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Lists can bring focus, meaning, and order to the chaos of life (well, that’s what they say HERE), so here’s some life focus for you with a magical tour of the world’s flags. Something you probably never knew how much you needed.

For those who like to explore the world by doing little more than moving your finger across your phone or tablet screen, free/cheap apps like ‘Flags and Capitals‘ can help your venturing. The obsessive-vulnerable types might find themselves accidentally learning many of the flags of the world relatively quickly.

This definitive flag category list will help your enlightenment in this compelling topic. Generally these are country flags — sometimes from very small or possibly uninhabited countries — with a few exceptions (like a Canadian territory or province) thrown in here and there.

Like a good comic book, this is mostly pictures with a few words to keep the story rolling. Some flags show up in multiple categories, and there is a category for everyone in here so go find some that work for you. Over 90% (at least 220) of the world’s flags made it into one of these categories; fewer than twenty failed to make any list. Browse through for your favorites. The quirkier categories tend to show up near the end.

Click / Tap on any flag for a larger view.
By the way, most flags use a 2:3 (Height:Width) aspect ratio, several use 1:2, there are a few other variations.* You can spot most of those if you look carefully; the flags are all shown with the same width here (so the displayed height varies).

Two Color Flags (with just two stripes)
Let’s keep it simple to start — the basic two-color that’s all rectangles.

Ukraine

Ukraine

Poland

Poland

Monaco

Monaco

Indonesia

Indonesia

Two Color Flags (with more than just two stripes)
There are quite a number of other countries who like to keep low color inventories for their flags, sticking to just two (often including white).

Albania

Albania

Austria

Austria

Bahrain

Bahrain

Bangladesh

Bangladesh

Canada

Canada

China

China

Denmark

Denmark

Federated States of Micronesia

Federated States of Micronesia

Finland

Finland

Georgia

Georgia

Greece

Greece

Greenland

Greenland

Honduras

Honduras

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Israel

Israel

Japan

Japan

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan

Latvia

Latvia

Macedonia

Macedonia

Mauritania

Mauritania

Morocco

Morocco

Nigeria

Nigeria

Pakistan

Pakistan

Palau

Palau

Peru

Peru

Qatar

Qatar

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Scotland

Scotland

Singapore

Singapore

Somalia

Somalia

Sweden

Sweden

Tonga

Tonga

Tunisia

Tunisia

Turkey

Turkey

Vietnam

Vietnam

Switzerland

Switzerland

Three Equal-Sized Horizontal Stripe Flags
Several flags use this scheme; a number of other countries use the 3-stripe as a base and add detail (like a coat of arms), usually in the middle.

Armenia

Armenia

Bulgaria

Bulgaria

Estonia

Estonia

Gabon

Gabon

Germany

Germany

Hungary

Hungary

Lithuania

Lithuania

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Netherlands

Netherlands

Russia

Russia

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone

Yemen

Yemen

Three Vertical Stripe Flags
Note that several countries / islands use the French tri-color flag, as discussed later.

Belgium

Belgium

Chad

Chad

Cote d'Ivorie (Ivory Coast)

Cote d’Ivorie (Ivory Coast)

France

France

Guinea

Guinea

Ireland

Ireland

Italy

Italy

Mali

Mali

Romania

Romania

Four Equal-Sized Horizontal Stripe Flags
Just one entry, and this ends the horizontal / vertical stripe lists. United Arab Emirates has four stripes but one is vertical; Central African Republic has four horizontal stripes but also a vertical stripe and a star.

Mauitius

Mauitius

Sub-Saharan Africa’s Love for the Yellow / Green / Red color scheme
Note how this group of 11 neighboring countries in Africa use a similar set of red/green/yellow (and occasionally a little black or white) colors. There must have been a regional price special on these colors at flag-creating time.

