NameVoyager: a baby name wizard


This is a totally fascinating bit of information visualization, from iVillage. Enter letters and it shows you names starting with those letters, plus the popularity of those names in the US. from the 1880’s to 2005. I’ve been using it to come up with character names in short stories.

life of pi, ongoing and illustrated

My obsession with Yann Martel’s Life of Pi predates this blog. I bought the book in 2002 when it came out based entirely on a glowing review in the local paper, and on the premise — indian boy survives six months shipwrecked in a small boat with a bengal tiger. How could a novelist possibly make THAT work? I had to find out.

It turns out the novelist really does make it work and the book is AMAZING. As I described it to others at the time: the first half of the book had me thinking oh, nice book, well written, kind of slow. And then the second half was: great book, fabulous tale, fast-paced, can’t put it down. And then last five pages had me lying awake in bed the whole night afterward thinking HOLY SHIT. And then I got up and started the book all over again from page 1.

I would not shut up about the book. I forced it on everyone I knew. I pressed it on strangers in bookstores. I sought out interviews with the author and essays on the Meaning of the book and the various metaphors and allegories. I discussed it in online forums. I was obsessed.

It’s a good book. Have you read it? You must read it. Go read it right now, I insist.

I bring this up because there’s been a worldwide search recently to illustrate a new edition of Life of Pi. The Times Online posted details about the search and its judges as well as a slideshow of the shortlisted entries. I like this one by Jonathan Gross. Nice use of whitespace.

soda, pop, coke

Now this is one neato map. Its a breakdown of the regional term for a sweet carbonated beverage across the united states, based on actual survey data submitted to Click a state for raw data.

What I find especially interesting about this is that although I knew soda vs. pop vs. coke was regional, I didn’t realize how incredibly distinctly regional it was. Some of these dividing lines are really stark, for reasons I cannot begin to imagine. Why is is soda in eastern PA and pop in western with a near perfect dividing line between the two? Ditto California and Oregon? What is with that big blotch of soda in St. Louis? And just what precisely does “other” mean?

Where I come from, its “soda.”

(I got it from Slashfood

jumping off the golden gate bridge

There’s a big stink right now in San Francisco about putting a suicide barrier up on the Golden Gate Bridge. Some 1200 people have jumped off the bridge since it opened in 1937. The notion is that the bridge itself is an attraction to suicidal people in the same way that the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower used to be; put up a barrier (basically: a big fence) and you remove the temptation. The argument against the barrier is that the bridge itself and the view from the bridge are amongst the most beautiful in the world and a barrier would destroy both the aesthetic of the bridge and that of the view. (and if you’ve ever tried to see Paris or New York through the big steel grates they’ve got up on the Eiffel and the Empire State now, you might be inclined to agree with that argument).


A few weeks back the SF Chronicle published this interesting infographic about the location of suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge. Things I learned from this map:

  • There are more sad people in San Francisco than in Marin. Either that or suicidal Marinites like to take a long walk before jumping.
  • People like to center their suicides between the two bridge towers.
  • If you are going to jump off the bridge, you do not bring your bicycle. (the bike lane is on the west (ocean) side of the bridge).
  • Jumping over land: very unpopular, but for some of the very sad San Franciscans laziness apparently wins out. (“walk all the way out to the middle of the bridge? hell no!”)

Personally I think the whole issue could be solved with giant nets underneath the bridge. Catch the jumpers in the nets and then let them sit there overnight in the notoriously horrible golden gate wind and reconsider that whole bridge idea. Bet the Golden Gate stops being so attractive real fast.