Digital Mike: Map helps understand what a little elbow room feels like

I grew up in a sparsely populated state — the fourth largest state, Montana, which had fewer than 1 million people at the time. It was good. But I'm also a fan of cities. I found a site that can help you visualize your own locale's population and how sizeable New York City's is. Read on.

Vast lands

The Internet's power to entertain is well-established, but we are finding ways to learn in entertaining ways. I think this fits the bill. Slate has this site that provides an interactive map to show how many sparsely populated states it takes to equal New York City. You begin to understand the population density of our largest city. One illustration shows NYC's population encompassing Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and about two-thirds of Minnesota (obviously missing the Twin Cities and Rah Cha Cha). Mess around with the data and create your own comparisons with the tools they provide. It's cool. Then check out more of Slate's maps .

Data meets pop culture


I meandered into this blog via Twitter and love its ideas. "A Dash of Data" is fairly new and its author describes her work this way: "A Dash of Data aims to bring together the worlds of analytics and pop culture. This blog features some of my favorite things — from Taylor Swift songs to Olive Garden bread sticks to OPI nail polish — all presented in a mathematical way." This post fascinates me. She took all of the text messages from the first year of dating the man she eventually married and compared them with their text messages from the past year as an engaged couple and then as newlyweds. She has word clouds and great analysis. She notes that many of the terms stayed the same, but the context of how they were used changed as the relationship did. For instance, "love" changed from "Have a good flight. Love you babe" while they were dating to "Hahaha. Love it!" when they were married. Give it a look and see what she comes up with next.

Silver screen state

Life section editor Jeff Pieters passed this along, noting my enthusiasm of maps, lists and books. This one is the whole shooting match. It's a list that you're bound to have some quarrels with, but that's good. My home state got picked for the tried and true "Legends of the Fall," which surprised me. I thought maybe "A River Runs Through It" would be tops. But check it out! Illinois is "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," one of my favorites. Here's their methodology: They took the "state's prominence in the movie and leaned toward movies that were filmed in that location." Lifetime gross, critical acclaim ad even the staff of Business Insider were factored into the list. Give it a look.

Book list

And since we're on the topic of lists. I found this list that touted itself as the greatest books ever written about Montana. I say maybe. It's a good starting list, but I think it's falls short. Lists are for fueling debate. This one gets it done, plus it helps me parse my own reading list and discover some new books. There's lots of Doig, Maclean and Harrison, but there's more. And even one of my many faves, "Montana 1948" by Larry Watson. Check it out. Montana Mint, a site I mentioned in an earlier column, put this one together.

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