faster than our average summer high temperatures.

Yep, definitely getting warmer.

Of course you can probably already see where I was going with this. The Inquirer linked to their source and that’s where I’ve spent my time this morning, alas, I didn’t quite have enough to finish what I started and so this post will have to do.

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

Covid Update: 28 June

Technical difficulties prevented me from posting yesterday morning. But we’re back today and even though it’s a Tuesday, I wanted to begin the week with a post about the current status of Covid-19 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Illinois.

Broadly speaking, things continue to improve. I don’t have all the vaccination data plugged in yet as I have to admit that as life begins returning to normal the time considerations of keeping track of Covid is not always insignificant. But I do at least have the new cases and deaths to look at and compare to last week.

When we look at new cases, we can see some divergent patterns at the margins.

New case curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

In the tri-state area, new cases continue to fall. Pennsylvania reported just 104 new cases yesterday and its seven-day average fell to 177. That’s great news. And in New Jersey, the daily new cases fell to 104 and the average to 176. And in Delaware the daily number was just 18 and the average 19.

On the other hand we have Virginia and Illinois. First, I should note that for the second straight weekend, Illinois did not report data. I think we can begin to assume this will be the new reporting schedule moving forward. Last week that impacted the seven-day average, but now that it is a periodic event we can see it accounted for in the average of 248 new cases per day.

The issue is that 248 is greater than last week’s average of 233 of the averages. In other words, there is some indications the virus is spreading once again. Though, the week-to-week numbers offer a slight hope. Last Monday we had 755 new cases—keeping in mind that no new cases were reported Saturday and Sunday—and yesterday 747. That is down, though not a lot. We will need to keep an eye on Illinois’ data and how it progresses through Friday.

In Virginia we see a similar pattern as that of Illinois. Week-to-week, yesterday’s number was just 88 new cases and last week’s 116. That’s good. However, a look at the seven-day average shows some reasons for concern. Last week we were discussing Virginia’s fall to 129 new cases per day. But as of yesterday the average has climbed back up to 165. And that’s not a one-day jump. Instead since that nadir of 129, the seven-day average steadily climbed each day last week. That suggests new cases may be spreading in Old Dominion once more. But let’s wait one more week before we begin to become overly concerned as 165 is still lower than the month’s current average of 169.

Deaths present us with the opposite pattern, however.

Death curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

Last week we looked at new lows for the tri-state area whilst Virginia and Illinois saw slight increases. I even suggested that we could see death rates in Pennsylvania slip into the single digits.

Well instead we saw slight increases in the death rate in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Again, nothing massive. But on 20 June we had an average of 11.6 deaths per day in Pennsylvania and yesterday the average sat at 12.4. Not huge, and within a rounding of being the same number, but still an increase. Delaware had been at 0.6 deaths per day, so an increase to 1.6 is an increase, but there’s very little room left to improve when your average falls below 1 per day.

In New Jersey we saw perhaps the most concerning rise, though again still slight by comparison to the entirety of the pandemic. The average last week sat at 5.6 deaths per day and we enter Tuesday at 7.6. That is still lower than the numbers three weeks ago, but it’s a rise nonetheless. Like with the new cases, we will want to watch this week to see how the numbers progress.

I don’t have any graphics or tables to present for vaccinations, but the numbers we do have show little to no progress in full vaccinations over the last week. Week-to-week, Pennsylvania, for example, saw an increase of 0.77 percentage points, or only 0.11 percentage points per day.

Now Pennsylvania’s fully vaccinated population rate sits at just a tick under 48%. Not bad. But Virginia is at 50.5%. And when last reported Illinois was 47.3%. We know that herd immunity, which we need to really starve out the virus, is probably above 75%—though likely higher with more transmissible variants of the virus—and we have currently failed to achieve that number.

That’s sad.

To bring my genealogical interest into this conversation, you only need to look to about 100 years ago when our ancestors did not, generally speaking, have access to vaccines. There was a reason people feared becoming ill, you were far more likely to die. But vaccinations eliminated the worst of the worst diseases and at the time people flocked to become vaccinated, recognising that they did not want to live in a world of mumps, measles, smallpox, or polio. If many of our ancestors were alive today, I believe they would be shocked at our society’s broad refusal to be vaccinated.

Hot and Not So Hot Graphics

Thankfully today’s forecast calls for cooler temperatures. Your author is not a fan of hot weather, which means being outside in summer is…less than ideal. It also means that the air conditioner runs frequently and on high for a few months. (Conversely, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I turned on the heat this winter.)

