Strange Correlations in COVID-19 Data

I recently had the pleasure to host another session of VisLies. As an early demonstration of lying with visualization, I presented these 2 graphs taken from data provided by the CDC for US states.1 The first plot seems to suggest that more vaccinations cause more people to die. The second plot, built from the same source data, suggests that more vaccinations prevent deaths. They cannot both be right. The difference is easily explained. [Read More]

LEGO Advent Calendar

Years ago, we bought an advent calendar for our kids. It is a wooden structure comprising 24 hinged boxes. Some time in November, my wife would fill the boxes with little trinkets. Then, each day in December leading up to Christmas the kids could open a box and get a little surprise. Years have passed, and the kids have outgrown the little stamps and stickers that typically populated the calendar. [Read More]

DIY Escape Room

As with many people around the world at this time, our family has been pretty much stuck at home for social distancing. Recently our daughter had a suggestion to entertain ourselves: We could build escape rooms for each other. As typical with such a suggestion, I at first dismiss this as being too hard, and then get obsessed about it and do it anyway. The players deep in thought attempting to solve my diabolical escape room. [Read More]

Sick of Fearmongering

As of this writing, China is battling a fierce outbreak of a new coronavirus, which is also threatening to spread to other parts of the world. It’s scary. And that means it is also very important to keep things in perspective. Panicking and overreacting will make things worse for everyone, including yourself. Which brings me to this map showing the spread of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus. This and several more like it have been featured in articles from The Sun. [Read More]

Building Better Plots

Consider the lowly chart. Chances are you have seen quite a few, perhaps in advertisements, news, reports, or papers. You have probably even made a few yourself for school or work. There was a time when making such figures was an arduous chore. But now every spreadsheet program worth its salt can quickly plot its data, and several programs and libraries are dedicated to plotting charts. A small montage of plots. [Read More]

Fast Pass to the Slow Lane

This summer our family took a vacation in southern California, and we had a fun excursion to the Disney theme parks. What I particularly enjoy about Disney’s parks, apart from the technically impressive rides themselves, is the attention to detail for the whole experience from the moment you enter the park to the time you leave. You can see little details in everything from the escalators in the parking garage to the storefront facades to the activities in line. [Read More]

TV With a Side of MoCA

This winter I decided to consolidate my TiVo DVR service to a single Roamio that has one subscription and can stream a show to other rooms over the home network. The service is a lot nicer, but there is a catch. The TiVo units will not let you do this over a WiFi network, which is what I (and many households) use to connect network devices. Apparently, the TiVo engineers have deemed WiFi networks too unreliable to stream HD video signals, so that means I have to find a method to wire the devices across my house. [Read More]

TV Remote? There's an App for That

I lost count of how many times I have sat down to vegetate in the front of the TV only to discover the remote control missing. The couch eats them and the kids take them to random locations. And of course, trying to operate a DVR or DVD player without the remote is not possible, so I spend the next half hour frantically scouring the house looking for one. Then it occurred to me that I always know exactly where my iPhone is (because it’s mine and I’m careful with it), and it is usually in my pocket. [Read More]

Screwed Up Poker

Every so often I have the pleasure of playing low stakes poker with some friends. Usually we play Texas hold ’em or some variant of it. It’s a tough game to play (at least for unskilled people such as myself), so often near the end of the night when we’re tired (or drunk), we switch to a much simpler game called Screw Your Neighbor. © Steven Depolo, Attribution 2.0 Generic [Read More]

RC Car? There's an App for That

There was a time while I went to school when I lived and breathed electronic projects. I got a degree and then spent the subsequent years doing absolutely nothing with it and forgetting most of what I learned. Enjoyably, over the last year I’ve been exposed to a series of iPhone electronics projects through the wonderful iPhone & iPad Electronics Projects book by Mike Westerfield. By far my favorite project in the book has been hacking an RC car to control it with my iPhone. [Read More]