Monday, December 19, 2011

A Nice Little Sail South

The idea is to go from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa on a sail boat as fast as possible. Not having their own database companies and billions in disposable income, most people instead flock to a game to simulate the long race. I'm always intrigued by visualizations of a massive number of data points. Of course those databases companies make both the real race possible and amazing geographic visualizations to go with it, such as the one below.

The track of each person that participated is shown in white, with a tiny blue dot showing the position of each boat. Perhaps the coolest part is noticing things like the people who didn't follow through and sail straight into North America, or those who tried to use the Suez canal and sail around the horn of Africa rather than the western coast.

Whatever their reasons, its cool to look at the thoughts and strategies of so many people in just 30 short seconds!

Monday, December 12, 2011


It's incredibly frustrating to fork over hundreds of dollars a month for gas.  Being addicted to gas is not fun.  There's no way out - you can't live without it. You can put it off for a day, hoping the price will go down and you can drive miles searching for the best dealer, but in the end, you have to get gas. 

A side effect of that addiction is a heightened sense of Middle East sociopolitical awareness for most Americans.  Recently, we saw the significant impact of the Arab Spring in Libya on the price of oil.  This was quite interesting because Libya has a relatively small share of world oil production.  We're so addicted, though, that we use it as fast as our dealers can produce it.

And then we "lost" a drone in Iran.

They we're not impressed.  And, as they do from time to time brought out the threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz.  Now, I had heard of this threat but looked a little further into the potential implication of having the straight closed.

It turns out, more than 40% of oil shipped by tanker in the world passes through the straight of Hormuz.  That means 15 million barrels per day - give or take a few.

Looking back at my post on oil production by country  we see that that can be thought of as Saudi Arabia and Iran going off line at the same time.  That's the number two and four producer in the world.  Libya is about 17th.

So unfortunately that couple hundred dollars a month could look very cheap in 2012.

And that's not fun to think about.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Brain Drain

From time to time, events in one's everyday work life will lead that person to evaluate their continued service.  It's at that time that I, er, one, considers the possibility of moving somewhere else, somewhere to a place where they feel their needs will be better met.

I've been down that road before, and to a certain extent, for almost everyone, its a continuing evaluation.  In southeast Michigan we have an interesting problem.  We have great universities and a below average economy.  That manifests itself as significant brain-drain, where the talented folk move outside of the area. 

Washtenaw County (think Ann Arbor) attracts lots of people (the young ones) from all over the region,  who then get a great education financed in part by the taxpayers.  A frustratingly high number of those people go out of state seeking the fruits of a less-bad economy.   This makes our economy even worse, with the exception of the night before thanksgiving when everyone comes back to go out to the bars and fellow-high-school-alumni-watch. 

Wayne County (think Detroit) has an even bigger problem, a dwindling population.  Unfortunately it's a rarity for a well-educated Detroiter to stay put in the city.

So we know these issues are there but Forbes just came out with a great tool to visualize it.  Using tax data it shows how many people move between counties, net gain in blue, net loss in red.  Unfortunately I can't embed the cool tool. But here are links to the Washtenaw County and Wayne County maps. It'll take a minute to load...but be patient, it's worth it.

Wayne County

Washtenaw County