Sunday, July 25, 2010

Making a Subway Map IX

[ I started writing about the new version of my subway map in progress here in Making a Subway Map I in May. ]

It's been pretty hot the past two weeks, so my computer work room is hot, but I was able to pick away at this thing a few times.

But first, a few words on my running injury saga. On Wednesday I tried running again, because the new shoes feel so cushioned. I ran one mile and to my amazement the heel totally stopped hurting then. I guess the warmup did it good. I was so psyched that I took a chance and ran a second mile. I hadn't planned on doing more than one. And I got away with it. There was only a little pain later, no re-injury. I did the same walk and run the next few days, just over four miles total walking and running.

On Saturday I threw caution to the winds and did three miles running and three walking, just as I had done before the heel injury. All was well. On Sunday I did it again. My knees hurt a few hours later. The heel, not much at all. Now it's the knees? Come on. What, am I old or something? That diminished after a few hours. Just the same, I think I'll stick to the two miles running on Monday.


How big is this thing?

The old diagram was 39 by 36 inches, but I had never paid much attention to what size it was since I had no plans to print it. It was designed strictly for screen display. It was that size because it grew to be that size as I drew it, starting somewhere in Manhattan.

The original Claris Works art was 72dpi with no anti-aliasing, so that I could limit it strictly to 16 colors, a concept that made it possible to save it to a 4-bit GIF file that was remarkably small for the size of the document. Who cared? Well, it had to do with download times fifteen years ago when people commonly used telephone modems. I wanted it to load impressively fast, and it did. File size is not much of a consideration now.

My choice of format meant that it looked very ugly when printed. People would occasionally ask whether I had printed copies, and I am not sure they understood the issues involved with optimizing it for screen. I tried printing it at 50% size on my home printer. It was less bad than 100%, since the reduction hid some of the jagged edges and misalignments. I hesitate to say "better". I say only "less bad".

Here, look at this. This is screen capture from the master file. No, I didn't send the file off to R Stevens to be pixellated. This is what it really looks like. Be sure to click these images to see the fine detail.

Oh, the horror.

For the new diagram I started off with a document size of 36 inches square, for not much reason except that it helped me place the old diagram as a template behind the new work. I still expected to print it smaller if I ever printed it at all.

I looked into the idea of printing. Apparently printers have standard sizes, and 36 inches square is not one of them. Neither is 18 inches square. They can do custom sizes, but they'll charge extra to cut the prints down to the custom size. It's actually cheaper to go for the next largest standard size, which is 18 by 24.

So, I changed my document size to 48 wide by 36. I'm not sure I'll really finance a print run, but if I do, I've got something standard.

The printers I've checked seem happy with "bleeding" the art all the way to the edge, but just the same I think I will keep a border area with no text. I might make it into a white border, or extend just lines and background into it. I can decide later.

Here's the entire diagram with the new borders.

So what have I actually done lately?

I've been extending the mainline railroads out to the new border. I started with the top, maybe because it's easy, just three straight lines for Metro North's Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven routes.

Here is that, done, July 18.

Notice how the spacing between stations becomes compressed. This works for me. I hope it gives you the same impression. You know somehow that the stations are farther apart out there away from the city. It's like perspective. It is somehow OK to see the stations all bunched together, even though you know they are actually much farther apart than subway stations. Right?

I realized I should try to work that idea in the more complicated space of Long Island.

The non-square boundaries mean I can't take Metro North as far out as the east and west routes in Long Island and New Jersey. This bothers me, but I don't see what I can do about it. I did get Metro North as far as Croton-Harmon, North White Plains, and Stamford, which are the ends of the frequent local services.

Here's Long Island on its way, July 24. This goes out as far as Babylon and Ronkonkoma, the ends of electric service.

You might notice that I moved the end of the Far Rockaway subway line.

The Hempstead branches were bothering me, and I made an alternate version. I was trying to line up the Hempstead and Oyster Bay branches. I discarded this idea though as needless.

Below, Long Island is done. As I said, not fair to Metro North, because this covers most of the Long Island services, more so than the Metro North lines.

I'm still working out New Jersey, but here's the whole map as of this evening. The left side may change considerably.

Continued: Making a Subway Map X.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Girl Who Squeezed My Leg


No, this is not the fourth book by Stieg Larsson.