The problem is, the two biggest contributors to US carbon emissions? Heating/cooling and transport. In other words, heating your home in the winter, cooling it in the summer, and then driving your non-electric vehicle.

After the recent heatwave in New England, the Boston Globe examined the impact of the heatwave on the environment. The article led with the claim it used four charts to do so. I quibble with that distinction because this is a screenshot of the second graphic.

Illustrating is hard

I mean, it’s not prose text. Rather, we have three factettes paired with illustrations. At the top of this post, I mentioned the impact of transport for a reason. In an ideal world, in order to get carbon emissions under control one of the changes we would need to see is getting people out of their personal automobiles and into mass transit. Subways and light rail are far cleaner and can actually be cheaper for households than car ownership. And so we should be encouraging their use and building more of them.

Look above and you’ll see an icon of a subway car. Except it’s not. The graphic/factette is actually talking about rail cars full of coal that transport fuel from mine to generating station. Those look more like this, from James St. James via Wikimedia Commons.

Small, subtle details matter. And so I’d propose a new icon that tries to capture the industrial coal train, ideally something that I spent more than five minutes on.

Illustrating is still hard

But it breaks the linkage between passenger train and coal train, which is not ideal for the purposes of an article highlighting the environmental impacts of US households.

That all said, the article did a really good job with the other graphics it used. My favourite was this chart, decidedly not a combination chart.

Making charts can also be hard, though

It looks at the correlation between high temperatures and energy usage. But, instead of lazily throwing the temperatures atop the bars, the designers more carefully placed them below the energy usage chart. The top chart should look familiar to those who have been following my Covid-19 charts, a daily number that then has the rolling seven-day average plotted above it to smooth out any one-day quirks. The designer then chose to highlight the heatwave in red.

For temperatures, I like the overall approach. But I wonder if a more nuanced approach could have taken the graph a step farther to excellent. Presently we have a single red line representing daily average high temperature. But in the plot above we use red to indicate the heat wave of early June, five consecutive days of temperatures in excess of 90ºF. What if that line were black or grey or some neutral colour, and then only the heatwave was coloured in red? It would more clearly link the two together. And it avoids the trap of red implying heat, when you need to only go back to late May when the East Coast had early spring like temperatures near 50ºF, decidedly not red on a temperature scale.

Overall, though, it’s refreshing to see a thoughtful approach taken here instead of the usual slapdash throw one chart atop the other.

And the rest of the article uses restrained, smart graphics as well. Bar charts and small multiples to capture air pollution and EMS calls. You should read the full article for the insights and the feedback loops we have.

After all, it’s not that the heating/cooling is itself the problem, especially since the removal of CFCs since the Montreal Protocol in 1987 that banned those pesky chemicals that harm the ozone layer—remember when that was the big environmental issue in the 1990s? The issue is how we generate the electricity that powers the heating/cooling systems—and if you want to use electric cars, whence comes their electric charge—as if we’re using coal plants, that just exacerbates the problem. But if we use carbon-less plants, e.g. nuclear, solar, or wind, we’re not generating carbon emissions.

Credit for the piece goes to John Hancock.

Biden’s English Ancestry Revisited

Last week I posted about an article in the BBC on the English ancestry of American president Joe Biden. And these types of article are a bit pro forma, famous person has an article about their personal ancestry with a family tree attached. Interestingly, this article did not, just the timeline I mentioned and a graphic as part of an aside on the declining self-identification as English-American.

And that, normally is it. Perhaps the article comes out with a few revisions upon the famous person’s marriage, birth of children, and more rarely death, but that is it. Yesterday, however, the BBC posted a follow-up article about an English family claiming kinship with Joe Biden. This article, however, included a family tree of sorts.

With some interesting spacing here…

This isn’t a family tree in the traditional sense, I would argue it’s the sort of chart genealogists would use to highlight two parties’ relationship to their most recent common ancestor (MCRA). But this chart does something odd, it spaces out the generations inconsistently and so Joe Biden appears at the bottom, aligned with the grandchildren of Paul Harris, the man at the centre of the story.

If you compare the height/length of the lines linking the different generations you can see the lines on Biden’s side of the graphic are very long compared to those on the Harris’ side. This isn’t technically incorrect, but it muddies the water when it comes to understanding the generational differences. So I revisited the design below.

