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 [].

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 [].

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
[] 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

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 []

Tombstone, Ariz. (population 1,562)
Source: 2009 population estimates []

Pumpkin Center, N.C. (population 2,228); and Pumpkin Bend, Ark. (population 307)
Source: 2000 Census

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

Skull Creek, Neb. (population 274)
Source: 2009 population estimates []

Candy and Costumes

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 [] NAICS code (31132) and (31133)

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 [] NAICS code (31134)

24.3 pounds
Per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2009.
Source: Current Industrial Reports, Confectionery: 2009

Number of costume rental and formal wear establishments across the nation in 2008.
Source: 2008 County Business Patterns
[] NAICS code (53222)

I hope you have a spookalicious day!

Clueless Discovery / Asking the “Right” Questions

A large part of life and research involves figuring out what questions to ask. Still, how do you know what questions to ask? How do you know when to keep exploring vs. accepting that what you’ve found so far is “good enough”?

I have no idea.

And neither, apparently, does this guy, whose failure to “get it” clearly causes himself harm.

If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” ~Edward Hodnett

Have you had any clueless discoveries you’d like to share?

[Via the SPARC eNews March 2011. See also, Aaron Ludwig, a.k.a., “the Rabid Milkman“.]

Earthquakes — Animation of Cause and Effect

What causes an earthquake?

We are told by the media in the aftermath of an earthquake that the ground moved and major “faults” shifted and collided because the earth’s “plates” are adjusting.

But what does that mean in layman’s terms?

Podders79 created this “Animation-Earthquake Guide” based on BBC archives to explain the how and what behind earthquakes.

What were your thoughts as you watched this video?

The New Zealand Herald has a section on the recent Christchurch earthquake. The BBC has an entire section devoted to the March 2011 quake and tsunami in Japan. If you would like to learn how a tsunami works, please read my post from September 2010, “Tsunami Animated Infographic“.

NOAA Maps Shows Honshu Tsunami Wave Heights Around the Globe

How can you display wave height in a meaningful way, particularly when a tsunami strikes after a major earthquake?

NOAA researchers and staff took the maximum predicted wave heights from buoys positioned in the Pacific as the Honshu Tsunami spread across the Pacific on March 11, 2011. Using that data, they created the dramatic images and video below of the predicted wave heights and energy of the tsunami.

The black color on the left side of each image shows the tsunami at its highest.

Image of the Honshu Tsunami courtesy NOAA and SciAm.

An author at SciAm writes:

This graphic shows the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions of the maximum heights of tsunami waves caused by the March 11 earthquake near Sendai, Japan. The wave heights will decrease as the waves cross the deep Pacific Basin but rise again as they approach shorelines, although they won’t be as high as they were around Japan. The map shows waves of 30 to 70 centimeters (1.0 feet to 2.3 feet) are predicted to hit New Zealand, the South Pacific islands, Hawaii and the western coast of North America.

Continue reading “NOAA Maps Shows Honshu Tsunami Wave Heights Around the Globe”

Debtris (Visualization of Debt)

How does the cost of the Iraq War compare to US credit card debt? What about the worldwide costs of the financial crises from the late 2000s to the present? How do those costs compare to African nations’ debts?

Information is Beautiful provides those answers and more in his first animation, entitled “Debtris“. I have embedded both the US (dollars) and UK (pounds) versions below.

Did any of the figures surprise you?

[Via @timoreilly on 21 February 2011 @14:07.)

Your Stomach Really Does Have a Mind of Its Own

Have you ever dieted and thought that your stomach controls your brain, not vice versa? Have your ever thought that your stomach has a mind of its own? If so, you may not be far off.

Researchers at the Nestle Corporation have been examining how to create a food that will tell the brain that the stomach is full, primarily to aid in weight loss. The Wall Street Journal discussed this research in an article entitled, “Hungry? Your Stomach Really Does Have a Mind of Its Own“.

Nestle, one of the world’s largest food companies, hopes to develop new types of foods that, essentially, seek to trick the gut brain. The foods could make people feel full earlier, or stay full longer, in order to curb the desire to eat more. For example, cooking french fries in oil that gets digested more slowly than regular oil could confer a longer-lasting sense of satiety, researchers speculate.

