XKCD Subways of North America – with !

XKCD comic #1196 – Subways has a great map of the subways in North America linked up by some fantastic, mythical branch lines. I started collecting the actual maps for all of the subways, until I recalled that the The Urban Mass Transit Systems of North America map from Yale Professor Bill Rankin on his web site Radical Cartography (ca 2006) has already done the work. That map scales, rotates, and geographically maps the subway systems to allow for accurate comparisons. Mr. Munroe probably got his inspiration from that map!

In case you’re interested, here’s the collection:




San Francisco (BART)

San Francisco (MUNI)




New York, New Jersey (PATH)


Mexico City


Why We Need Sex Ed Now

Everyone knows how to have sex; that knowledge is literally built into our DNA.  Sex ed just adds knowledge about practicing safe sex.  It lets us understand the complexities, how to avoid STDs, and gives us choices about when we want to have children.  After realizing that kids everywhere will become sexually active regardless of what they’re taught, the moral choice becomes teaching them safety.   More information to consider:

Reproductive Health Education

Created by: Public Health Degree


Relating Latitude and Longitude to Everyday Distances

I’m a cartography fan and Wikipedia’s geographic coordinates add another level of utility to articles.   Many of the latitude /longitude notations use six decimals of precision though which seemed like overkill.  When I recently added a {{coord}} template to an article,  I calculated how much distance each digit represents using imperial units (those familiar with metric units can look here).  Briefly, each tick of the sixth place changes position by about 8.5 cm or 4-⅜ inches (for latitude; longitude changes are even smaller and vary with the cosine of latitude).   Consumer GPS will only be accurate to about four decimals (or maybe five with WAAS).

The detailed calculation starts with the nautical mile to relate lat/lon coordinates to everyday distances.  HowStuffWorks.com explains

“The length of a nautical mile is based on the circumference of the planet Earth. If you were to cut the Earth in half at the equator, you could pick up one of the halves and look at the equator as a circle. Then divide that circle, or arc, into 360 degrees and divide each degree into 60 minutes. A minute of arc on the planet Earth is 1 nautical mile. This unit of measurement is used by all nations for air and sea travel.”

Most of us don’t normally use nautical miles to pilot ships or airplanes and instead rely on smaller units like kilometers and miles.   For the conversion examples below, I’ll use the coordinates of the entrance to the USGS’ office in Menlo Park :

37° 27′ 22.86″ N,   122° 10′ 15.6714″ W
37.456350         , -122.17102

The notation degrees° minutes seconds  converts to decimal notation as shown here and then we can calculate typical distances corresponding with each position in the notation:

37 + 27/60 + 22.86/3600 = 37.456350
37°  27'     22.86"
 |    |       |  |
 |    |       |  +- 1/100 of an arcsecond = 1.0127 feet
 |    |       +---- One arcsecond    =  1 nautical mile / 60 = 101.27 feet
 |    +------------ One arcminute    =  1 nautical mile  = 1.15077945 statute miles
 +----------------- One (arc) degree = 60 nautical miles = 69 statute miles

In the decimal notation for this latitude, each position corresponds to the following north/south travel distances:

 | ||||||
 | |||||+- 0.00006 naut mi. = 0.3646 feet= 4.3748 or 4-3/8 inches=11.112 cm
 | ||||+-- 0.0006 naut. mi. = 3.646 feet =   1.1112 m
 | |||+--- 0.006 nautical mi= 36.46 feet =  11.112 m
 | ||+---- 0.06 nautical mi.= 364.6 feet = 111.12 m
 | |+----- 0.6 nautical mi. =  0.69 statute miles=   1.1112 km
 | +------ 6 nautical miles =  6.9 statute miles =  11.112 km
 +------- 60 nautical miles = 69 statute miles   = 111.12 km

Longitude lines. Traveling N/S along one changes your latitude.

(For reference, 1 nautical mile is defined as exactly 1.852 km and is about equal to 1.1508 statute miles.)

Traveling one arcdegree of latitude  north/south (by moving along a longitude line) represents the same distance anywhere on earth.

One degree of E/W travel requires different distance at different latitudes.

Traveling one arcdegree of longitude east/west (by moving along a latitude line),  however,  represents different distances depending on the cosine of the latitude’s degrees (north or south).  At higher latitudes, traveling one arcdegree east/west covers a smaller distance because circles of latitude are smaller at higher latitudes.

For example, in Caracas at 10 degrees north latitude, traveling one arcdegree along that latitude line represents east/west travel of:

1 arcdegree = 1 naut. mi. * cos(10 deg) = 0.985 nautical miles = 1.333 statute miles

but at 37.45635 degrees north, 1 arcdegree of east/west travel represents just:

1 arcdegree = 1 naut mi. * cos(37.45635 deg) = 0.7938 nautical miles = 0.9135 statute miles

These calculations are close to correct, however, the Earth is not quite a perfect sphere and so professional geodetic measurements use a mathematical model of those imperfections called a datum.  For more conversions, and pointers to the nuances introduced by geodetic systems, see http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/audio/bickel/DDDMMSS-decimal.html .

Without access to professional surveying equipment and geodetic correction software, five decimals or 1/10 of an arc second, representing around 1m of accuracy, is about as accurate as a consumer GPS is likely to measure.

