NICAR presentation on visualization

I just got back from the NICAR conference in St. Louis, where I gave a talk with Bill Keaggy on Best Visualization Practices. There’s delicious stack of links here: and the presentation is here (click the settings gear and open speaker notes to find out what we talked about):

Chrys Wu kept a detailed list of links if you want to check out some of the other sessions. I also got the see the St. Louis arch! Very exciting:

St. Louis Arch

View from the top: St. Louis Arch

iPhone photography

My first shot at iPhone photography. I found it really fun — I love the filters and the size of the phone makes it easy to carry around. I was mostly using Hipstamatic and Instagram, and shot a few panoramas with the Photosynth app. To see the full gallery, go here.

Most of these were taken in New Hampshire (Lake Winnepesaukee and Portsmouth), Boston, and Hendersonville, N.C. Here’s a shot of Mt. Major near Alton Bay, N.H. Click the image to enlarge.

Photos from Italy

I’ve finally posted some photos from our trip to Italy in August. Matt and I visited Venice, Florence and Rome. It was an incredible trip, and I can’t wait to go back! I loved Vatican City and a bike tour we took in Tuscany, and of course, the canals of Venice. If you want to see even more photos, look on facebook.

Photos from India

Early this year (Jan. 29-Feb. 11), I went to India with Whitney. We traveled to Mumbai, Udaipur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, New Delhi, Agra, Rishikesh and Haridwar. It was a whirlwind trip, but totally amazing. Our good friend from college, Samkit Shah, who is from Mumbai, traveled with us and helped us find all the best deals and interesting places. It was so fun to see him and to see such an incredible place. Here are some photographs from the trip.

Artic Adventure

I just got back from an amazing trip to Kiruna, Sweden, which is about 20 hours by car from Lund, north of the Artic Circle. I went with two of my friends that live on my hall, they are from France and their names are Marielle and Marion.

We took a plane from Lund to Stockholm and stayed in Stockholm for part of the day last Tuesday, and it was beautiful! Then we took an overnight train because all the planes were full from Stockholm to Kiruna. We slept on the train and woke up in Kiruna! Luckily, it wasn’t as cold there as it normally is so it was about -1/-2 C.

Ice HotelThe first day we went to Jukkasjarvi, about 20 minutes south of Kiruna, to see the Icehotel! Ah! The Icehotel is like a giant igloo/ice museum/hotel. People can stay there but it is about 4000 SEK (krona = Swedish Crowns) for one night, and that is about $600–ridiculous. And if you stay at the icehotel then you don’t get your own bathroom and you freeze to death (it is warmer outside than inside, it is about -5 degrees inside at all times). Anyway, it was so beautiful. It was full of sculptures and there were some people getting married there and a baptism! (there is a chapel too, made of ice). There is an ice bar (sponsored by Absolut Vodka–a Swedish brand) where you can get a vodka drink in a glass made of ice! But of course we didn’t get a drink because one drink cost about $15. Artists from all over the world come to design the different rooms inside– one was a model of NYC with skyscraper sculptures and street signs, and one was a rock concert with a stage, guitar, microphone, and bar, all made of ice! There was beautiful ice chandelier also, it was absolutely beautiful.

After the icehotel we went back to Kiruna, and the next day we took a ride on a dog sled–whoa! There were about 10 dogs pulling us for about an hour and a half through the woods, snow was everywhere and you could see the mountains in the distance. It was so peaceful and beautiful– I wish everybody could have been there.

After the dog sled ride, we rode the bus north about an hour to Abisko–where an enormous national park in Sweden is– Abisko national park. We walked for about 4 hours there, or hiked however you want to think about it–but it wasn’t very strenuous (of course, this is me we’re talking about here). If you stepped off the path where the cross-country skiiers had packed down the snow, you would fall into snow up to your thighs! Of course we had a blast playing in the snow and pushing each other off the path. The whole time, Marion and Marielle really wanted to see a reindeer (or what they, in their version of English, refer to as “rendee!”), but unfortunately the best they got was me with two sticks stuck on my head. We also saw a river that was covered in ice, and we walked on it, it was so amazing! We were about one hour from Norway (we wanted to go see the fjords but it cost $$ to get there and we were broke), so we were in the mountains of Norrland–snow and ice and mountains!

