We’re putting the newsroom online. For the next two months, Columbia University’s News21 team is traveling the country reporting on aging America. Massive demographic shifts over the next 40 years will transform everything from family life and health care to employment and housing. We’re calling our project Brave Old World: Our Future Selves.
02 September 2011
18 August 2011
Last Emily and I wrote we were dealing with this some of these datasets from the census projecting the U.S. population out to 2050. Weeks later, six datasets crunched, numerous excel fields concatenated, and 3525 lines of code later, our interactive went up on the Washington Post. For all of the ActionScript 3 and Flash fans out there, we thought we’d share some of our code.
One of the elements we made was a line graph that animates to different values when you pick different inputs. We wanted to show disease prevalence over a lifetime for different demographic groups. So, you select hispanic women you get one graph, you select hispanic men and the graph moves to show that value.
Here’s an example of how the line works:
Here’s how it works.
The dots are the important parts and the lines are created between them. The dots are placed through a for loop, cycling through different data points within an array. The lines are drawn between each of the dots. The buttons at the bottom change the array values and call on a function to tween the dots.
The lines are redrawn at each frame as the dots are tweening. The key is the line:
One tricky thing is flash is removing elements once you have added them to the stage. So without this piece of code clearing the line each frame, you will get multiple lines as the tween is happening. This keeps it to just one line.
Here’s an annotated FLA (CS3) to download:
29 July 2011
18 July 2011
15 July 2011
12 July 2011
This is Bennett Willis, who worked at Dow Chemical in Freeport, TX, for 33 years. He’s 69 years old, putting him
squarely in just outside the Baby Boomer generation, who, like him, have retired recently or will be retiring soon.
It’s a nationwide problem: longstanding companies like Dow are losing massive amounts of their workforce to retirement as the population ages. Filling the void isn’t easy; it’s not like a company can just hire a bunch of graduates to replace them and continue on unfettered. When people like Bennett Willis leave, everything they know goes with them (and in the engineering field, that includes experience with specific processes or machinery that no one else has). Measuring the value of institutional knowledge isn’t easy, but it’s not hard to do the math when comparing someone with 33 years of experience and someone with two.
One of our main areas of interest is what happens to the workplace when the population ages. What can be lost and how can we save it? In the case of Dow, a massive amount of its Freeport operations (seen, from its security-laden perimeter, in the above video’s still photos) are nearing retirement age. And in Texas as a whole, fewer college students are entering fields like engineering, or blue-collar and manufacturing work in general. So at a nearby community college, industry retirees like Willis teach new hires at companies like Dow what they know, in hopes of transferring the knowledge leaving the industry to the newbies entering it.
As Willis points out, there’s a lot hanging in the balance.
11 July 2011
10 July 2011
Eleanor, 91, has been suffering from front lobe dementia for four months. Nick and I have spent time with her and her daughter several times over the course of the last month as she moved from one assisted living facility to another specializing in dementia care.
The way dementia works through one’s brain is astonishing. Eleanor alternates between moments of total confusion and glimpses of her past wittiness. This is one of them.
And this is how it all started: