How to lie with charts

Sunday 20 March 2011, 12:04

I'm generally a fan of the IAEA, but this image I just grabbed from their Web site is a textbook example of slanting (literally!) a graphic image so that it misleads the reader.

Fuel temperature chart

The chart shows the temperature of two spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi. Until the morning of March 19, UTC, the temperatures were slowly but steadily increasing. After that, they decreased significantly. These data could well be presented with a two-dimensional line chart.

But the makers of the chart above chose to project it into three dimensions in such a way that the lines slant downward even where the temperature is increasing - obscuring one of the most important pieces of information the numbers represent, which is the direction of change. A human being looking at the chart and not reading the numbers would get the incorrect impression that the temperature was consistently decreasing over the entire time period. Thus the chart has failed in its purpose of making the numbers understandable. The chart actually conveys a negative amount of information, because it conveys incorrect information. If you erased all the graphics and left only the numbers, readers would be better informed.

If they were going to make a chart, there is no reason it needed to be a three-dimensional chart; and if they were going to make a three-dimensional chart, there is no reason they had to use that particular choice of projection angle. I hate to ascribe to malice that which could be explained by stupidity, but this really does look the way deliberate deception would look; and it has the same effect as deliberate deception even if it isn't actually deliberate deception.

New OCR fonts, and a page for them

Saturday 19 March 2011, 20:43

Some years ago I posted TrueType conversions of the venerable Metafont OCR-A and OCR-B implementations. The TrueType versions were created by autotracing from the Metafont-generated bitmaps, and they weren't really very good; there were a bunch of problems with the glyph encoding and spacing and stuff. Nonetheless, those fonts have over the years been some of the most successful things on my entire site. They've gotten multiple third-party links, including from Wikipedia, and they've generated a lot of positive feedback for me from users around the world.

Just recently I found out that the original author of one of the Metafont packages I was working from has released a new version and (which is important to some users) opened up the licensing to allow commercial use. So I've taken the opportunity to re-work both typefaces and do it properly this time, by translating the Metafont versions to work with MetaType1 and produce vectors directly. I've also put the OCR-A and OCR-B faces together into one package, and set up a new page on this site for distributing them and my other font projects. Take a look at it here.

Something else of note is that I get a lot of incoming traffic from people who are using third-party translation services to view the OCR font pages in Japanese. Well, I'd like to get more Japanese-language traffic on this site, and I can do a lot better than the translation services, so I've also posted the font page in Japanese. And for fun and to encourage prompt updating of third-party links, the old pages that had the now-obsolete fonts, have been redirected to the Japanese version of the new page.

On the yen/loonie exchange rate

Tuesday 15 March 2011, 10:13

This chart, reproduced as fair dealing from Yahoo! Finance, shows the price of one Japanese yen in Canadian dollars for the last five days. See below for why I think this is an amazing chart.

Exchange rate chart

Henry and Eliza

Friday 7 June 2002, 14:21

Henry came home from work feeling as horny as Hell. He threw his coat across the back of a chair, kicked off his boots, and picked up the mouse from its spot on top of the pile of books on the kitchen table, next to the breakfast dishes. He didn't shower. Eliza wouldn't care.

Like something out of a Thurber story

Friday 25 February 2011, 18:14

I will soon be ready to start sending out agent queries for my novel. My plan is to send the queries on paper to agents that allow that (some require it); and it is standard practice to send a self-addressed stamped envelope with the query, and inasmuch as agents are generally located in New York City, that means I have to source some US stamps.

Zazzle offers a service where you can upload an image and they'll create stamps - real, legally valid US postage stamps - with your image. They have some kind of deal with the US Postal Service to do this. So I figured I'd use that, and get the bonus benefit of being able to design an appropriate thematic image for my SASEs.

Chinese Seal Script fonts

Friday 25 February 2011, 06:51

Here's a page of Chinese fonts including a few for the Seal Script. Could come in handy...

Tsukurimashou 0.1

Saturday 19 February 2011, 14:46

This is the announcement of a now-obsolete version. Check out the latest progress of Tsukurimashou at!



I'm pleased to announce the first release of the Tsukurimashou font family. The user's manual and demo is available as a PDF file; so is the complete package in bzipped TAR and ZIP formats. Precompiled OpenType fonts, compatible with all currently-popular typesetting systems, are included in those packages for two styles (Tsukurimashou Kaku and Mincho). Other styles you'll have to compile yourself.

These fonts are released with source code under the GNU GPL version 3 with font-embedding clarification. The current version contains the full repertoire of ISO Latin-1, hiragana, and katakana; more characters are on the way.

How Wikipedia could save itself

Saturday 19 February 2011, 00:15

I don't think Wikipedia wants to save itself. But if they really wanted to, I know how they could do it.

On bible-ophilia, and a call for better pagan book design

Friday 18 February 2011, 16:56

I hope to push the first release of Tsukurimashou out the door tomorrow, and as part of that, I was looking at the possibility of adding optical sizes to it. That won't happen in tomorrow's release, but it will happen eventually, and the train of thought led from there to a thing I once saw in an historical mail-order catalog: an entire multi-page selection of Christian Bibles, organized by different optional features, such as type size, paper and binding quality, and so on. It occurred to me to look on the Net for the current state of the art in such things, and that led me to this site, which is fascinating. It's an entire Web log about the design of Bibles.


Thursday 10 February 2011, 21:00