I have to write about something besides subway diagrams before this blog devolves into the equivalent of performing all the verses of "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall" to see how long you can take it. For the diehards: probably next time.

Also: The foot's getting better. Sorry for the whining last time. I walked six miles Sunday morning, and I even ran about a hundred feet Saturday while trying on new running shoes.


Her: So this girl I know likes this guy I know but he's been oblivious to all of her signals, so what does she have to do to tell him she likes him?
Me: I don't know, just tell him she likes him?
Her: Like, "I like you?" Just like that?
Me: Yeah, like that.
Her: I like you.
Me: Yeah, tell her to tell him that, and she'll be all set.
... pause ...
Her: I like you.
Me: Yup, you've got it... was there anything else?

That's nothing. You can see hundreds more examples of similar or worse cluelessness at Reddit. (And here's a tip of the hat to Nancy McGough's Deflexion web page for pointing to it.)

One of the contributors there summed it up:

I wonder if to women, who seem to live in a world of subtlety and nuance, we men just look like great big oblivious walking bricks. We are astoundingly literal creatures.

"Let's go back to my place and check out the new wallpaper in my bedroom."
"New wallpaper? Why the f— would I be interested in that?"

As I was reading this hilariously uncomfortable set of stories I began to feel like I spent time with the wrong people when I was young. I don't remember anything like this.

Wait! Then I got to this one:

I'm sitting on the bus, my friend is sitting in the seat behind me. A hot chick walks up and asks "Can I sit here?" And I say sure.

She spends the entire bus ride talking to me and seeming really interested in everything I say and asking me all sorts of questions. I'm completely confused and have no idea why she's asking me questions, so I answer all her questions, but don't really make any effort to assist the conversation. I was about as interesting to talk to as a brick wall, but god damn she just kept trying.

Oh no! This happened to me in high school. It was on the Inter City route 40 bus to New Jersey, leaving from the old 168th St terminal. Therefore I can date it my first year of high school.

I don't know why, but as I was assembling dreams into a continuous narrative for Plaid Dress, this incident came into my head and I threw it in, the only thing there that is not from a dream.

I was a kid then. Maybe that's the explanation. I don't think I can blame the all boys high school for this one. We had girls with us in grade school. There were some that I, you know, liked, by eighth grade. I even spoke to them once in a while. And they spoke back. Is that cool, or what!

So why could I barely talk to the girl on the bus? Imagine if I had. Then I might have had somebody to talk to each day when I went home. Would that have been bad? Beats me. I don't even know whether I saw her again. She didn't sit and talk to me again anyway, I know that.

Now was that really the only one? Probably not. Probably it's symptomatic that there would be other instances that I never even noticed.

Take the library job I had in college. Did any girls ask me for help? As in, maybe they asked for help as an excuse to talk with me? I cannot quite picture this happening:

Her: Where is 942?
Me: Room 414.
Her: I see that on the list. But where is room 414?
Me: Right after room 413.
Her: Can you show me?
Me: Yes. Here's a floor plan. See, 414 comes after 413. The rooms are arranged in numerical order.

It wouldn't happen because Barnard girls are damned smart and we all knew it. That scenario would too unbelievable. For her I mean. She would expect me to be suspicious if she pulled that. No deniability.

As to my response though, I'm sure I would have responded that way at the time and only realized my mistake later.

This might have happened though:

Her: Can you help me get a book off the top shelf?
Me: Sure, which one?
Her: The blue one, Deconstruction and its Malcontents volume 2.
Me: Here.
Her: Thank you. You're very nice.
Me: Hrm. [ turn away ]

That would happen because 80% of Barnard girls are too short to reach top shelves without assistance. Helen has told me this, so I know it must be true. (Why don't I notice these things?)

And the rest would happen too, because I would just hand her the book and get away. That's all she wanted, right? Even if she asked me a little later for another top shelf book on a completely different subject, same again. She probably wouldn't ask for more than two. Too obvious.

And I'd think what a coincidence it was that the only two books she wanted were on a top shelf. But it's only two out of two. I'd want to see a larger sample before I jumped to any conclusions.

Maybe it actually happened. Why would I remember? I may have missed a late night session at the West End discussing deconstruction, strict construction, the Reconstruction, and that malcontent down the end of the bar. Some guy working in the Butler stacks got to go instead.

