January, 2013 Archives

Places AutocompleteWhat’s cooler than using Google’s Geocoder to let users navigate using text descriptions? Replacing the geocoder entirely with Autocomplete.

The “Places Autocomplete” feature is one of the goodies you get when you import the Places Library. I decided to test it out on my WordWhere application. WordWhere lets users select a geographic area, then search a word to see where in the region it appears most frequently.

The program still geocodes the user’s input, but the code is simpler yet more powerful. The old geocoder object below get replaced… » Continue Reading…

selectionHow best to allow users to select multiple markers on a map? I wanted to let them draw a circle and have all markers within be selected. Using the Google Maps JavaScript API, I used the circle object for my solution.

I tested the circle selection in my Cabi Trip Visualizer. Clicking on an individual CaBi station draws arrows to all the other stations in its network. But the program becomes more interesting when you look at a network formed by multiple stations. I added some keyboard shortcuts to select clusters of my own design, such as G for Georgetown and V for Virginia. But those clusters were in arbitrary boundaries. I needed a way to let the user design their own clusters. » Continue Reading…

Swimming in the Potomac River might be a rare sight, but one day each winter the Polar Bear Plunge invites folks to brave the elements. Sponsored by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the plunge is located at National Harbor in Maryland. They have a small strip of shoreline that serves as a beach, good enough for an event like this. The day was cool, with some snow in spots on the ground. Photos below.

Winter Should Be Cold
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In theory, Barack Obama’s second inauguration was a public event, taking place outdoors at the United States Capitol, with giant screens sharing the broadcast along the National Mall. In practice, access was limited to those willing to surrender their dignity and personal rights in order to pass into a giant swath of Washington, DC that was taken over by police, the military, and various government agencies.

I was lucky enough to be given a yellow ticket for the presidential inauguration, granting me access to Union Square, between the Capitol reflecting pool and 3rd St. I rode my bike to the entrance. It was astounding to see military personnel standing in their camouflage uniforms, closing off public streets as far north as K St. You could see Metro buses being used as barricades. Washington felt like a war zone, but the occupying force was our own military.

Military Barricade
14th & K NW
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Permission to View the Inauguration

First question: What is an alleycat? The first time I saw a poster announcing an alleycat, it was clear it was a bike event, but I didn’t see where the alleys and the cats fit in. DC’s most recent alleycat was the “Presidential Inauguration Alleycat.” Like a good party, alleycats always have a theme. Costumes aren’t required, but it’s nice to see at least one of the participants dressed up for the ocassion.

Pants on Display
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Inaugurating a New Alleycat

Twenty years ago I experienced my first presidential inauguration in Washinton, DC, and I got to see it all from the inside. A friend worked for the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) and signed me up as a volunteer, driving a Chevy Astro van. After a day or so, for some reason they actually hired me as a “talent driver,” meaning my job was to chauffeur celebrities. The only job-interview question was “do you know DC?” I did, of course, though only from the perspective of a cyclist. I didn’t mention I had never driven a car in the city, but didn’t see why that should matter.

It was 1993, the start of Bill Clinton’s first term. This was before digital cameras, and long before I had thought of photography as a hobby, so I took few photos. The first pix are from the night before the inauguration, at the Fleetwood Mac reunion. I spent the concert in a tent outside the auditorium, hanging out with the media types. After their performances the celebrities came into the tent to take questions. I got super excited when my boyhood hero Barry Manilow came backstage. He said a few words and then asked if there were any questions. I was shocked because not a single reporter had any questions. C’mon, people, it’s Barry Manilow!

Barry Manilow
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I love minimal designs and try to create applications that make judicious use of the space they’re given on the user’s screen. For map apps, the Google Maps Javascript API includes “overlay” objects that you can anchor to the map, so that they move as expected when the user pans and zooms. The InfoWindow object is a pop-up box resembling a comic-book word balloon. Unfortunately, customization options are limited. I was frustrated by the fat margin around the content, and looked for other options.

The internet is flooded with other people looking for ways to customize the InfoWindow display. The best resource for add-ons that I found is the Google Maps Utility Library, an open-source collection of features that expand the Maps API. » Continue Reading…

A new round of trip history data has been made public by Capital Bikeshare. I’ve created a new version of the CaBi Trip Visualizer for the 4th Quarter of 2012, covering October through December. Use the tool to analyze travel patterns for people using the bikeshare system.

475,736 trips were made in the 4th quarter. The bikesharing usage is highly seasonal, as ridership went down 25% from the 3rd quarter (the summer months: July, August and September). But compared to 2011’s 4th quarter, ridership is up 52%. Broken down by membership types, the number of rides by registered users went up 54%, and the number of rides by casual users went up 40%. Registered users are those who buy memberships for 1 month or 1 year; casual users buy memberships for 1 day or 5 days. » Continue Reading…

If you love underwear and mass-transit systems, then this is the event for you. The annual No Pants Subway Ride promotes sheer silliness. Washington, DC has a reputation as a pants-wearing town, so one day a year a group of intrepid pranksters breaks the monotony of subway travel by casually riding the Metro system without their pants. Last Sunday had over 200 pantsless participents (over 900 had RSVP’d on Facebook, but that’s par for the course). The event was organized by Capitol Improv. Enjoy the photos below.

No Pants Subway Ride 2013, Washington, DC
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Hundreds of “transit nerds” shared ideas last weekend, as Transportation Camp made a welcome return to the Washington region. Last year’s event introduced me to the concept of an “unconference,” where the attendees themselves generate the subjects for the presentations, which they present amongst themselves. Some attendees worked for government agencies, others were affiliated with universities, businesses, or organizations that advocate for transportation customers.

Transportation Camp 2013
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