Unfortunately, we had a bus to catch at 8:17, so we drug ourselves back to the lodge and dried our socks which were then soaking wet from the snow, then went out to the bus station, where we waited until 9:00. So we went inside and asked and they said it was late, it would come at 9:30, so we went back and waited again. Then at about 9:45, we saw a train pass on the tracks. So, that’s what happens when you’re in sweden and you don’t speak swedish and you can’t read the fine print on the bus schedule which says 8:17 **** (*Bus=Train). So we had no $$ and no way to get back to Kiruna, where we had a place to stay, food, and our stuff. So we spent the night in the (heated) train station, sleeping on benches. Uncomfortable, but an adventure, of course. Then we woke up at 5 am (another first for me!) and walked about 4 miles to the next bus station down the road where there was supposed to be a bus coming at 6:15–which never came (of course). So at about 6:45 we finally saw a car, and got it to stop, and the driver said he would take us back to Kiruna (Yay!–I don’t believe in hitchhiking, but it was cold, snowing, and the next bus was due in 5 hours, and it saved us $12!). It was all good, the driver was very talkative, told us all about how he grew up on the mountains and the ice on the lake we saw from the road was about a meter deep from December to June, can you believe it!?

When we got back to Kiruna, after a shower and a nap, we had a tour of the mine. Kiruna is a town based around an iron ore mine, which is about 2,000 meters deep. We went down inside the mine to about 400 meters, it was crazy! There was a museum inside and we saw the machines they use and everything. Quite scary walking through the dark though! We even got to wear hardhats…haha. After the mine tour we went to see some reindeer at a reindeer farm, and then it was dark. We really wanted to see the Northern lights the other 2 nights, but it was too cloudy, but the last night was finally clear so we went out to see them! And we did! It was so crazy! It is a black sky and then suddenly a green light fades in, all different shapes and it is so fluid, moving in and out of the sky in different places and directions. We sat on a snowy slope and watched it for about an hour.

We came back to Lund the next day. We were supposed to stay in Stockholm another day but because of the easter holiday we ran into unexpected costs etc so we came back one day early. It was an amazing trip! I think everybody should go as far north as possible someday–it is so different from anything I have seen. It is like the desert only the exact opposite!

AF Building with 5 minutes to go

Ok, short but sweet, I’ll say. Nothing too much today, shopped around Lund, thrill a minute. Got another massive email from John, which like 70 thousand people replied to in my inbox, so received an inoordinate amount of email. PS the fake eBay people trying to steal my money have now sent me about 15 “final notices” asking for my credit card information. Come on, get a new con already. A good one would be “I kidnapped your mother, $2 million by Tuesday, please.” Scotland Tuesday, and the real question is–red dress, or green?

Russian Flat Tire Revolution

Today it is snowing here, again, and things are carrying on, as usual, and the tire on my bike is flat as a pancake and the closest repair shop is like 4 kilometers away. So now I have to ride the bus, which is SEK 12, but luckily, i got a rebattkarten, so now it’s only SEK 9.50 (~1.25) per bus ride. That means it is like $2.50 every time I want to get up to the town/back. I could walk but the slush & ice might cause me injury by fall and then it would cost thousands in health care costs, so what’s the point. Oh! I forgot, I’m in Sweden where it doesn’t matter how sick you are, the state will keep you healthy & happy–and since I’m a student here I am insured until June 3. Lucky me, I’ll walk on, despite the risk of bodily injury and permanent disfiguration.