But sometimes the girl who wants help reaching a book really just wants help reaching a book. If we guys start living our lives thinking everything girls say is a hint, that's not going to work out too well either. It made me think of something.

Some of us at work went to lunch one day with people we don't see very often. One of them was a woman I've enjoyed talking with in the past. If you think I've got a few good stories, you should have a chance to listen to her. But besides that, she's hyper full of energy. I like it. I want to absorb some of it. It will make me a better person. So I was looking forward to this.

We met at the place. There was an empty seat next to her, so I asked if I could sit there. This was going to be good.

One of the stories she told me this time was about vendors hitting on her. They offer to get her unit some extra stuff if she'll go out with them. She said she always asks them, "What's that ring on your finger?" It seems their wives never understand them. We both rolled our eyes. "One of them told me he was thirty-two!" Now I couldn't help myself, because I know she's about as old as I am. I said, "You're doing pretty good!" She laughed at that. "It means I'm still hot." I like her attitude. Still it's got to be annoying.

She was trying to get people to mix and not sit with people they work with. She had already suggested a few times that people change places around the table when she leaned into me to point out another cluster forming and asked me whether she should say something. I'm awful. I told her sure. Of course. I want to see her in action. I said the same thing when the waiter had not brought her something she'd asked for, and she wondered to me whether to wave him over or give him another few minutes. I thought it was nice that she wanted my opinion.

The whole time we were talking, she grabbed my arm a few times to make a point, and whenever she leaned over to say something near my ear— we were in a noisy place— I could feel her long hair brushing against my arm and shoulder. See, this is what I am not. This whole touchy feely thing. This level of enthusiasm. This dynamic energy. I don't know anybody else like that. It improved my mood. That's why I wanted to sit with her.

At one point she wanted to move herself, me, and the guy next to me over one seat to fit in somebody on her other side. I said sure, but I must not have jumped fast enough, because she reached over and squeezed my leg and whispered sharply "move down!". Whoa! Since I am pathetic, that was the highlight of my day.

Now my point is, I could have taken it the wrong way. I could have misread her and ended up like one of the vendors, and she'd be asking me about the ring on my finger. Instead, I didn't do that, and she's free to be herself. It's all good.

Over the next few days I was thinking of writing something about absorbing energy from other people. It was not a well formed thought. Have you ever done this? Spent time with someone who's very different but has some quality you like, as if you could catch it? I was trying to go somewhere with that idea.

On some afternoons at work when I need a break, I go talk to an old friend of mine down the hall for a few minutes. So I thought I'd bring this up. Sometimes talking helps work out my thoughts.

I started off by asking if she'd noticed how our friend in the restaurant was grabbing my arm and leaning her hair onto me and talking into my ear. "Yes Joe, I think we all noticed that."

Good. So I started talking about energy levels and how outgoing some people are and how I liked the contrast, but she cut me off. She had noticed a flaw in my logic.

"She doesn't do that to other women, does she?" Well, no, I guess not, I admitted. That is an element. It's funny I had not thought of it. That's why it's good to talk to somebody. Insight. But it didn't totally alter my main idea.

I was about to continue, but then with my friend's next words, a curtain was drawn open and the light of truth shone in.

"You're the only one she does that to."

Uhhhhh.... right.

Now that I think about it.

And yet, I still think it's just the way she is and it's no big deal. Don't tell me different.

Next time: Making a Subway Map IX.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Making a Subway Map VIII

[ I started writing about the new version of my subway map in progress here in Making a Subway Map I in May. ]

As I predicted, it was so hot this week that I didn't do much at all on the diagram.

The alternative plan  of taking a break and writing something completely different for a week didn't work out either. I've mentioned before that the stories and essays depend partly on thinking time during my walks and runs. Because of the foot injury I mentioned last time, I haven't had any of that time. I can walk enough now for daily routines, but there's always a little pain, so I haven't felt like doing additional walking for exercise. Yesterday I ran about ten feet in a parking lot, just to do it. Grrr! I might do something crazy like see a doctor about this.

Here's a very early stage of New Jersey, with the old diagram showing through. This was July 3. I'm just working out how the Hudson shoreline should run before I start drawing lines. The first try was the lines that run straight past Hoboken and then bulge out symmetrically around Exchange Place. The revision pushes the Hudson to the right past Hoboken.

