Art criticism needs the basics

I’m neither a fan of westerns nor Charles Bronson. So how is it that Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time In the West is quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen? It is incredible. The opening sequence alone is worth the price of admission. If you have not seen it, carve out bout three hours and watch it. Ask yourself how a three-hour movie can be so austere in its story-telling.

Ask yourself, because I certainly can’t tell you. And that’s a problem.

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Image Credits: Film Still / Once Upon a Time in the West

The D3js Label Trilogy

Most of my use of D3 has been in scientific visualization, and scientists do love their labels. Since that’s become a particular specialty of mine, that’s what I wrote about when Safari Books Online invited me to be guest blogger. Here are links to my three posts on labels:

Creating a Right-Click Contextual Popup with D3

I’m not a big fan of taking things over from the browser, but just in case you have to, here’s how to override the standard context-menu behavior to provide more data about your visualization. Included: how to make sure the browser’s context menu still shows everyplace else.

Solving D3 Label Placement with Constraint Relaxing

When data points get close together, labels start to collide. Here we discuss using basic mathematical collision detection to adjust the placement of labels predictably and efficiently. Well, more efficiently than trying to introduce a physics simulation.

How to Create HTML Labels in SVG Using D3

Sometimes your labels need to be dressed up a bit. Text in SVG can do it, but SVG relies on you doing most of the placement. Instead, leverage the power of your browser’s layout engine in your labels by inserting HTML into your SVG. (Sadly, this technique does not work in IE yet.)

So there you are. Get labeling!

Image Credits: Flickr / adad

Happy St. Patty’s

Yeah, that’s not the way it’s supposed to be spelled. Right? I mean, according to this rather bossy website. But “Patty” appears to be in common use among both the ignorant proletariat and the mainstream media. Does anyone know what the Chicago Manual of Style says?

Honestly, though, this is a holiday where everyone celebrates the Irish by getting everything wrong about the Irish wrong and drinking offensive drinks. So why worry about the spelling? I mean, correcting the spelling would set a horrible trend.

Image Credits: Flickr / William Murphy

Commentary on a closet door

I’m back home after a week in San Francisco topped by a red-eye flight out of the place. But I wanted to get this down before I forgot about it.

The closet door at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis played a little trick on me every day I was there. See those door knobs? They don’t turn. You just pull on them to open the door. But they look like they turn.

So every time I opened the closet, my brain did this weird routine:

I need to get in the closet. Hey, why is my closet door locked? Oh, that’s right, you can’t turn these knobs.

There’s a moral in there about defying user expectations, but I am too tired to figure it out right know.

Image Credits: Thudfactor