Go hiking and enjoy!

Renderings of the New Apple Store at 340 University Ave. in Palo Alto, CA

The Palo Alto Weekly’s web site published nice renderings of the new Apple Store to be built on the former site of Z-Gallerie at 340 University Ave.

Plans for Apple’s new glass-fronted and topped retail store at 340 University Ave. in downtown Palo Alto are edging closer to final approval.  The existing Apple Store is just to the left.

A new Apple retail store is planned for 340 University Ave. in downtown Palo Alto, the former Z Gallerie.

This view of the new building shows what a pedestrian would see from the sidewalk.

Existing (2011) Apple Store across the street.

Existing (2011) Apple Store across the street.

Even More Details About Apple’s Grand Central Store

Rendering of the Apple Grand Central store proposal looking from the northeast balcony toward the east balcony.

More detail behind the WSJ's rendering of Apple's Grand Central store. View from the NE balcony area toward the E balcony. Credit: Rob Bennett for WSJ.

Mr. Grossman’s Wall Street Journal blog entry about Apple’s new Grand Central Terminal store provides great visuals for the new space.  Their proposal began as a response to the MTA’s May 23, 2011 Grand Central Terminal Request for Proposal and that RFP contains quite detailed floor plans, elevations, sign locations and mechanicals for the areas that Apple has proposed to occupy (see pg 32 of 61 for instance).

In RFP Addendum 2, Apple’s questions provide even more suggestions about their proposed modifications.  Enjoy!

The new Apple Store turned out just like the renderings!

Update 2: Apple’s store in Grand Central Terminal opened to the public on December 9, 2011 just in time for the holiday shopping season and it looks just like the renderings.  Happy Holidays!

Update:  Appendix 4 of the RFP links to an entire folder full of architectural, electrical  and construction plans.

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Educate Afghanistan!

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab and One Laptop Per Child, recently presented the U.S. Senate with a brilliantly simple way to help resolve the conflict in Afghanistan — educate the population! Giving all 5 million children in Afghanistan ages 6 through 12 an OLPC XO-1 laptop would cost around US$750 million. Given the river of money flowing to Afghanistan, this is a only a small amount of the budgetary bucket. It would, however, be an tidal change in the perception of the US military.

One Laptop Per Child already has the lesson plans, software and the laptops as well as active  pilot projects up and running in Afghanistan. These laptops are expertly designed specifically to deliver elementary education in remote areas; while the XO-1 laptops cost under $200 each, they include technology not yet available in any other laptop at any price. Their rugged design, low power consumption, battery longevity, wireless capabilities and ease-of-use surpass all other laptops on the market. Children teach themselves to use the XO-1 on their own using the built-in collaboration tools and intuitive software. The laptop teaches the children how to teach themselves.

The US military has the supply infrastructure throughout Afghanistan to deliver the laptops, provide them power and supply the data communication backhaul to connect to the rest of the world. The US Census Int’l Database shows there are 5 million children ages 6-12 (1st through 6th grade) in Afghanistan; giving each of them a laptop would cost $750 million and would do more to advance the US desire for a peaceful, stable nation than all of the other military spending combined.

Write your congressional delegation and ask them to budget the funds. Educate Afghanistan and empower them to help us all end the turmoil plaguing the region.

there are 5 million children ages 5-10 (kindergarten through 5th grade) in Afghanistan; giving each of them a laptop would cost only $160 million and would do more to advance the US desire for a peaceful, stable nation than all of the remaining military spending combined.

[Update: Donations to Greg Mortenson’s non-profit Central Asia Institute also promote an excellent educational opportunity in Afghanistan.]

Bailout money should not come cheap…

Dear Congressperson or Senator,

In the matter of the bank bailouts, please do not hand over power to the Executive branch; this is an opportunity for the Legislative branch to gain ground in its losing struggle with the imperial Executive.  To increase its own power, Congress must at the very least adopt a strict schedule on which monies will be released and create a powerful, transparent Congressional oversight mechanism to control spending.  We the taxpayers MUST be given a FULL accounting of who gets our money and how they use it (at the very least, all government filings from banks and their officers, including IRS forms, must be made public in the Federal Register).

If the Executive branch wants to let banks feed at the taxpayer trough, they need to pay dearly, in lost power, for that privilege! Banks that made the incredibly stupid decision to purchase CDOs and credit default swaps should pay more dearly than the taxpayers bailing them out.  ANY bank that wants to qualify for government handouts MUST immediately place ALL bank employees on the Federal government’s pay scale (with pay grades based on the skills required for a position); those pay scales should quite nicely handle capping bank executives pay.

High level bank officers (board members,  C-level executives, etc…) need to pay personally for their wanton disregard for good risk assessment. Ideally, officers of the banks that need bailout money should be driven out of the banking industry and into personal bankruptcy and/or jail.  The Federal government should seize the officers’ accounts and use that money to keep the banks afloat.

Finally, the bailout should not restore health to unwise banks; the bailout must only insure that the banks remain solvent through their orderly closure.   Bankruptcy, in a predictable, controlled manner, should be the end result for the majority of banks receiving bailout money; they should not survive in the long term.

Thank you, and again, please do not hand out money to the Executive branch without proper oversight.