Next, below, is 24 hours later— clock time not work time!

The Hudson now becomes wider as it goes down. It now bulges at Hoboken and Jersey City. The shore around Lincoln Harbor lines up with the shore down in Bayonne.

This went pretty fast once I started on it. A few hours. It's not radically different from before except that Newark is relatively farther to the left.

I made the end of the Newark Light Rail at Grove St be a right angle instead of the awkward hook it had on the old map, which had been done to show that Watsessing Ave railroad station is farther away from Newark than Grove St. I think that is still implied in the new version.

I made the Hudson Bergen Light Rail branch to West Side Ave at a 45 degree angle to make lettering easier, but then I took it back and made it a right angle again, as you can see below.

Bayonne is now a little taller. There was an intermediate state, not saved except in the small complete diagram in last week's post, where it was even taller than this.

This all has to do with things not on the diagram that might possibly be expected to line up at a future time. Oh, I know more than anyone, it's a diagram not a map, but I like to limit my distortion. Let me just show you the real world, rotated to make the Manhattan avenues into vertical lines. Here:

This is the area where the subway and light rail lines are. The circle is over the Manhattan business district.

Looking at New Jersey: X= Exchange Place. N= Newark, B= Bayonne. The diagram rotates them slightly but three make almost an equilateral triangle. This is not necessary for a topologically correct map but since it works out it's good to do it.

Here's a twist though: if you start at X, and drop straight down until you can go straight left to N, that's roughly how the Light Rail runs, as far as West Side Ave. The diagram makes that look unlikely. Really, who cares, since you can't travel that way. It just gives you an idea why I wanted at least to have that branch run straight left.

What's really striking is how much New Jersey shrinks compared to the city side. Bayonne is about as far down as 59th St Brooklyn, and almost as far as Coney Island (C), and you'd never guess that from the diagram. Newark is almost as far from Midtown as Jamaica (J), but is shown as much closer on the diagram. This is pretty normal stuff though for a transit diagram. I think experienced users read a diagram that way, expecting distances to be greater as the eye gets farther from the center.

It's going to get worse. Wait till I squeeze the Staten Island Railway in the lower left corner. As shown above, at scale it would eat up the lower third of the whole diagram, and it is not going to get anything like that space. The official Transit Authority map of 2010 puts it in a separate box to emphasize how much it is displaced and out of scale with the rest. I won't do that at least.

We'll also get the Newark Airport light rail people mover thing, once I've done more on the mainline railroads. It's the only transit line not connected to the other transit lines. It's pretty close to a horizontal elevator car too. Should I even show it in pink as a light rail line? It runs on rails. I think so.

Continued: Making a Subway Map IX.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Making a Subway Map VII

[ I started writing about the new version of my subway map in progress here in Making a Subway Map I in May. ]

I grabbed a day off on Thursday that got me several extra hours to work on the diagram. Jamaica's done, and New Jersey is done, so that takes care of all the transit lines. Woo! I've got the mainline railroads, and then several cleanup steps that I'll be telling you about.

First: ouch. While I was running at Wednesday dawn I noticed around mile 2.5 that my left heel was hurting a little. I kept going anyway to finish 3 miles. Once I get into the zone I really don't feel like stopping. It takes a little effort not to run. Maybe it's a primitive brain thing. The legs just keep going. Of course sometimes I have to stop. A shoelace goes untied, or I have to let a car pass at an intersection. But I don't want to. Anyway the heel didn't hurt much.

I went to work. There's an eight-tenths mile walk to the station, various stairways, and standing up on the subway— my choice, usually, to help make up for sitting down most of my workday. The heel hurt a little but not bad. It didn't hurt at all when I was sitting and keeping weight off it. But it was worse when I walked to get lunch, and even worse than that when I walked to the house. Hm. Maybe skip the run tomorrow.

Thursday morning: no go. Now it really hurt. I could have worked from home, but I've got a lot of days off coming, and no meetings that day. So I did a few hours on the diagram and a few hours on another project. I was on my feet as little as possible.

Friday: better. I went to work. It hurt but not so much. Good.