Sub-Saharan 'Bulge' of Africa

Sub-Saharan ‘Bulge’ of Africa

Benin

Benin

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Cameroon

Cameroon

Congo

Congo

Ghana

Ghana

Guinea

Guinea

Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau

Mali

Mali

Sao Tome & Principe

Sao Tome & Principe

Senegal

Senegal

Togo

Togo

Wandering a little further from this group of counties brings some color variation in other African countries.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Madagascar

Madagascar

Identical Twin Flags

Monaco (1881) and Indonesia (1945) have both staked out the creatively designed red-and-white flag. Similarly, both Chad and Romania went for the blue-yellow-red approach (although the blues are slightly different tones). Curiously, In 2007 Romania sent a small number of troops as part of an EU peace-keeping force to Chad; the flag similarity could lead to some interesting troop confusion. Chad adopted its flag in 1959, and Romania about 100 years before that although the Romanian one went through variations over time and had a coat of arms when Chad adopted theirs.

Monaco

Monaco

Indonesia

Indonesia

Chad

Chad

Romania

Romania

Non-Identical Twin Flags Separated at Birth
…but in some cases they still live right next door.

Tunisia

Tunisia

Turkey

Turkey

Taiwan

Taiwan

Samoa

Samoa

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

Netherlands

Netherlands

South Africa

South Africa

Vanuatu

Vanuatu

Slovenia

Slovenia

Slovakia

Slovakia

Qatar

Qatar

Bahrain

Bahrain

Niger

Niger

India

India

Cote d'Ivorie (Ivory Coast)

Cote d’Ivorie (Ivory Coast)

Ireland

Ireland

Nicaragua

Nicaragua

El Salvador

El Salvador

Austrailia

Austrailia

New Zealand

New Zealand

Kenya

Kenya

Swaziland

Swaziland

Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein

Haiti

Haiti

Gambia

Gambia

Namibia

Namibia

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Thailand

Thailand

Federated States of Micronesia

Federated States of Micronesia

Somalia

Somalia

Andorra

Andorra

Moldova

Moldova

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Tokelau

Tokelau

British Indian Ocean Territory

British Indian Ocean Territory

British Columbia

British Columbia

Three-sibling Flags who stayed on the same continent
Like the African nations and their green-yellow-red theme, these South American neighbors went for yellow-blue-red.

Columbia

Columbia

Ecuador

Ecuador

Venezuela

Venezuela

Four-sibling Flags who see things as black and white (and green and red)

Jordan

Jordan

Palestine

Palestine

Sudan

Sudan

Western Sahara

Western Sahara

Flags That Make Americans Think The Country is Related to America

Red, White, Blue, maybe some stripes and at least one star? Seems like an American wannabe to the Americans. Cuba’s blue stripes just don’t seem to fit. The US Virgin Islands don’t have the right color scheme, but it speaks Americanese. The Antilles group in the Caribbean may have dissolved a few years ago, but we’ll take it. Costa Rica and Thailand lack a star to get into the group.

Netherland Antilles  (Dissolved in 2010)

Netherland Antilles
(Dissolved in 2010)

Chile

Chile

Liberia

Liberia

Malaysia

Malaysia

Panama

Panama

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

United States

United States

Thinking outside the box

Only Nepal manages to sport a non-rectangular flag with this double-triangular shape. Good for them; future flags should consider entering this category. It’s also the only flag that’s taller than it is wide; the Swiss and Vatican City flags are square. The official Belgium flag is almost as tall as it is wide (13:15 ratio), but often uses the more common 2:3 ratio.

Nepal

Nepal

Horizontal / Vertical Stripe Close Cousins

Austria

Austria

Peru

Peru

Germany

Germany

Belgium

Belgium

France

France

Netherlands

Netherlands

Flags featuring Trees

Belize

Belize

Bolivia

Bolivia

British Indian Ocean Territory

British Indian Ocean Territory

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Fiji

Fiji

Guam

Guam

Haiti

Haiti

Lebanon

Lebanon

Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island

Flags with a Prominent (but mostly plain) Circle
This one involved some judgment calls; several flags have circle features that didn’t make the cut: Burundi, Cook Islands, Ethiopia, S. Korea, Niger, Portugal. Brazil might be a little too gaudy for this group, but it was selected.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh

Brazil

Brazil

Greenland

Greenland

Japan

Japan

Laos

Laos

Palau

Palau

Flags that Appear to Contain a Soccer Ball in Front of the Sun
… which would be hard to see.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan

Flags that look like they were selected from a contest involving children

This one includes the Canadian territory of Nunavut, which the selection committee couldn’t resist.