“This means that people will report a sense of fullness more quickly,” says Heribert Watzke, a senior food scientist at Nestle. “That tells the big brain to stop eating.”

During the course of this research, they have learned a few things about the stomach’s “gut brain”. The infographic below explains the data and information about how the stomach “thinks” regarding hunger in terms I can understand.

The Stomach Really Does Have a Mind of Its Own

Clicking on the image above will take you to a larger image with a zoom function. Image courtesy The Wall Street Journal.)

Does this infographic of what I believe is a complicated set of information and data about the stomach’s functioning explain to you why your stomach has a mind of its own?

The Information Explosion and Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom

The information explosion. What does that mean to you? Does it mean multi-tasking, multiple Internet-enabled devices, cyber-friends, a vast database of knowledge at your fingertips…and a sense of being overwhelmed with too much information?

If you were an adult before the World Wide Web became common, are you more informed or less informed because of the Web? From whom do you get most of your information now? Your church? Your school or workplace? Your family? Or marketers?

Plearn posted the thought-provoking video, Information – Deformation, below with the view that the information explosion is devoid of meaning. He asks, “Is there a difference between knowledge, information, and wisdom? If so, what is it?”

I’d like to see more links at the end of the video to the sources of his data, although he does provide some citations for some of the data he quotes. He threw a lot of figures out at me. I did like the questions the video explored, though.

Has the information explosion provided you with more or less meaning regarding your relationships with other people, and your life in general?

The Keeper of Manhatten’s Many Maps

So, you’d like a job taming data and providing access to information? Or, you already tame data and provide access to information, but you want to change jobs. What kinds of jobs are available?

The Wall Street Journal recently profiled a position they called, “The Keeper of Manhatten’s Many Maps“. The mapkeeper’s name is Hector Rivera. As part of his job, he

scans, catalogs and discovers lost streets and forgotten avenues as the Topographical Bureau Associate — or the map man — inside the offices of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. He works inside a room crammed with some 5,000 maps of Manhattan, some of which date back over 200 years.

Hector scans maps, does research, and manages the map room. He advises people who may be breaking ground on new projects, so they know what they are — and are not — digging into in a particular part of a city. Street locations have changed, so knowing what used to be where you want to dig may help you avoid problems when you begin a building project.

What is your dream job taming data?

Preservation Policies, Forbes, and an Email Time Capsule

email preservationI’m often asked why the preservation of digital materials is so complicated. After all, isn’t it simply about the storage and migration, or emulation, of digital objects and metadata? Why do you need all of these policies and procedures around a data or digital archive? Why can’t you just store the digital files and leave them?

Recently, opened an email time capsule the company set aside a mere five years ago. The blog post illustrates some of the difficulties of preserving digital materials over time — in this case, only half a decade.

First, I’ll describe the purpose of the experiment.

The experiment, which we called an “E-Mail Time Capsule,” was part of a special report on Communicating. We invited our readers to communicate with their future selves by writing a letter, which we would store for them, and send at a later date.

Over 140,000 people participated, choosing whether they wanted their capsule “opened” in one, three, five, ten or twenty years.

In 2006 and 2008, we successfully sent over 40,000 messages. And now we’ve hit the five year mark, and are in the process of sending 17,000 emails to our users –half a decade after they wrote them.

Simple, right? You set up three geographically disparate servers, and set one to send if the first one doesn’t, and the third to send the emails if the first two servers fail. However, it wasn’t quite that simple, as the author notes.

Continue reading “Preservation Policies, Forbes, and an Email Time Capsule”

How to Tame Your Data When Mom is on Facebook

What do you do when your mom gets on Facebook? Do you not “friend” her, do you become more careful about what you post, or do you put her into a special group with limited access to your page? If you do the latter, what do you do when she asks why she can’t see all of your data and information?

You are a grown up and you live far, far away, and yet, it is like your parents can monitor your activities at any time. That can be creepy and just plain annoying.

The writers and comedians at Saturday Night Live have come up with a brilliant idea — a “damn it, my mom is on a facebook filter”.

I have to admit, although my friends are organized into various groups based on how I know them (high school, college, etc.), I have been careful about what I post since I first got on Facebook five years ago. Having said that, it was still weird when my mother joined and friended me. It was as though my activities were being watched again, just like when I was a child.

Did you change any behavior when your parents and relatives joined Facebook? Why or why not?