Saturday: almost better. The heel only hurt a little. So I ran. No additional pain. I even thought the heel was feeling better when I got it warmed up. Stupid. I came back at 05:30, flopped on the Couch of Sleep, woke up again at 07:30. Stood up. AAAAAARRGGH. Much worse than Thursday.

I want something that hurts when I injure it, not hours later. Isn't that how it should work?

I have spent this weekend walking slowly and not often. Oy.

There. That was very bloggy, wasn't it? OK, enough of that.

Let's see. Last time I had just started thinking about Jamaica, and I had some half baked idea about sending the Queens Boulevard line into a diagonal, to reduce how far it went to the right. It turned out that didn't quite work.

Here's the sketch, and a partly finished version of it as of late morning Thursday.

It was looking a little crowded to me. I had started pushing the subways to the right in the diagram above, to fit in names. The Broadway El (brown line, bottom) looked squeezed too.

I kept the version above, and then re-drew the diagram, straightening out the Queens Boulevard line, and letting it go farther to the right. I wasn't sure which way I was going to go, but I needed to see both versions to decide.

The first stage re-draw, which I'm sorry I did not keep for you, bent after 71st Ave station. I used the bend to separate the blue and orange lines nicely. This version still had problems, mostly related to the 90 degree bend in the orange line at Jamaica. The station names have to be on the inside of that bend, because the names of the blue and brown also have to be on the inside, because of the railroad. And many of the stations have long names.

This one below is the alternate after some further fiddling around. This is dated an hour and a half later than the one just above.

I liked this better. I think it's easier to read, and way lines come together at Jamaica station looks good too. It also happens to be more like the old diagram. Maybe I went through this same process last time. I don't remember. Anyway I abandoned the previous version and continued from this one.

As I was doing this I made a change back at Long Island City. I mentioned last time the small alignment problem with the 63rd St tunnel line. It's the orange line coming in left center in the excerpts below. Because of the grey railroad right below it, I had the blue line turn to run over the orange, as you see in the first image here.

The alternative, as I mentioned, was to put a little reverse curve into the orange, but I didn't like it. I had forgotten that way over to the right, past 71st Ave station (see above), I needed these blue and orange lines to separate to express and local and then separate to different branches. If the blue line crossed the orange near Queens Plaza, it would have to cross it again somewhere past 71st Ave. I'd rather leave it on one side than have it cross twice. So I put in the reverse curve after all, Thursday morning. Middle image below.

Then I didn't like that either. Too many curves. On the right, I put the orange and blue express parallel to the yellow and orange local. Isn't that easier to read? What trouble I make for myself.

I stopped around here on Thursday, and picked it up again Saturday. And wah la, here it is after a productive Saturday morning.

Yes, the Rockaway Line and the JFK Airtrain too. Done done done.

Geometry. The Rockaway Line, if continued upward, would cross the Broadway El at the right place (as it once did). Notice the parallelism of the Lefferts Blvd and 121st St stations and their equal distance from the railroad between them. The Airtrain has a nice convergence with the blue subway near Jamaica (deliberately not precisely lined up) and a nice convergence with itself at Federal Circle. The subway and railroad at Far Rockaway are lined up to suggest that they used to run through.

Then I changed one more thing. As I was working on New Jersey, I thought Newark Penn Station and Jamaica should get the big grey box like Grand Central, Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal, and Hoboken. The grey box shows that there are a lot of tracks and platforms, and Newark Penn and Jamaica are terminals for some trains and major change points. I made it so. There was some minor shifting of railroads to the right.

Here it is, and this time you can see it at 200% scale.

I don't want anyone to take the grey lines too literally but check this. I have accurately shown the Atlantic Branch (from bottom left) as running to the middle of Jamaica station and then diverging to the first branch to the lower right and to the main line. For historical reasons I have the Montauk Branch (center left, crossing near 121st st station) running to the south side of Jamaica station and then curving to the other branch to south shore points. Does anyone get this stuff unless I mention it?

That's enough for now. I will discuss New Jersey next time. Here's the whole map.

It's going to be really really hot this coming week, and the room where I work on this is not air conditioned. I probably won't do much on the diagram. I can still write about New Jersey and some general issues I've been thinking about.

I might even skip a week and write about something else. I have a story idea. See what happens.

Continued: Making a Subway Map VIII.