Now with more even spacing…

Here I dropped the photographs because, primarily, I don’t have access to them. But they also eat up valuable real estate and aren’t necessary to communicate the relationships. I kept the same distance between generations, which does a better job showing the relationship between Joe Biden and Paul Harris, who appear to be actual fifth cousins. Joe is clearly at a different level than that of Paul’s grandchildren.

I added some context with labelling the generational relationship. At the top we have William and James Biden, assuming they are brothers, listed as siblings. The next level down are first cousins, then second, &c. Beyond Paul, however, we have two additional generations that are removed from the same relationship level. This is where the confusing “once-removed” or “twice-removed” comes into play. One way to think of it is as the number of steps you need to take from, say, Paul’s grandchildren, to get to a common generational level. In their case two levels, hence the grandchildren are fifth cousins to Joe Biden, twice removed.

These types of charts are great to show narrow relationships. Because, if we assume that up until recently each of the generations depicted above had four or five children, that tree would be unwieldy at best to show the relationship between Paul’s family and Joe Biden. If you ever find yourself working on your family ancestry or history and need to show someone how you are related, this type of chart is a great tool.

Credit for the original goes to the BBC graphics department

Credit for my remake is mine.

Covid Update: 20 June

So today’s post will be a little bit shorter than usual. The big reason is probably good, but also worth addressing. States are increasingly less reliable about their data. For several weeks I have mentioned that Philadelphia had not been updating their vaccination data. Last week or two weeks ago I noticed a small line of text had been inserted saying they were ramping down reporting to just two days per week. That’s unfortunate, because Philadelphia County represents 1/9 of Pennsylvania and that can make a significant impact on the Commonwealth’s total numbers.

But this week we have Illinois. There’s been no update since Friday and it’s not clear if this is due to a glitch, or given the coincidence, a change in reporting schedule that omits weekend data updates. Not reporting for a weekend is not a big deal, as states often have to perform back-end server maintenance or clean up data and the best time for that is the weekend. But heretofore, Illinois had been the most reliable state in terms of reporting data.

There was one thing I wanted to address this week, but the lack of Illinois data makes that tricky. So I may have to wait and maybe do it next week or later this week.

Anyway, the data below is not quite as up-to-date for Illinois, but we’ll see how the Land of Lincoln addresses the issue probably today.

New case curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

Otherwise, the numbers are good. Yes, the downward slopes are shallowing out and that is increasingly obvious, but there’s increasingly less room to drop. Pennsylvania, for example, last week was just over 400 new cases per day, but the seven-day average now sits at 261. Illinois last week sat at 336, but as of its last update, that was down to 237. Virginia’s decrease was smaller, from 143 to 129, while Delaware fell from 33 to 27.

Only in New Jersey have we seen the seven-day average rise, from 168 to 179. This was not a one-off spike, however. As the delta variant takes hold in the United States, the variant brings increased ease of transmission and more severe effects for younger populations, the population group last to vaccinate and increasingly seen as not willing to vaccinate. Is this driving the slight uptick in New Jersey we saw last week? It’s too early to say.

But it serves as a reminder to everyone, please, if you haven’t already, get vaccinated.

Deaths now appear to be dropping once again across the board.

Death curves for PA, NJ, DE, VA, & IL.

Last we discussed Pennsylvania bottoming out around that 18 deaths per day level. After a week of declines, that average is now down to just under 12 deaths per day. If we see continued progress, perhaps this time next week I can be writing about the Commonwealth’s seven-day average dropping into the single digits for the first time since April 2020.

Illinois also looked like it was slowing, but again, the lack of data is making it hard to say one way or another. But at last report, the average was down to 14 deaths per day.

Last week we also discussed a slowing rate in New Jersey, and that continued to slow, but still continued to fall and deaths are now at 5.6 per day. And after a rise I noted last week, Virginia is back below double digits and at 6.3 deaths per day.

Delaware actually managed to hit 0.0 deaths per day for a stretch of two days last week as it went a week-plus without a single Covid-19 death. It has had a few reported over the weekend and so that number is up, but still below 1 as we head into the week.

Vaccinations remain the slowing curve that we saw last week.

Total vaccinations for PA & VA.

Thankfully we can see Virginia is now approaching and, hopefully, can cross the 50% fully vaccinated rate by the end of the week. Pennsylvania, again, is hard to gauge. The numbers sit at 46.7%, but the Philadelphia numbers have not updated in four days, so that could add a half percentage point or, earlier in the vaccination push, more. Optimistically, however, we are looking at numbers nearing 50%.

Credit for the piece is mine.