Kiribati

Kiribati

Macedonia

Macedonia

Nunavut

Nunavut

Flags Featuring Geography
This list is fairly short and includes an unofficial flag, for a continent.

Antarctica

Antarctica

Cyprus

Cyprus

Kosovo

Kosovo

Flags with a Triangle on the Left (Flagpole) Side
This group does not include flags with an ‘X’ that make triangles on both sides, like Jamaica, Scotland, Burundi, or the dual-triangular Nepal. The American Samoa flag has a triangle from the right side.

Bahamas

Bahamas

Comoros

Comoros

Cuba

Cuba

Czech Republic

Czech Republic

Djibouti

Djibouti

Timor Leste (East Timor)

Timor Leste (East Timor)

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea

Eritrea

Eritrea

Guyana

Guyana

Jordan

Jordan

Mozambique

Mozambique

Palestine

Palestine

Philippines

Philippines

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Sao Tome & Principe

Sao Tome & Principe

South Africa

South Africa

South Sudan

South Sudan

Sudan

Sudan

Vanuatu

Vanuatu

Western Sahara

Western Sahara

Let’s Face It This is Just a Cool Flag

Isle of Man

Isle of Man

Flags That Have More Meaning if You Happen to Read Arabic

Brunei

Brunei

Iraq

Iraq

Iran

Iran

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Flags Featuring a Cross of Some Type
The UK-related flags (see that group listing) are all represented here by the UK flag, with its multiple superimposed crosses (in that group, the Fiji and Montserrat flags contain an additional separate cross). Some Islands use the Norway flag, namely Bouvet Island and the Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands. Among these, the smallest cross is in the beak of the Moldova eagle, and the Vatican City crosses may also be a bit hard to spot from a distance.

Åland Islands

Åland Islands

Denmark

Denmark

Dominica

Dominica

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

England

England

Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands

Finland

Finland

Georgia

Georgia

Greece

Greece

Iceland

Iceland

Malta

Malta

Moldova

Moldova

Norway

Norway

Serbia

Serbia

Slovakia

Slovakia

Sweden

Sweden

Tonga

Tonga

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Switzerland

Switzerland

Vatican City

Vatican City

Flags That Advertise That You Should Go There For Vacation

Belize

Belize

Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

Fiji

Fiji

French Polynesia

French Polynesia

Guam

Guam

Flags That Make You Think You Might Not Want To Go There For Vacation Because They Show Weapons

Angola

Angola

Barbados

Barbados

Guatemala

Guatemala

Kenya

Kenya

Mozambique

Mozambique

Oman

Oman

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Swaziland

Swaziland

Flags That Show Impact of French Imperialism
The following places use the French flag: French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia (one of two official flags), Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Reunion, and Wallis and Futuna Islands (which has an unofficial flag that tucks the French tri-color into the upper left corner). French Polynesia has the name but the flag doesn’t look particularly French. The French Southern Territories, or French Southern and Antarctic Lands, hosts a non-permanent population of maybe 100 people and has the flag shown.

France

France and others

French Southern Territories

French Southern Territories

Saint Pierre and Miquelon has an unofficial flag that’s much more lively.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Flags That Show Impact of British Imperialism
The British ruled the seas, as this set of island(-ish) countries demonstrates. They also weren’t afraid (or ashamed) to wander around and lay claim to even the Heard and McDonald Islands, which are uninhabited and are ‘among the most remote places on earth.’

Anguilla

Anguilla

Australia

Australia

Bermuda

Bermuda

British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

British Columbia

British Columbia

British Indian Ocean Territory

British Indian Ocean Territory

Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

Cook Islands

Cook Islands

Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands

Fiji

Fiji

Heard and Mcdonald Islands

Heard and Mcdonald Islands

Montserrat

Montserrat

New Zealand

New Zealand

Niue

Niue

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

Pitcairn Islands

Pitcairn Islands

Saint Helena

Saint Helena

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands

Tuvalu

Tuvalu

Flags with an Up-to-the-Right Diagonal

This category is for flags with a single diagonal, which may contain an outline. Among these, note that the two Congo flags are not centered on the corners like the others are.

