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River Transit Maps

From somethingaboutmaps : somethingaboutmaps.wordpress.comI don’t know why, but this map of the Mississippi river system from somethingaboutmaps struck me as especially nifty. It’s an abstraction of the geography à la a subway map. I don’t recall seeing that treatment applied to rivers before, but it seemed to be a natural fit.

I found it by way of Strange Maps.

Non-mondo Archaic Humans News Flash

I briefly pointed to a post at Ad Hominen about a finger that was found in Russia. Turns out, it’s a new species of human. Here’s some info:

NatureNews: Fossil genome reveals ancestral link.

USA Today has a little bit of reaction.

And, of course, all roads lead to Wikipedia: Denisova hominin.

A couple of cool points: there’s evidence of interbreeding between the Denisovans and sapiens. The team that analyzed the remains was the same team that found evidence of interbreeding between us and neanderthals a few months ago.

So if you’re keeping score, that’s now 4 species of human walking around at the same time (about 80,000-40,000 years ago).

A theory so simple that only England’s greatest genius could have come up with it

The title is Ricky Gervais’ description of evolution in his post at the Wall Street Journal’s Speakasy blog about why he’s an athiest. The rest of the post is kind of scattered - I was just really taken with that expression of why evolution is fascinating.

Who’s Afraid of Deficits?

So in all the garment-rending over deficits lately, I’ve been unable to find anyone that could explain to me what the practical problems with deficits actually are. What with all the yelling, one would get the impression that large deficits lead directly to abject, medieval poverty and rampant puppy-strangling. But I haven’t seen anyone explain how, in fact, large budget deficits are supposed to affect me individually.

Finally, via Salon, there’s this post: Do Deficits Matter? by Karl Smith of the University of North Carolina at Ezra Klein’s blog (did you follow that provenance?).

The bottom line: under normal conditions, deficits mean you can buy foreign stuff cheap (of course, we are not under normal conditions right now - he talks about that, too). While I’m happy to see someone finally offering an explanation, I’m still left wondering why I’m supposed to be so scared of deficits?

Professor Smith, incidentally, also blogs at Modeled Behavior which looks like it’s worth a visit.

Great Chart: State of the Economy

This chart kicks ass: Economic Indicators Dashboard from Russell Investments. Why does it kick ass? It shows common market and economic indicators and their typical ranges. The typical levels are very important, not just for economic news but for science, medicine, politics - basically everything. So I like to see people providing that kind of context.

Be sure to check out the mortgage defaults rate. That’s pretty scary.

(via Chart Porn)

What the Hell Happened to Nova?

Hey, it’s been a while again. So I’m coming back to do some bitching. I bitched about Nova in an earlier post about Homo floresiensis, due to their suggesting controversy where probably none existed. This time it’s due to their suggesting mystical motivation where no evidence exists.

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World Cup 2010 Opinions

I didn’t go. But I watched. Spain won, which is what the universe (and me) demanded. All is good.

I wanted to offer my own opinions on a couple of talking points I’ve heard about this world cup:

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Evolution Infographics: Radial Cladogram

I’ve posted about this before, but apparently it’s a thing in systematics - the radial cladogram. Not only are they really cool, but the more I look at them, the more I realize they are a really excellent way to illustrate the relationships between species.

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Independent Windowing Framework for Complex Transactional Systems

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been working a lot on UIs for internal desktop applications at financial companies. It’s interesting work - it has some unique challenges and some great opportunities.

One of the challenges is that users usually perform very different tasks requiring specialized tools with complex data requirements. For example, researching a stock requires consuming research, news, technical information, market information, mathematical models, portfolio risk metrics, etc. Trying to put all of that in one application is usually chaos.

One of the advantages is that users are typically operating with multiple monitors. Two generous monitors at least; four is common; I’ve heard tell of eight.

So for several projects now we have advocated applying the latter to the former to create an independent windowing framework for complex application suites.

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The Problem You Got II: Re-use

An illuminating issue came up on one of my projects the other day - one that touches on one of the inherent challenges of design in an agile process. That issue is re-use of features.

First, a little background. There are numerous broad domains in information architecture / UI design. You got your consumer web sites, ecommerce, application UI, etc. Another way to slice domains is by the dev/user ratio. For most consumer-facing sites or apps, your looking at a small pool of developers supporting thousands or millions of users. On the flip side are internal enterprise applications where the ratio is inverted. That’s where I’ve been working lately. Specifically for companies in the financial services industry. The organizations I’ve been working for have a hundred or so development and support staff maintaining apps for 10 to 100 users. These are core, mission-critical applications (can I sneak more business jargon in there? Let’s see… “strategic” - how about that?).

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