Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Propaganda Map of Ukraine

Ukraine's National Security Information and Analysis Center puts out and updates these maps showing the situation in eastern Ukraine. Click to see a larger version.
There's a lot to like about this map. It is busy but they keep it legible by using clean fonts and symbols. The small circular locator map uses a mostly consistent color scheme though the Crimea color is not explained. The legend is also pretty good, though not everything on the map appears in the legend.

Now the bad parts. First there's the obvious language of propaganda. Regardless of how anyone feels about the politics there, the use of terms like "liberated" and "terrorists" dumbs down the map. Then there's the color problems. It's a cute idea to use the blue and yellow Ukranian flag colors to represent the area but it also makes for a communication failure, especially if you don't realize what they're trying to do. After all, most people outside of the region probably wouldn't recognize those as the flag colors. Instead it creates the illusion of two separate regions divided by a curiously straight line. Also, the locator map only uses yellow for this region. One could also ask why the flag colors do not extend to the rest of the country. I guess they are trying to spotlight the eastern oblasts and make sure you know in no uncertain terms that these are part of Ukraine. Also, the use of flags to represent the "liberated" settlements should make this color scheme unnecessary.

The territory controlled by the pro-Russian, or "terrorist" forces is also confusing. Why is some of the area outlined with a background color and some of it just lines or varying darkness? There are also unexplained blue and red arrows and differing flag sizes. I can guess what all of these items mean but I may be wrong.

I want to like this map because it attractively conveys a lot of information, but it needs work. Still, it's much better than this ugly thing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sports Hate Maps

SB Nation put out "hate" maps for the major team sports in the United States. The data comes from asking Reddit users their least favorite team. The sample size is much smaller than the recent New York Times maps showing favorite teams. The data is much less granular (by state instead of by zip code.) Also these maps are not interactive - the NY Times map lets you hover over a county to see the stats. In other words, a much inferior product but since hatred is fun, let's have at it:
The implication here is that everyone hates the Yankees except on the west coast and a few other regional pockets (such as New York.) However, a look at the New York Times map shows that the Yankees are also the default team in most areas that do not have a nearby team.
This shows the problems of making these kind of assumptions. That said, lets assume away! Here's the NFL hate map.
There's lots of great regional hatreds represented here, particularly the fairly recent San Francisco-Seattle rivalry. The Eagles are hated in Texas (no surprise, the feeling is mutual) but Oklahoma too? The logos are cute but make the maps very hard to read. However in the case of the Canadian hockey map, they work quite beautifully.
The very small sample size leads to some wonderful oddities, for example the hatred in Canada's Northwest Territories for the San Diego Padres, or my personal favorite; Africa's hatred of the Winnipeg Jets.
I did not post the NBA maps because they are kind of boring, either you hate the Lakers or the Heat. You can explore this and lots more over at SB Nation.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Vintage Gas Station Maps

Among my bountiful harvest of birthday gifts in May was a collection of old gas station maps of northeastern states and Canadian provinces from the 1960s-70s. As a collector/hoarder of these things, some were duplicates but others were "new."

These maps remind me of the unsung heroes of that cartographic era. Companies like H. M. Gousha, General Drafting, and The National Survey labored in obscurity while Esso, Shell or the state highway departments put their names on the cover. I was once offered a job at General Drafting at $7.88/hour. This was not nearly enough money even in the 1980s to justify relocating to Convent Station, New Jersey so I declined.  Speaking of New Jersey...

This map doubled as a help beacon. If you fold it the right way and place it on your dashboard it says "SEND HELP" in black against a bright yellow background.

When I tell people I was born in New Jersey and they ask "which exit" the answer is 109.
This map also does the vintage upside down gimmick for southbounders. Stop! Don't look at this if you're heading north!

Welcome to Maine! Sure we have nice forests, lakes and oceanside vistas but none of that compares to our beautiful new Archives building.

New York is too big to fit clearly on one side of a map. The lucky folks in Elmira are in the Great Overlap so they don't have to guess which side of the map to open.
New York also appeared to annex three of Canada's largest cities here.  
UPDATE: I forgot about Hamilton so actually four.
For a Canadian perspective here are two views of Nova Scotia, the first one is from the tourist bureau and has a cute scenic tours guide on the back page. The 1970s fonts are nice too.

I also think the scenery on the cover is nicer than the Maine map but that's just my strange opinion.