Congo

Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo

Namibia

Namibia

Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Tanzania

Tanzania

Flags with a Down-to-the-Right Diagonal

Christmas Island

Christmas Island

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

Flags with at Least 5 Prominent Colors (not counting detail work)
This category requires some careful judgment, since there are several flags with 5 or more colors. The criteria is 5 sizable bands or splotches of different colors. Should South Africa, with its 4 major color and two thin-lined colors, be in this category? Should South Sudan be out? It takes years of training to make those calls.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda

Central African Republic

Central African Republic

Comoros

Comoros

Seychelles

Seychelles

South Sudan

South Sudan

Flags With Stars
There are about 80 flags containing stars (not counting flags with a sun), so we’re limiting this list to a few specialties. There are about three-dozen flags in each of the categories of single stars and many stars. So here are more exclusive choices:

Flags with 2 Stars

Panama

Panama

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Sao Tome & Principe

Sao Tome & Principe

Syria

Syria

Flags with 3 Stars

Burundi

Burundi

Slovenia

Slovenia

Flags with a Circle of Stars
The non-nation EU flag snuck into this group.

Cape Verde

Cape Verde

European Union

European Union

Cook Islands

Cook Islands

Flags with a Sun
This doesn’t include simple circles; it has be be more pointy since we all know the sun is pointy. Marshall Islands is left out because some think that sun-like thing is something else (see below, near “Bomb”).

Antigua  and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda

Argentina

Argentina

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan

Kiribati

Kiribati

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan

Macedonia

Macedonia

Malawi

Malawi

Malaysia

Malaysia

Namibia

Namibia

Nauru

Nauru

Philippines

Philippines

Rwanda

Rwanda

Taiwan

Taiwan

Tibet

Tibet

Uruguay

Uruguay

Nepal

Nepal

Flags Featuring a Building
You may have to look closely to see San Marino’s three towers, or the seven castles in the Portugal flag. The Northern Mariana Islands flag contains a building’s building-block, namely the Latte Stone used as a pillar.

Afganistan

Afganistan

Cambodia

Cambodia

Gibraltar

Gibraltar

Ibiza

Ibiza

Mongolia

Mongolia

Norhern Mariana Islands

Norhern Mariana Islands

Portugal

Portugal

San Marino

San Marino

Flags With a Crescent Moon
The crescent moon, often with one or more stars, sometimes signifies something to do with the Ottoman empire (Turkey), Islam, or a few other things.

Algeria

Algeria

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan

Brunei

Brunei

Comoros

Comoros

Croatia

Croatia

Iran

Iran

Libya

Libya

Malaysia

Malaysia

Maldives

Maldives

Mauritania

Mauritania

Moldova

Moldova

Mongolia

Mongolia

Pakistan

Pakistan

Singapore

Singapore

Tunisia

Tunisia

Turkey

Turkey

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

Western Sahara

Western Sahara


Nepal

Nepal

Flags Featuring Something Animal-Like
… which may include dragons. In addition to several variations of birds (eagle, crane, dove, parrot, frigatebird, quetzal, bird of paradise, plover, golden bosun, condor), the flag animals include: cow, lion, lobster, turtle, sheep, seal, penguin, alpaca (using Bolivia’s state flag), aurochs (Moldova), leopard (heads), goat, pine marten (those last 3 in Croatia’s) and reindeer. Canada’s Yukon would add a dog, and Manitoba would add a bison to the list. Martinique uses the French flag but has a local flag with snakes.

Albania

Albania

American Samoa

American Samoa

Andorra

Andorra

Azores

Azores

Bermuda

Bermuda

Bhutan

Bhutan

Bolivia

Bolivia

Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

Christmas Island

Christmas Island

Croatia

Croatia

Dominica

Dominica

Ecuador

Ecuador

Egypt

Egypt

Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands

Fiji

Fiji

Guatemala

Guatemala

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan

Kiribati

Kiribati

Mexico

Mexico

Moldova

Moldova

Montenegro

Montenegro

Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea

Saint Helena

Saint Helena

Serbia

Serbia

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

Spain

Spain

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Tibet

Tibet

Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands

Uganda

Uganda

US Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands

Wales

Wales

Zambia

Zambia

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

New Caledonia has two official flags (a rarity); one is the French flag and the other is shown here. That black thing in the yellow (sun) circle makes me think of an ant, although it’s supposed to be some type of arrow.

