December 12th, 2012

A strategy and dexterity game for simple minds

Gaëlle has been a big fan of the Peppa pig series over the last year since she received one of the DVDs as gift. One of the earlier episodes has Peppa and George playing a chicken computer game while sitting on their father’s knees. It’s a simple but exponentially chaotic game. I thought I could create something similar. I give you Pock Pock. It’s a simple and somewhat crude game but I’m quite happy with having created a game that has mouse and keyboard interaction, (some) sound effects and networking. Give Pock Pock a whirl. Gaëlle does not ever use the computer and as a result does not quite have the mouse-screen coordination to play the game yet.

Get your chickens to eat the grass and seeds as fast as possible

Action shot of Pock Pock

November 29th, 2012

An island guaranteed to relax you

As you leave behind a car park and, after a 40 minute ferry trip, arrive to a much more peaceful wagon park, the car-free contrast is jarring. Not only is the setting calmer but the people have also relaxed. No one is in a rush to find parking, get luggage from the car, get on the ferry before it leaves. Each family walks down the rows of wagons looking for the one with their house number on it. These transport wagons sport a hitch to be mounted behind a bike but also two hand grips so they may be hand-pulled. These wagons are large enough to fit a couple large suitcases and some tired children. So begins the walk from the ferry terminal into town and to our rental home. The ferry traffic quickly spreads down the road as those with bikes or in horse taxis pull ahead.

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June 21st, 2012

An amazing pesto

Julia knew someone who worked in a restaurant with a great sun-dried tomato pesto. It’s been buried in our recipe book for too long. It’s amazing.

Servings: Pasta sauce for 8
Preparation: 20 minutes

Ingredients

Base

  • 300 g sun-dried tomatoes (in oil)
  • 150 g almonds
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 100 g tomato paste
  • 1 cup olive oil
Granular

  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 100 g roasted pine nuts
  • 300 g parmesan
  • pasta water (before serving)

Directions

  1. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes from their oil and combine with the other base ingredients.
  2. Blend until homogenous.
  3. Roast pine nuts and add to the granular ingredients and stir (do not blend!).
  4. Right before servings mix in some of the water in which the pasta boiled until it has a creamy consistency.

Enjoy!

March 23rd, 2012

superimposed markers

Selecting cartographic symbols can, depending on the target message, dramatically vary in difficulty. In the context of bike-share systems, which I shall define, let us look at some examples. A bike-share system, third generation, usually consists of stations containing a certain number of bike docks with bikes locked in them. Registered users can easily and quickly check-out a bike, typically for half an hour for free, ride to another station and check the bike back in. In the context of mapping there are actually many elements that can be mapped. A big challenge is communicating effectively the fullness of bike-share stations cartographically. A map must clearly show station locations and whether they have:

  • one or more bikes,
  • one or more spaces/docks,
  • no bikes,
  • no spaces, and
  • problems and are unavailable.

Displaying all these attributes concurrently is not nearly as easy as it initially appears. I will explore what symbols are currently used in online bike-share status maps and try and design an improved set.

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February 7th, 2012

mock-up of a logo design sketch

I dabble. It’s not a new device from Apple. I’m saying that I play with new technologies, software, graphics programs, API and designing websites and logos. I’m not a professional. I don’t make a living from either. But I enjoy all this dabbling. So when my friend Anne was looking to design a new logo for the new Society of Luxembourg doctoral students named Luxdoc I eagerly dove into Adobe Illustrator and quickly threw back out four general design ideas. In this post I’ll explore the process and talk about other experiences I have had and seen regarding logo design processes.

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December 23rd, 2011

Google map overlayed with graph data

In the spring of 2011 I contacted the city of Luxembourg regarding obtaining data on their city bike share system, named vel’oh!, in order to use the data with the students I taught GIS to in the fall of 2011. Unfortunately no students showed interest in the data. I however dove into the data and did all sorts of spatial analysis and determined trends, statistics and visualizations to better understand the data. I was really only scratched the surface. With over 70 bike stations in the city, each one provides large possibilities for analysis. With my supervisor we met with the data donor from the city and presented our findings. During this meeting he asked me whether I thought certain stations required more bike locks/docks. Typically a station has 15-30 bike docks. The data I had could not address this question but I knew how to find the data in order to answer the question.

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December 8th, 2011

Example output from the symbol generator

I have spoken about inappropriately sized symbols in the past before. While generating some of the graphics for those articles I realized that it would be quite easy to generate the symbols automatically based on their values rather than trying to size them manually within the graphics editor. This could prevent myself as well as others inadvertent editing mistakes as well as methodological ones where people simply do not consider the correct representation of symbols.

Check out the resulting Cartographic symbol generator page for more details.

November 23rd, 2011

Infographics serve to simplify the communication of complexity by showing shapes, relationships, metaphors, hues, flows and symbols to represent values. A visually clean and attractive layout is common. We are more quickly able to compare visual values such as areas than numbers. Numbers and words require a more steps: deciphering (reading), translating to meaning and finally absorption. Visual symbols are directly absorbed.

Last year I purchased the book Information is Beautiful (IiB) by David McCandless. Its premise made me add it to my virtual shopping cart instantly. The book is strictly infographics about all sorts of serious, curious and funny topics. I was rather disappointed when reading it and discovered many incomplete pages. I became frustrated with the book and glossed over it a little quickly after that, admiring more the designs than the actual data. McCandless calls it a “freak printing error” but I wonder if it wasn’t partially from the last minute rush. I’ve watched his TED talk and I feel he may be a bit full of himself.

Infographics can fail at many stages. There can be an error in the research as in McCandless’ vitamin supplements graphic. These require you to know well the data to detect errors. There are also representational errors where the values researched are not represented correctly relative to other values. These are easier to detect if the author/artist also displays the values that the graphics are trying to represent. I browsed through IiB a few months back and looked at the data theft infographic. I quickly saw many representation and design errors. I admire his listed source materials / bibliography but I do not think he took to heart Tufte’s lessons.

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November 16th, 2011

Gougeres close up

Gougères are puff pastry with cheese. While the ingredients are few and common, the labour of mixing the pastry dough is physical. I sit and place the pot between my knees so that I can stir with both hands using a strong spoon. I have broken a wooden spoon before. The cougères are great with soup as a side dish or as an appetizer when you have guests over. I often make a double batch and freeze 2/3 for future meals.

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November 2nd, 2011

Three different clocks

A day has 24 hours in it. That’s 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. If you wonder why Americans don’t understand the need for using the metric system then ask yourself why you use this inconsistent time measurement system.

What if we could design a better time system that is easier to read and convert between units? Would it still have the same number of hours, minutes or seconds in a day?

Explore the designs.