The Esso (General Drafting) take on the same geography. North is up on this one, not slanted to follow the peninsula's orientation like the map above.
Happy motoring!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Energy Maps For Your Wall

Say what you want about the fracking frackers but they do make pretty maps. Platts "consistently sets the industry standard for visualizing the supply, generation, distribution and transportation of natural gas." I'm not sure who the competition is in the supply and distribution visualization field, but Platts does a nice job with their colors, subtle shadings and National Geographic-like fonts. They also use shapes to somewhat effectively distinguish between operating and proposed power plants. Here is an example from the North American Natural Gas System Map.  

These are available as wall maps and/or on CD-ROM. The pricing is a bit steep but if you're an energy company executive $500-$800 for a wall map is no big deal. Here is another example from the North American Natural Gas Liquids Map.

For an International perspective, here is the China Coal Power Generation Map. No wonder the air quality in much of China is so bad.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Negro Motorist Green Book

Fifty years ago, I was born the Civil Rights Act was passed. The Negro Motorist Green Book provides a good example of how difficult travel was for African-Americans before passage of the Act. Published in the 1930s-1960s, this book listed places where travelers could shop, stay, eat and get gas without being refused service, or suffering a much worse fate. A copy of the 1949 edition can be found here

The book lists accommodations by type for the United States as well as Canada, Mexico and Bermuda. Here is a sample page.
Unfortunately there are no maps. I was curious about what this would look like on a map so I decided to pick a city and map the addresses. I chose Memphis for several reasons. It's a good size (not too many points, but enough to make it interesting) and it's a place I'm entirely unfamiliar with so I would not have any preconceived expectation of what the map would show. One final random reason is that I had flipped to the Tennessee page when thinking about this project. Click the map below for better legibility.
I used a well-known mapping service to locate the addresses and ArcGIS Online for the background maps. A few assumptions on street names were needed. Landerdale and Lauderdale were assumed to be the same street as were Beale St and Beale Ave*. Unsurprisingly there is a clear cluster one side (south) of town, while almost nothing on the other side. Here is a detailed map of the south side cluster.
Most of the businesses were located near the Beale Street music district, almost certainly not a coincidence. Of course, the landscape is very different today. Most of these businesses are gone, the street pattern has been altered and there was no FedEx Forum (or FedEx, Memphis Grizzlies, or Disney on Ice) in 1949. Here is a blueprint map I was able to dig up from 1949. 
The passage of the Civil Rights Act has made the Green Book obsolete so fortunately for travelers today my map is just a historical curiosity, not a necessary guide.

* This assumption appears to be correct based on the blueprint map.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

40 Maps That Won't Explain Anything-Part 4

This is the final (for now) installment of this series. However, there are so many of the "40 Maps That Will Increase Your Earnings and Change Your Life" pages out there now that I might be compelled to put out some bonus editions of these in the future.

It was pointed out to me that some of the maps in Part 3 actually explained things. I will try to fix that situation with less meaningful maps this time.

31. The Provinces of Bolivia
32. Darts being thrown at random provinces in Cambodia to illustrate PowerPoint Maps Online

33. Detail from the Austin Music Map - love that purple river!
34. The Interstate 11 Corridor proposed to connect Phoenix and Las Vegas.
35. Psychedelic precipitation map of Hawaii. With a bonus Maui blowup.
36. Hawaii refrigerator magnet from Shop in Paradise.
37. The High Sierra region from Visit California - I like their maps and we just visited this region.
38. World placemat for "bigger kids"  from the Reader's Catalog. Got cliches?
Here's the Western Hemisphere zoomed in. Note the atrocious placement of New York City. Guess where this company is located? If their 646 area code is any indication they're based in New York City!
39. Speaking of New York City - here are the Trees of Prospect Park. On the Prospect Park page you can  click on a tree to get details and pictures, but then it would be a map that explains something so be careful!
40. Time to put this series to sleep with some White Comic Map bedding from Debenhams. If you zoom in on the image you'll see that the "map" is a series of comic book images.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tour de France Maps

A few days ago the Tour de France began in England. To honor the English "Grand Depart" cupajoe, a user on designed this London Underground style tour map.
In truly British style, it shows the English Channel as a mere river to cross and does not delineate boundaries with Belgium or Spain, two countries that also share part of the route. The color scheme is not very useful, except to help translate the legend. However, this kind of map should not need a legend. It's much easier to have the dates right on the map and the starts and finishes of each stage clearly defined. The map below (from Cycling Weekly) does a better job in all respects and shows true geography. It's also more readable and much more attractive.
There must be a higher resolution version of this map but I have been unable to find it. It would be nice to be able to read the L├ęgende and the tiny credits on the lower left of the map.
Update - Thanks to an anonymous commenter, we now have link to a higher resolution version of this map.

This map also makes for a nice mug.