New Caledonia

New Caledonia

Flags Featuring Humans
This category requires more than just leg parts, so the Isle of Man does not qualify.

Belize

Belize

British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

Montserrat

Montserrat

Flags Featuring Food
This selective category does not include flags that just include animals or trees; it loosely focuses more on hand-held foods. There are not a lot of candidates so flags from the non-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the unofficial Guadeloupe one (officially the France flag) are allowed, featuring paddy/rice stalks and sugar cane respectivley. But Fiji gobbles up the category, with a sugar cane, cocoa pod, coconut (and tree) and bananas. Go there to eat!

ASEAN

ASEAN

Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe

Fiji

Fiji

Flags containing a Bible
There are two such flags — which can make one pause when faced with the question, “Which is the only country in the world which sports a Bible on its national flag?” Those thinking it’s the Dominican Republic obviously don’t think Pitcairn Islands deserve to have a “national” flag. Containing descendents from the Mutiny on the Bounty episode, the island(s) hosts a population that sometimes exceeds 50.

Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic

Pitcairn Islands

Pitcairn Islands

Flags Containing Rugs
One country vacuums up the awards in this category, with 5 carpet designs (“guls“) on its flag.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan

Flags Featuring a Hat
… although I have to admit I thought it was some kind of iron-work until I read up on it. Of course, it’s a hat designed after a mountain.

Lesotho

Lesotho

Flags From Countries Starting with ‘Z’ That Loosely Share Notions About Flag Colors and Animals
And they share a border in Africa.

Zambia

Zambia

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

Flags With a Hint of Digital Computing
In addition to the Yin-Yang symbol in the middle, the South Korean flag contains four “trigams“, each having three lines that can be either unbroken or broken in half. These operate like binary numbers used in computers. 3 lines that can be either broken or unbroken (like 0 or 1 in computing) can make 8 combinations. For historical / philosophical reasons, the flag selects 4 of these combinations (1, 3, 6, and 8 in a 1-to-8 sequence) with various meanings.

South Korea

South Korea

Flags With Only One Color

This is a very short category because there are currently no countries with just one color. Libya had a solid green flag from 1977-2011, selected by Gaddafi. After his passing, the country reverted to the flag otherwise used since 1951. Don’t be surprised if more changes are in store for that flag in the near future.

Flags That Vaguely Resemble a Nuclear Bomb Strike
… with missile strike path and a nuclear-like cloud at the impact site (use your imagination!). And coincidentally that’s what happened in the 1940′s and 1950′s in parts of the Marshall Islands (especially the Bikini Atoll).

Marshall Islands

Marshall Islands

My Favorites
I like the colors and layout of Seychelles, the perpetually circling Isle of Man’s legs, and the informality of Kiribati (not to mention its playful name). How about yours? Leave a note with your vote. Spot what you think is a mistake? Won’t be surprised; let us know that too.

Kiribati

Kiribati

Isle of Man

Isle of Man

Seychelles

Seychelles

Among some useful references:
Flags of the World
Wikipedia, search for: flag of country-name
The CIA’s Flag Page (don’t worry, they’re already tracking you)

Note that because flags change over time and many countries have multiple versions (including unofficial ones that are commonly used), different sources may show different designs for the same country. (A few of those unofficial ones were used here, because they can be more interesting.)

*Luxembourg uses both 3:5 and 1:2 proportions

Time to look at some gripping data, statistics, and data presentation methods, along with a rare chance to use the word ‘oxygenated.’

I drive a 5-speed Honda Civic EX which I bought new in 2006. Not too long ago I looked down at the dashboard and saw the big 100k miles approaching. Somehow the following picture managed to show up in my cell phone, obviously taken by a professional driver on a closed off road. And not by a simple-minded commuter who happened to be in the middle of heavy freeway city traffic and going the indicated 60 mph at the time.

