December, 2012 Archives

wordwhereHere’s a fun tool that lets you create your own heat maps of words: WordWhere. Choose any geographic location and see where words tend to cluster. The search is made against Flickr’s gigantic collection of geotagged words, searching the photos’ titles, descriptions and tags.

The program’s strength is in finding geographic locations, such as searching for “Boston” or “Chicago.” Searching for larger areas, like “Canada,” will focus on populated areas where people are posting geo-tagged photos. You can also get reasonable responses for things like “beach,” “alligator,” or “rodeo.” Words not associated with regions tend to be dominated by the heavily-populated areas, though it is still fun to search more-abstract words.

The program uses treemapping, basically a binary search. It keeps dividing a portion of the map into halves, trying to figure out where the biggest results are. You can see the map being updated as the map is divided into smaller rectangles. You can control how many divisions should be made. The greater the density of words, the pinker that rectangle will appear. » Continue Reading…

Where Do Words Appear?

Yelp MapperI’m testing using the Yelp API to populate a custom map, powered by the Google Maps API. The program is the Yelp Mapper. It’s a full-screen map that lets you show markers for businesses and such. The field in the lower-left-hand corner lets you enter any description of a place. This goes to the Google geocoding API, which determines where to move the map to. State codes and ZIP codes work well here.

The next field lets you search for Yelp entries. The search is matched against the business name, category, and user comments. Every search you make is layered on top of the previous matches, unless you hit the clear button.

The goal of the program is to create a version of the bike-shops map which gets its data dynamically. (See Updating the Bike Shops Map.) This version is much more powerful because both the location and the subject are dynamically chosen by the user. However, the tradeoff is that you lose some precision. You’ll find the Yelp searches turn up a lot of unintended results. It’s nice to have a curated map, but impractical to scale up for a larger audience. » Continue Reading…

Mashup of Yelp and Google Maps

modesGoogle maps gives you four options for showing directions: by car, by public transit, walking, and bicycling. My Side-by-Side Router shows all four at the same time.

Enter your starting and ending points. You can enter a specific address or any description that Google’s geocoder can figure out. The four routes are shown in different colors (in some cases they will overlap). Use the “steps” buttons to show pins at each step; clicking on the pins will show the specific directions for that step. Some cities will not have any transit information.

The screen also shows the estimated travel time and distance for each mode.

For quick demos, change the “anyplace” drop-down menu to a given town, for quick location choices. » Continue Reading…

It really is the most wonderful time of the year when you see hundreds of Santas wandering around at Christmastime. Santarchy brings together costumed revelers to celebrate the goofy side of Christmas. In Washington, the 2012 Santarchy DC began on the National Mall. After gathering on the steps of one of the museums, the Santas migrated to the Smithsonian carousel. From there it’s off to the Ellipse and the National Christmas Tree, and then to mingle about in front of the White House. It’s there on Pennsylvania Ave that the banana-clad rabble-rousers from Bananarchy typically join the fun. Seeing the two groups merge always reminds me of the Jets and the Sharks from West Side Story. My favorite new costume this year was a man clad in a gingerbread house. Enjoy the photos below.

Elf Band
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Hidden in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is one of the coolest places in the universe. The Manitou Arcade is a step back in time, when people plunked down coins to play mechanical games of chance and skill. Formally known as Arcade Amusements, Inc, the arcade has hundreds of old games scattered among a few connected buildings in Manitou Springs, just west of Colorado Springs. It feels like a boardwalk amusement park, without the beach.

Amusements Inside
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Cheap Thrills at the Manitou Arcade

When you visit Manitou Springs, bring a cup. You’ll want to taste all the natural mineral springs you discover as you explore this quaint little town. The artesian waters are naturally effervescent. Each spring has its own signature mix of minerals, but they are all very strong. The high mineral content is distasteful to many. A century ago, people flocked to the springs as cures for their ailments. Many still believe in the health benefits of these waters.

The Mineral Springs Foundation has been repairing the old fonts over the years, updating them with sculptural elements. Here’s a tour of the eleven major mineral springs in Manitou Springs.

Saratoga of the West
Wheeler Spring
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Mineral Water from Manitou Springs