My roadmap to becoming a D3 Wonder Woman

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From Super Graphic by Tim Leong

If D3.js was a superhero, Typescript would be its loyal sidekick. Let me tell you why through two case studies in my D3 learning roadmap.

There is a stack of desirable benefits to using typed languages when coding:

In Typescript, you plan out what variables you are working with before they are defined, transforming you into the well-organized coder that you’ve been too lazy to pursue. I’ll work on persuading you of a couple of the above points, starting with an example from my first case study. Below I introduce a my first villan point with a name and weight, which I call a “Villan” type. …

Weeks 6 & 7

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There are obvious differences when communicating with humans vs. computers. I’d say the main difference is understanding vs decoding. Machine translation has yet to focus on language learning but takes a decoding approach. I imagine this is akin to deciphering all the words of a sentence in a foreign language, without grasping the whole meaning. Anyone who has learned a foreign language knows what I’m talking about. The article I linked to above by one of my favorite thinkers, Douglas Hofstadter, explains this topic in more detail and more eloquently than I ever could. …

Week 5/12

Long at last we started learning a new language (Typescript) and framework (Angular) beyond 30mn ‘Hello World’ intros. Unfortunately, my excitement was sullied by my fear and the biases I absorbed talking to instructors that don’t like Angular (or rather prefer to React, another framework, or maybe I will go so far as translate it as being a “dialect” of Javascript). The thought did cross my mind, why spend a week learning a language and subsequently being tested on it that we are not going to use? But the answer came instantaneously, inspired by my previous experience studying human languages: learning a foreign language facilitates the acquisition of additional languages. This statement holds true even for languages coming from different language families. Due to my German knowledge and familiarity with structuring my thoughts so that the verb comes at the end, rather than the beginning like in English, I was able to apply this pattern to Japanese: verbs always come at the end of clauses, so there was at least one Japanese grammar point that didn’t boggle my mind. Even though Japanese and German come from completely different language families (Indo-European and Japonic, respectively), there are similarities between them. This idea of “shared” features among unrelated languages, or language typology, is a subject that particularly fascinates me. If I had continued my path in linguistics, I probably would have become a typologist, comparing languages across families and categorizing them according to common structures rather than by family. Even if languages developed independently from one another, they are all human languages and therefore adhere to the same constraints and creativities natural to all humans, and influenced by their own environment and histories. …

Week 3&4/12

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Among the myriad differences, computers are less forgiving than humans. Say you’re building a simple to-do list. A single typo would suffice to break your application. Whereas a grammatical mistake on your part might not hinder the flow of the conversation as your partner nevertheless grasps your meaning, a computer will stop you at the sign of a misplaced letter. You might take 30 minutes to find that typo with the result of a now seamlessly working application. I’m sure every developer has been there. I thought I might be less susceptible to typos due to my copy-editing experience but to no avail. Instead of politely correcting you, they give you lengthy and frightening error messages in their own language, most of which remain incomprehensible to you, and the rest often vague. Computers are very literal and very demanding. There’s no hand-holding. Despite the seemingly light-speed progress of AI and computer languages, computers still have a hard time deciphering what we can express in words so effortlessly. I wonder how close computer languages can get to speech — I immediately thought of Ruby, which I mentioned in my last article, versus C, the grandparent of modern computer languages. Let’s look again at a Ruby function vs C. …

Week 2/12

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Genealogical tree of programming languages

I gobbled up today’s topic: programming languages. Our activities consisted of “Hello World” introductions of a few of the more popular and classic programming languages out there (C, Ruby and Python). It reminded me of when I was in high school and I would spend some nights “testing out” foreign languages: from Old Norse to Russian. In the same way, I tried to be conscious of the shareable features amongst the programming languages and even how they can be categorized, like natural language families. My mind hopped from fantasies of a typological study to toying with the idea of programming language complexity — where I’d welcome learning Ruby, I sincerely hope I will never have to learn C. This idea could be related to how some people say that Indonesian is an “easy” language or learn, for example, while Chinese is “difficult.” (The actuality is obviously more complex than this — easy vs. difficult is entirely subjective and is mostly based off of your native language and prior language experiences). Nevertheless, you can translate Chinese into Indonesian, so although the way in which you might express yourself is different, you can get more or less the same point across. …

Week 1/12


I love communication. I never studied it as a field in itself, but it made an appearance in all the domains I studied: as an undergraduate, I double-majored in Foreign Languages and Biology, where my niche fascination was cell communication. I pursued Linguistics for my masters degree, studying the science behind the foreign languages I learned and will never learn. Today, I am studying programming, the communication of technology.

I always thought I would study Ancient Greek when I retired because no one “speaks” Ancient Greek: there’s not really phonology or phonetics for you to master like learning a living language, so I wouldn’t need anyone but myself and a lot of free time. Programming languages are kind of like that, without Homer’s epics, of course. You still need to learn morphology and semantics, but you can sidestep phonetics, phonology, and pragmatics. …

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Providing online access to a museum’s collections and data is one thing, but developing a curated experience out of it is another

Data visualization is a great way to celebrate our favorite pieces of art as well as reveal connections and ideas that were previously invisible. More importantly, it’s a fun way to connect things we love — visualizing data and kicking up our feet for a movie night. All week, Nightingale is exploring the intersections between data visualization and all kinds of entertainment.

Data visualization can level up exhibits for both visitors and curators

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When I was living in Paris at the beginning of this year, I went to a minimum of three museums a week. While this luxury was made possible by the combination of an ICOM card and unemployment, it was founded on a passion for museums. Looking back, some of my favorite museum exhibits were on topics that were originally uninteresting to me, but they all exemplified some level of data visualization use, such as interactive maps and information design. …

A mold (!) may contain the secret to curing vegetables in a quick way that brings a classic charcuterie flavor to all-plant dishes

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Photo: FoodCraftLab via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Until recently, vegan charcuterie has been limited to items such as beet tartare, plant-based deli slices, and chickpeas. Superficially resembling charcuterie boards, most attempts result in a spread that lacks the complex flavors developed by charcuterie techniques. As microbes, curing, and time facilitates traditional meat charcuterie’s unique palate, its vegan alternative tends to fall short in comparison.

Recently, however, a new method is producing vegan charcuterie that incorporates these three components. The core is an umami-bomb enzymatic powerhouse known as koji.

Koji is a mold that grows on just about anything starchy, usually cooked rice or barley. Its superpower lies in its enzymes, which rapidly and almost magically work to break down carbohydrates. Once koji spores have been inoculated on cooked rice, or other food, the enzymatic breakdown transforms flavor, taste, and aroma in less than 48 hours. If you were to look at a similar enzymatic process in fruiting fungi, such as standard oyster mushrooms, it can span several months rather than koji’s mere two days. …

I tend to go to exhibits rather blindly, that is to say, I don’t do my homework first. I think this is quite normal, but the academic inside of me feels a need to prepare in advance. Having prior knowledge tends to improve the experience, but at the same time, discovering a new art movement in a museum context is more exciting than the internet or in a book. Even a good book.

Honestly, this museum probably would have been one of the last museums I’d have visited just to check off all the museums. That’s what having artsy librarian friends is good for. I met this particular artsy librarian friend randomly in a bookstore near my apartment in Belleville. She was recommending graphic novels right and left to the two girls she was with, so I said to her, “it seems like you know a lot about graphic novels.” “Do you want a recommendation?” She asked me. Why, of course! And that’s how I became friends with Margot. …


Maxene Graze

From museums to data viz to koji.

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