Don't try this at home. Because it's hard to get a car going 60 mph inside.

The odometer shows 99,999 miles, so I missed the 100,000 mile milestone by one, but there was only so much driving-by-knee in heavy traffic that I could do that day.

Mileage

But this post is not about odometer / speedometer pictures. It’s about something even more fascinating: gas mileage. (“Wow!”) I’ve been methodically collecting mileages and gas numbers at each fill-up over the last 7 years. (“Why??”) I managed to gather up all the numbers over that time, calculating and compiling mileage numbers tankful by tankful. Here’s a graph of the car mileage over that time. Click/tap on the picture for a larger (more fun!) version.

Miles per gallon (MPG) for each of 298 tankfuls over 7 years.
Vertical color bands are by season of the year.

A few comments on the graph:

  • The blue spiky line (with diamonds) is the mileage for each tank, varying between 28 and 40 mpg.
  • The orange line is the average mileage over time (total miles divided by total gallons). It slowly increased and settled to about 33.7 mpg.
  • The wavy green line is the average mileage over the last 10 tankfuls at each fill-up. That is, it represents the mileage of the most recent tank at a given fill-up date, and the 9 fill-ups before that.
  • The vertical color bars (green, yellow, orange, purple) show the season of the year (spring, summer, fall, winter)

One interesting part of the graph is the green line with the triangles, which gives a 10-tank running average of mileage. The tank was filled on a roughly weekly basis, so each point reveals the mileage over the previous 2 – 3 months. This line always peaks in late summer to early fall, and its recurring minimums occur each winter. I get around 8% to 10% difference between the high and low peaks.

Some other questions / insights one might have regarding the mileage graph:

  • Why does the overall mileage (orange line) slowly but consistently improve from about 32 mpg to 33.7? Does the car ‘break-in’ or get otherwise happier over time?
  • The worst of single tank mileages (blue points) almost all occur toward the winter, with an occasional bad one in the spring/summer.
  • The top half-dozen tankfuls all occur in summer, but there was one good one (>37 mpg) in January of 2013.
  • What causes the seasonal cycle — higher mileage in summer, lower in winter?

Weather Impact?

For that last point, on the seasonal variation: One cause of course might be temperature change having a direct impact. Obviously that follows the same pattern of high-in-summer, low-in-winter. There’s lots of data available for the curious on various historical weather effects, for example from this Weatherspark site.* The graph below is temperature data for my area over the same time period, 2006-2013.

Global warming / cooling is staying carefully concealed over this period.

Temperature data for Seattle (Boeing Field) for 2006 – 2013.

Incidentally and as a slight aside, this site also allows exploration of cloud cover statistics. Here’s how things looked (in the sky) for the same time period, 2006-2013 (that’s 0 to 100% on the vertical direction, for the shaded gray graph):

But it only rains at night

Cloud cover stats for Seattle, 2006 – 2013

So apparently there have been a few clear days here and there in the last 7 years. And not to depress the locals or anything, but here’s how the cloud cover numbers (or lack thereof) look for Los Angeles over the same time period:

Yes but it's only sunny during the day

Cloud cover stats for Los Angeles

Anyway it doesn’t look like cloud cover statistics is going to help account for the seasonal variation in gas mileage. Some other reasons are proposed at THIS SITE, and include the following:

  • Colder fuel doesn’t explode as easily (because it doesn’t atomize so well)
  • Oxygenated fuels, often applied in the winter months to improve air quality, reduce mileage by a few percent
  • Changes in driving style, which can be an indirect effect of the winter climate and planet orbit. More darkness and wet roads leads to slower speeds and more congestion, which reduce mileage. My commutes are frequently longer in winter for those reasons.

Data Presentation

Let’s use this data as an opportunity to explore how to bias or distort data to communicate a point you want to make. One good trick is the careful use of Y-axis manipulation, i.e. scaling the vertical axis to suit your purposes. Among the 298 fill-ups, I broke out the top 8 station brands** that I used (for 279 of the purchases), and then shifted the data so the mileage from each station could be compiled correctly (using the excel pivot table function).