Oh, the reason for the flat tire. Long story short: Russian rides on back of bike, breaks bike. Long story long: Wednesday night, Party at Västgöta nation caused 7 internationals (2 french, 2 russians from latvia, 2 romanian, 1 kat) to travel about 6 km to party. Yura, 1 brave Russian/Latvian soul, had no air in his tire and needed travel to a bike shop. Arrived at one bike shop with bike in tow, air pump did not fit bike. I, being the strong American ox that I am, offered the poor boy a ride on my steel steed. I pulled him all the way to the nation, in the icy snow, with only one brief 2 minute interlude of Yura driving and crashing painfully before I took the reigns once again. On the way, the fender fell off Roxanne’s bike, the tire fell off Raluca’s bike, and we generally took 1.5 hrs to travel the distance we should’ve covered in 15 minutes. However, the party was great fun and I did get to see some (anonymous) friends find love in the sweaty mix of the dance floor. I think about 75% of the people there were actually making out on the dance floor, which leads me on to the next subject.

Swedes! Sexy, Sweaty Swedes. With no concept of PDA or propriety of sexual actions in public places. I have never seen more people kissing, fondling, and dancing dirty than I have here in the Swedish southland. I guess when they finally crawl out of the holes they live in in the day time, they get some drink in them and really come out of their shells. Quite interesting actually. You may never meet a happy Swede by day, but you will meet 100s every night in the clubs, and they will quickly adopt you, dance with you, and invite you to an afterparty, after which, it is unlikely you will see or hear from them again no matter how many phone numbers were exchanged.

Aphrodite: Snow Goddess

Our first big snowstorm: Finally, Sweden as it should be–cold and white! Unfortunately, thus far it has just been cold. Really, really cold.

In celebration of the icy sweetness, Dima, Marielle, Marion, Raluca, Diana, Astrid, Judith and others took liberties to fire snow cannons at one another in the winter wonderland. Unfortunately it still gets dark here in the middle of the day so it was dark. We then built the most ginormous snow lady you have ever even imagined. She was like 7 feet tall and stood far above all of our heads! It was great. It took a lot of creativity to figure out how to lug a 50-pound ball of ice onto a 100-pound ball of ice, but one broken chair and 20 sticks later, we found a way. The chair was reincarnated into arms for Aphrodite, anyway.

Ended up going to Smalands that night. It was fun, dancing, pretty good tunes. Anyway, have to publish before my computer dies. Paz.

Swedish Styling


Now that I’m in Sweden I think I should keep up better (ha) so ya’ll can figure out what i’m doing, etc.


Lund is so beautiful, it looks like something out of a movie from the middle ages or something, it’s got cobblestone streets and everyone has bikes to get around– in fact i had to buy a bike today so that I can get to and from my room which is about 4 km from the school. I have met some nice people and went with a bunch of the new international students to a bar last night which was a lot of fun. I am a little disappointed because i don’t have the internet in my room,but it’s ok i will just use it here at the school, so probably will be checking only once a day. I might have to buy a cell phone over here and use that to use a calling card. I don’t think it will be ridiculously expensive.

I have met Swedish and international people, from all over the place, including iceland, netherlands, czech republic, spain, canda and everywhere else. There is a lot of Swedish around, which is both interesting and frustrating, since I don’t understand it. But one good thing is that I am going to be in a swedish course this semester so hopefully I will learn some and pick some up. The atms and such are fine here so money is easy to access plus they accept visa. I met one really nice girl from Canada who I like and hope that I can become friends with, we went together to buy our bikes. Everybody is here alone so they are happy to make friends–and so am I! I have been trying to keep my spirits up here, it’s easy when with people but not so easy when alone, start feeling lonely then. My room is pretty big and I think I will like living there, it is all international students. Another cool thing is that a lot of people are here trying to improve their english so that is neat, all kinds of accents. It’s interesting too though because sometimes it is hard to talk to people who don’t speak really good english. The keyboard here is hard to use because it has a bunch of extra buttons like these öäå

Last night was fun, I ended up staying out really late. Luckily it was easy because of the jet lag i wasn’t tired this morning, woke up early naturally. It is cold here,but not ridiculously cold, i mean you need a jacket and probably hat and gloves, but it is nice. It’s fun to ride my bike, Luckily the town is pretty small, but much bigger than franklin street! The interesting thing is that all the bars are part of these things callled *nations* which are like fraternities except everyone can be in one, and they are student run and there are restaurants and bars inside and only students can get in, which makes going out great because there are definitely going to be fun and interesting people there.