Coconut Production

I played around with multiple mapping layers and was drawn to a layer of data called the “Sri Lanka Coconut Triangle” which you can visit here.

I was extremely intrigued by what the context was behind this benign shape on the western side of Sri Lanka. Obviously, the major part of Sri Lanka’s coconut production comes from this highlighted zone as the map title mentions. Unfortunately there weren’t many statistics about coconut production specifically in the context of GDP, economic growth or share of the agricultural sector. However, I did end up learning a large amount of information about Sri Lanka’s economic landscape.




Here are what I see to be the pros and cons of both databases and spreadsheets from personal experience and from Stephen Ramsay’s article:

Easy to use
Automatically compensates for arithmetic adjustments
Pivot Tables/VBA
Formatting and data selection
Simple query options
No security for data protection or data integrity
Tough to relate multiple data pieces
Text is limited and inconvenient

Very powerful and able to handle large amounts of information
Reduces duplication
Simple access for multiple people to use the same file
Long term storage
Large storage capacity
Reporting, analysis and raw data can be kept separate
High data integrity
Powerful and simple queries
Complexity of the data is not an issue
High learning curve to be able to use the full potential of a database
Structural changes are hard to put into effect
Not usually very intuitive

Coding and I

As Snoop Dogg once said, “support tha american dream n make coding available to EVERYONE!!”. I believe coding should be a mandatory and integral part of school curricula just as the three Rs are (Reading, Writing & Arithmetic).

In the 21st century, every student should learn to program, for three reasons. Computational thinking is an essential capability for just about everyone. Programming is an incredibly useful skill: fields from zoology to foreign exchange trading are becoming information fields, and those who can bend the power of the computer to their will have an advantage over those who can’t. Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 71 percent of all new jobs in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics in 2014) during the next decade will be in computer science. I do not believe that everyone should undergo rigorous computer science education, or should be force to take programming; however, I believe every student should at least be exposed to coding due to its rise in importance in all industries. This quote from Kirschenbaum perfectly summarizes my view on the matter: “When I teach courses on new media and electronic literature, I’m not interested in turning my students into professional code monkeys. They can go elsewhere for that if that’s what they want.”

My experience with coding is actually quite limited unfortunately. Having grown up in Brussels and attended a French school, coding was hidden away from me as it wasn’t believed to be a necessary part of education. My first exposure to coding was in Introduction to Computer Science at Carleton, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I decided not to pursue the subject however, as I was not an excellent computer scientist and decided to pursue a career that does not require computer science. The courses I took from CodeAcademy strongly reminded me of my intro course, in both the structure of the lesson and content learned.

You can see which courses I have completed on my Code Academy Profile.

Mapping Occupation

I chose to reverse engineer a digital project called Mapping Occupation project By Gregory Downs and Scott Nesbit, which “captures the regions where the United States Army could effectively act as an occupying force in the Reconstruction”.

When first visiting the site, I was presented with a large map of a portion of the U.S. States with information on troop presence and a side bar of text on “Force, Freedom and the Army in Reconstruction”. We are given two different methods to engage with this information. The map itself has a legend of increments from 1 to above 5,000 in terms of troop presence, which are represented by circles, which vary in corresponding sizes. The text located on the side of the map provides a narrative view to the static map, complementing the map and vice-versa. Having taken in the landing page, I set out to understand the rest of the data flow from this project.

The page I had landed on actually constituted one of the 6 main information tabs. Labeled “Narrative”, it combined a simplistic version of another main section “Exploratory Map”. The other sections contained information about the website itself, methodology, data gathering and credits. The exploratory map shows us all 50 states and their borders with information that we can toggle on and off. It provides much more in-depth information than the map that accompanies the narrative as I was able to select a month and year at which to view my chosen data. Unlike the narrative section, which is setup to tell a specific and pre-determined story with a visual aid for added information, the exploratory maps allowed me to create a visual story that I was interested in by using troop, cultural and historical data from 1865 till 1880.

In the “Methods” section, we are informed on how the data was collected. There were two main inquiries to gather their data. “The first is in figuring out where soldiers were stationed, how many were stationed there, and how long they remained. The second is in proposing rough estimates for the effective reach and accessibility of the U.S. military, what we call Zones of Occupation and Zones of Access.”

The first was collected thanks to monthly reports done by the military. They encountered many issues however when attempting to extract this data from the reports due to disparities in reports and lack of detail in certain instances. More can be read about the errors they may have in their data and the assumptions they made in extracting the data here.

For the Zones of Occupation, they assumed that U.S. infantry would march up to eighteen miles per day, and that cavalry would ride for thirty with a limit of 6 hours on travel time. For a train, they assumed that it would travel at 20miles per hour. Using these assumptions, they were able to keep track of the troops’ movements at all points in time.

For Zones of Access, or the “places from which freedmen might reasonably travel to a military outpost”, were more constrained. They assumed that the zones of access would be circles with a radius of 18 miles, a six hour walk into town.

Overall, I think this project was very well done in its execution. It is easy to understand and manipulate the flow of information available. However, I thought it was unfortunate that there was no specific information regarding the movements of troops. The text provides a backstory that helps us understand, however it is not a perfect compliment. I found myself unable to dive into more detail with respect to specific troop movement, which was unfortunate. In addition, the map and its marked legends do not scale well with zoom as they are fixed at a constant size despite the varying zoom in and out of the map.

My House

Here is my attempt at recreating the house where I grew up in. Dating from the   mid 19th century, it used to be a summer house for a wealthy Dutch family that would come to Brussels for a break from the Netherlands.

I had difficulties in finding the correct textures for my  house and even when I fell upon the textures that resembled reality, they somehow seemed distant. The chimney also posed issue, since I was unable to extrapolate a 2D square on an inclined plane into a box which is parallel to the z axis. I had to delete my roof, and build the chimney on a flat plane.