Are you prepared for the new year? — issue #19

Are you prepared for the new year? — issue #19


As 2020 rolled out (at last!), I did something I'd never done before—I paid for a tarot card reading.
I'd never been one for the supernatural, but I found it a useful way to check in about where things are and how one might look to the future. One card—the Nine of Wands—seemed appropriate for the times; a battle-weary warrior stands tall against adversity, relying on resilience and strength to see better days.

The world—and Singapore—hangs in the balance. COVID-19 vaccines are reaching populations around the world, but so is the new, more infectious B117 strain of the virus. Will it be business as usual for the Japan Olympics, already shuffled once last year? Can Singapore rein in its dengue fever situation despite new work-from-home habits, and keep homegrown food on the table if lockdowns disrupt supply chains again?

These questions can't be answered yet, but we can shape them by switching up what we do, wherever we are.

Change is in the air this year, in ways large and small. Here at Kontinentalist, we're excited to bring some new things that will affect notes from the equator...and you! Our upcoming refreshed design, for one, is all about sharing Asia's hidden gems with you in a personal and sincere way
—just like we always have.

We're also focusing on bringing the Asian data vis community and organisations doing purpose-driven work closer this year, so stay tuned for some cool new features on how data stories are made, the people doing great work in the field, and ways you can join in, too.

Next week, two of our own
—Bella and Mick—are speaking at the Outlier conference (put together by the great folks at the Data Visualization Society) on how we can tell cultural data stories about Asia. Do check out their session, and help us spread the word to whomever you feel would enjoy it.

What changes are you working on this year—and how might we be able to help? Give us a shout at; we'll figure something out, especially it has to do with stories, data, or both!

Do take care and stay safe, wherever you are. We hope 2021 surprises you in all the best ways.

Editor and Content Strategist

Buzzing in 2021...

an illustration of mosquitos attacking a singapore map
As Singapore rejoices over the cool weather brought by the monsoon surge at the beginning of 2021, so do our six-legged neighbours, the female Aedes aegypti mosquitos. What other shifts to a "new normal" are exposing us to a greater risk of dengue fever?
shinzo abe dressed up as mario to announce the 2020 tokyo olympic games
Tokyo Olympics officials are resolute about holding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this year, despite a resurgence in COVID-19 infections. Is it a matter of saving face, or is more at stake
a group of people potting edible plants
Unfortunately, we can't all have a doomsday bunker equipped with a hydroponic garden for steady food supply. Growing your own food, though, is quite attainable, as these community and home gardeners demonstrate.

Data vis spotlight: Changing moon phases 

To celebrate the mid-autumn festival last year, we visualised a week's worth of moon phases to let people know when's the best time to moon gaze and eat mooncakes. 
an illustration of different phases of moon
Collecting the data was simple enough: I went to this site to calculate the projected moon phases of my desired date and location, and recorded the percentage of the moon which is visible and nonvisible.

Then came the unexpectedly tricky part: creating the moons! Turns out creating spheres based on set percentages is more science than art. Our trusty designers Griselda and Joceline told me that the different moon phases are irregularly shaped, so the Adobe software requires an area of the spheres.

Our eventual solution—with help from an architect friend—was to use a genetic algorithm to solve for the moon's area via the Rhino program and Grasshopper plug-in. The algorithm runs consecutive tests to find an optimised solution, based on parameters that you feed it and your desired outcome. In this case it was the circle's radius, the percentage of the sphere, and area of the moon we want shaded.
files of blank moons and coloured in moons
The output churned out by the computational program was these moons with the exact area of shaded and unshaded parts! Then, it was just a matter of colouring the moons and arranging them into an Instagram post on Figma. 

- Bella

Extras! Extras!

two pictures of two speakers at a conference
1. Speaking at Outlier! 🎉
Happy news! We'll be speaking at Outlier on 4 February, at 6.10pm SGT! We'll be sharing how we translate cultural phenomena into data stories, citing examples from our stories on chilli sauces, queuing, instant noodles, and more! We'll be answering any questions you have afterwards, so register for the event if you haven't already :-) 

Sharing our hard-won data vis knowledge like this is part of Konti's 2021 commitment to contribute to the community through more open collaboration. Another big part of this is learning from you and facilitating knowledge-sharing and solidarity in the Asian data vis community. So stay tuned for more updates on this front, and shoot up any ideas you have!

2. Hajj story shortlisted at the New Media Writing Prize 🏆
The year got off to a hopeful start when the New Media Writing Prize shortlisted our Hajj story for their Writing Magazine Digital Journalism award, alongside great works from Egypt and Portugal. You can hear from our teammates behind the story here!
3. Developer wanted! 👩🏻‍💻👨🏻‍💻
Also, we're hiring! Want to be part of the development team that makes cool things like this and this happen? You can stalk us at Medium, Instagram, and Twitter!
We need all the help we can get. Here are some links related to surviving the new year: 
  • Wise people before us have tried to answer this question: How many slaps does it take to cook a chicken? 3D rendering artist Aden takes it a step further by visualising how one powerful slap can cook—and eviscerate—your dinner should you find yourself out in the wild. 
  • @theweirdandwild is a climate activist who produces engaging content on Instagram, weaving in adorable illustrations with news articles, research, and crowdsourced knowledge.
  • Pet adoption and sales have surged during the pandemic, as people turn to our furry friends for companionship. If that sounds tempting, perhaps use these floor plans to gauge if your future best friend can comfortably reside in your abode, first.
  • @FrankElavsky rightfully calls out the data vis community at large for associating accessibility mostly with colour blindness when there are a whole lot of disabilities to consider. You can read his wonderful thread or attend his talk at the Outlier conference!
  • In case anyone was not done with the unfortunate events of last year, The Game about the Mad Year 2020 lets you relive the major episodes of 2020 all over again: Australian bushfires, COVID-19, the rise of TikTok, and the United States presidential elections. Will you survive again this time?