Shoutout/Halloween’s History

Before I get on to Halloween, I’d like to thank the readers of this blog for your time and attention to my nattering.

Have you ever wondered how Halloween began? What is truth? What is fiction? The video below from National Geographic provides a quick history of the holiday.

Some Halloween statistics are listed after the video, courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Trick or Treat!

36 million
The estimated number of potential trick-or-treaters in 2009 — children 5 to 13 — across the United States. This number is up about 190,000 from a year earlier. Of course, many other children — older than 13, and younger than 5 — also go trick-or-treating.
Source: 2009 population estimates [http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb10-81.html].

111.3 million
Number of occupied housing units across the nation in 2009 — all potential stops for trick-or-treaters.
Source: Housing Vacancies and Homeownership [http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/hvs/historic/].

92%
Percentage of households with residents who consider their neighborhood safe. In addition, 78 percent said there was no place within a mile of their homes where they would be afraid to walk alone at night.
Source: Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States, 2005
[http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/extended-05.html] Table 4.

Jack-o’-Lanterns and Pumpkin Pies

931 million pounds
Total production of pumpkins by major pumpkin-producing states in 2009. Illinois led the country by producing 429 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. California and Ohio were also major pumpkin-producing states: each produced at least 100 million pounds.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
[http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/VegeSumm/VegeSumm-01-27-2010.pdf]

Where to Spend Halloween?

Some places around the country that may put you in the Halloween mood are:

Transylvania County, N.C. (30,203 residents)
Source: 2009 population estimates [http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb10-81.html]

Tombstone, Ariz. (population 1,562)
Source: 2009 population estimates [http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb10-81.html]

Pumpkin Center, N.C. (population 2,228); and Pumpkin Bend, Ark. (population 307)
Source: 2000 Census
[http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/BasicFactsServlet]

Cape Fear in New Hanover County, N.C. (population 15,711); and Cape Fear in Chatham County, N.C. (population 1,170).
Source: 2000 Census
[http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/BasicFactsServlet]

Skull Creek, Neb. (population 274)
Source: 2009 population estimates [http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb10-81.html]

Candy and Costumes

1,317
Number of U.S. manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2008, employing 38,369 people. California led the nation in the number of chocolate and cocoa manufacturing establishments, with 146, followed by Pennsylvania, with 115.
Source: County Business Patterns: 2008 [http://www.census.gov/econ/cbp/] NAICS code (31132) and (31133)

422
Number of U.S. establishments that manufactured nonchocolate confectionary products in 2008. These establishments employed 16,860 people. California led the nation in this category, with 47 establishments.
Source: County Business Patterns: 2008 [http://www.census.gov/econ/cbp/] NAICS code (31134)

24.3 pounds
Per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2009.
Source: Current Industrial Reports, Confectionery: 2009
[http://www.census.gov/manufacturing/cir/historical_data/ma311d/index.html]

1,814
Number of costume rental and formal wear establishments across the nation in 2008.
Source: 2008 County Business Patterns
[http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/county_business_patterns/cb10-114.html] NAICS code (53222)

I hope you have a spookalicious day!

The Value of Data Visualization

Have you ever wondered why data visualization matters? Do you prefer to look simply at numbers in a spreadsheet, or would you rather seen an image of that data?

Many people learn better visually. We all have to crawl through a great deal of data each and every day as well as process the meaning of all of this information. So, why bother with data visualization at all?

To understand that, it helps to understand the principles we strive for in data journalism. At The New York Times, we strongly believe that visualization is reporting, with many of the same elements that would make a traditional story effective: a narrative that pares away extraneous information to find a story in the data; context to help the reader understand the basics of the subject; interviewing the data to find its flaws and be sure of our conclusions. Prettiness is a bonus; if it obliterates the ability to read the story of the visualization, it’s not worth adding some wild new visualization style or strange interface. (From: http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/10/word-clouds-considered-harmful/.)

Column Five on Vimeo also provides a brief overview on The Value of Data Visualization below.

What do you think are the key concepts for a clear visualization of data? What do you consider a bad info graphic? Do you have a favorite infographic? (This could be a favorite because it is excellent, or a favorite because it is so awesomely bad.)

[Via Junar.]

Back from Hiatus…

I’ve missed posting in this blog. I still must do my dissertation work, but I will plan to post a few times a month. I did make progress on my dissertation work the past few months.

I hope you all had a wonderful summer and that fall is going well. (Or, that you had a wonderful winter and that the spring is going well, if you are in the southern hemisphere.)