The Unscientific Bay Area

I was really inspired by all the positive reactions and support that I got for the original Bay Area map. So I decided to completely redesign and vectorize everything, making it crisp enough to give people the prints they were asking for.

Here’s a png of the full map. The print comes from a vector file, which of course is higher-res.

Buy a print of the map here.

Below is the Story from the Kickstarter page:

I love maps. To me, the experience of looking through a particularly good map is uniquely captivating—something I want to share with people.

I wanted a different kind of map.

We’ve all tried typing our hometown or neighborhood into Urban Dictionary. Personally, I was excited at how much information was on that site, and others like it all over the Internet. I saw this abundance of data as something that could be used to create an interesting map.

Mapping today is dominated by data freaks, obsessed with being scientifically rigorous and statistically significant. But as a data freak I’ve come to realize that not all maps have to involve equations. I want to take a break, be a little unscientific, and put the human element back on the map. Ultimately, cities and neighborhoods are collections of people, and I wanted to map their experiences. As it turns out, these unscientific maps are just as charming, thorough and thought-provoking as any other.

A small project became a research endeavor.

My friends from the Bay asked me to make a map along those lines. What started as a small project turned into a massive, thorough undertaking. I combed through Internet pages and badgered local residents. Hints from crowdsourced platforms like Urban Dictionary and testimony from both natives and newcomers means that this map takes accuracy seriously. Eventually, I came up with a creation that I posted on my blog and shared through Reddit.

Within days I received a stream of comments and emails: “Can I buy a print of this?”

Detail of San Jose inset

Detail of San Jose inset

Made for print, by popular request.

Well—Kevin, Chris, Justin, Amy, and others—now you can! Taking my original blurry image to a whole new level, I’ve made a crisp, high-res image beautifully optimized for print.

I’ve already gotten in touch with several local (I live near DC) printers, the process is not yet finalized but I will keep you posted. This is a high-quality, four-color process offset print, thick paper. Exact details to come.

Please help me with initial printing costs.

I’ve spent many hours designing and testing this poster, and am talking to several local printers. I’d love to make this poster possible for you guys, but currently the cost of making an initial print run is prohibitive. I want to make sure there’s decent interest in this poster. If this one is successful I would be happy to do some more cities—your support means a lot to me.

Nah, not Memphis or the Chesapeake. We’re talking about the Bay Area. A striking collection of natural beauty, cultural diversity, human talent and hyphy fools the likes of which have never been seen. Every town’s got a nickname (except Concord, apparently) and a unique experience that I want to celebrate and satirize.

Detail of SF inset

Detail of SF inset


Risks and challenges

The main challenge is going to be packing everything into tubes and shipping it. That said, I don’t expect crazy volume, so it should be okay.

If I get good enough feedback to continue making these, it’ll mostly just be a challenge to find the time, once I’m back in college.


Catholic Provinces: Redux

See the full-res map here.

Originally I didn’t think much of this project, though it was nice to see how the provinces looked. It turned out, however, that my map was the only one out there, in terms of mapping out the church provinces. Molly Burhans, the GoodLand Project director, reached out to me asking for my shapefiles.

I replied that I had no shapefiles—I made the first map entirely by hand. But having recently gotten into GIS, I offered to make them. This turned out to be a more grueling ordeal than I had anticipated, but I was able to completely remake the map from scratch, this time with real shapefiles. Feel free to get in touch if you would like the files, by the way.

Anyway, I made a bunch of fixes to stuff that I had messed up in the last map. Here’s the original post, with a bunch of FAQ based on the reddit thread from last year.


Map of Washington State stereotypes (previously unpublished)

This map is the result of a humorous request by a friend from the suburbs of Seattle. As someone from the other Washington (DC), I knew little about the internal stereotypes of Washington State, so this project was a great learning experience.

Obviously this map is entirely subjective and Seattle-centric. It was created based on testimony from numerous Seattleites, as well as using ample help from Urban Dictionary.

I made this a couple months ago, but figured I’d publish it now since a lot of people thought it was funny.

Essay – Russian has no word for ‘privacy’

I typically don’t (and won’t) post essays, but too many people enjoyed reading this one to let it pass. So here it goes:

I like to point out the sheer number of words in English, compared to a language like Russian; every word in Russian, including dialectal, archaic and nonstandard forms, amounts to around 300,000 words at most. That’s barely half of the Oxford English Dictionary, which itself is missing countless slang terms, neologisms and adopted foreign words. Yet we anglophones are never content. I’ve seen countless tabloid articles and blog posts about supposed “words that English desperately needs,” griping about how we don’t have a word for “a face badly in need of a fist” like German does. But how often do you read about English words that other languages don’t have?

Let’s take a moment to appreciate a very profound and significant word in English. This word occurred to me in a Russian village, during a dinner conversation with my aunt, with whom I frequently discuss linguistics. I struck a particular English word that didn’t exist in Russian: privacy.

It seems like such a simple concept to anyone who speaks English—freedom from being observed or disturbed by other people. But in Russian, and many other languages, there is no word to adequately describe this. Translators are burdened with the unique challenge of having to invent a word to describe Facebook’s “Privacy Policy” or Google Chrome’s “privacy settings”. This is where the cringeworthy calques come in, like privatnost’ or konfidentsialnost’. But to an ordinary Russian speaker, these linguistic abominations are nothing but legalese. There is uedineniye, a word that is better translated as “solitude” and is seen as a negative isolation from society. Uedineniye contrasts sharply with the intimate, regenerative aura of emotional self-sufficiency that characterizes the privacy of English. Thus, despite all these possible translations, there is no way to say that “Joe simply wanted some privacy,” without implying that Joe is antisocial, a hermit, or in need of performing a bodily function. Or worse still, that Joe wants to sift through Google’s monolithic confidentiality agreement.

Maybe the Russian language doesn’t need such a word. In fact, there is a distinct but closely-linked concept in Russian that reflects the natural environment of the Russian people. Whereas “privacy” means finding oneself away from the public eye, typically by means of an enclosed or hidden space, there is a Russian word that describes just the opposite—seeking that self-realization by entering the vast, unpeopled expanses that define the Russian land. This word, prostor, simultaneously translates as “open space”, “liberty” and “opportunity”. Prostor is a sacred concept that encapsulates the Russian desire to break free of human boundaries and to reclaim oneself in nature. This parallels the Anglo desire to break free of society’s boundaries and to reclaim oneself in the man-made environment.

Curiously, Russian is not the only language without a word for privacy. Central Asian languages, as well as Mongolian and Latvian, also lack the word. The most common Mongolian translation, gantsaardal, actually means “loneliness”. That’s something for Apple’s lawyers to consider if they ever open a store in Ulan Bator.

Still, I wonder how different the history of the Soviet Union would have been if Soviet citizens had a word to describe what they were being robbed of. My guess is that it would have been shorter.