Lenticular maps

Lenticulars, also known as “winkies”, are those goofy quasi-3D plastic gimcracks that are good for two-step animations showing things like Jesus looking up to heaven or dancing girls wiggling their hips. I never thought they’d be useful for anything but cheesy gimmicks. But they turn out to have numerous cheese-free applications in the modern world. For one thing, you can now buy a Sharp laptop with a three dimensional lenticular display. And then there’s this nifty lenticular map of Manhattan in which three different maps come together in one virtuous unit: Urban Mapping. Make sure and run the Flash demo to see how it works.

Mapping books

Amazon likes to recommend books to you using a phrase like this: “Customers who bought Ferret Husbandry also bought Ferrets for Dummies.” Jumping from book to book like this, you can build a web of interconnected books. What can you learn from such a network? And is there a market for a book called The Dumb Husband’s Guide to Ferrets?

Some folks at orgnet.com, a company that makes social network analysis software, have built one of these Amazon networks, and the results are very entertaining: Political Patterns in Books. Building a network of political books, their plots demonstrate the dramatic divide between what left-leaning and right-leaning people are reading these days. Only a few books appear to be read by both sides. With all the talk about blue states and red states this election year, ask yourself, do you read red books or blue books? Finally, here’s some campaigning advice from orgnet:

See someone reading Sleeping with the Devil? That is someone you can talk to about your candidate. If they are reading Bushwacked or Dereliction of Duty — the most central books in each cluster — then either give them a high-five or a sneer, you won’t change their views.

Happy Groundhog Day!

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About this sturdy rodent (Marmota monax a.k.a. whistle-pig) pivots all of winter. You’re safely through the first half by now. How much more of this blasted cold must we endure? I don’t know about where you are, but we’ve had the 2nd coldest January on record here, so I am happy to indulge in Old World superstitions of dubious merit if it will take my mind off the freaking cold for a while. So Happy Groundhog Day to you, and may his shadow do whichever thing it needs to do to make it warm and have tropical drinks appear.

Happily, football also falls into the category of topics that take your mind off the weather. The Patriots have won themselves another Super Bowl, and I am pleased.