This first chart shows the average mileage from each of the 8 stations. Note that the vertical axis starts at 0. The normal passerby would probably say that all of the stations give about the same mileage — it doesn’t really appear to matter much where you buy your gas.

All gas is created equal, but some is more equal than others

Mileage data by gas station brand. All the same, right?

But if you want to bias the audience toward or away from some station(s), how about changing the vertical axis (without changing any of the data). This time (next graph) just show the mileage numbers starting at 32.80 mpg. This is the exact same data as the previous chart, but now a quick glance from that average passerby will get a different reaction. It looks clear that Safeway gas is for losers, while Union 76 is the champion — why, maybe it’s 20% better than the others! But in fact, the Union 76 mileage in my data is less than a half-percent better than Shell, and only 4% better than Safeway.

But zoom in far enough on small differences, and they can look big.

Zoom in on average mileage per station, with vertical axis starting at 32.8 mpg.
All wildly different, right?

Another thing not revealed in these plots is how many purchases were made from each place. A small data set for something like mileage tends to vary more than a large collection, which would be more settled toward its average value (if there is one). The next chart changes the vertical axis again, to start at 32.0 this time, and also adds some color and thickness effects to try to show frequency of visits. But on the very likely chance that this doesn’t work, the labels on the bars makes it kind of obvious.

Similar graph with vertical axis now starts at 32 mpg. Also adds number of time each station brand was used.

Yet another vertical axis starting point. With ‘depth’ and color added to the columns in a lame attempt to indicate frequency of purchases.

This still can be misleading because, for example, perhaps all the Safeway fill-ups occurred during the winter when mileage is typically lower as discussed above. But a careful look through the numbers shows that 7 of the 9 Safeway visits occurred during the spring and summer. Which means that Safeway is actually biased somewhat more favorably than deserved in these graphs, and it still loses. (By a little. Or was it a lot?)

Gas Prices

Finally let’s see how gas prices have varied during the last 7 years. This next graph might lead one to the following creative conclusion: gas prices above $4.40 are a strong indicator of imminent economic collapse. Maybe there’s something to that. If you’re so inclined, you can look up gas prices at your location (US and Canada) during this century HERE.

Gas price paid over the years

Gas price paid over the years

Wrap-up on Fill-ups

Some summary numbers for my 298 fill-ups over this period:

  • Total gallons: 3119
  • Total gas cost: $9863
  • Average cost per gallon: $3.16
  • Total miles to this point: 105k

—————–
* That site allows for interactive modes, click on its ‘View in dashboard’ option
** FMeyer is Fred Meyer, a local-ish department store sometimes including gas stations.

Netflix on PS3

Netflix on PS3

While I work in technology fields and am surrounded by and use devices all day long, I was recently stumped by a seemingly simple problem: how to change users in Netflix? A relative had come over and changed our login to his account, and I wanted to change it back. We get Netflix to our TV through a PS3 system and its wireless connection to the internet.

This turned out to be a surprisingly hard problem. I may be slow, but I couldn’t find anywhere on the Netflix user interface for logging out.

Solution? My friend Google led to this very short video. The video runs a whopping 36 seconds, but the useful content only takes about half that time. And for some strange reason, the audio tends to play faster than the video on some systems and browsers: I checked on PC and Mac, Firefox and Chrome, and it had the audio running fast. But on my tablet it played normally. (So the useful audio may be over in 12 seconds if that’s playing fast.)

Anyway, the technique for getting to the logout screen, shown in the video, was odd enough that I thought the video might be a joke. But I tried it and it really works. Just scroll through the movie icons in this pattern: up – up – down – down – left – right – left – right – up – up – up – up. Would a sane person expect this to work? (This probably became public as part of the wikileaks revelations, and beware that a bell probably rings at NSA headquarters whenever anyone successfully completes the pattern.)

Minor usage note: On a PS3, this is more reliable if you use the ‘arrow’ keys rather than the joystick — the joystick can work but doesn’t always, perhaps because it senses some slight ‘angles’ which the interface uses as a straight scroll, but the pattern-recognizer rejects those to protect the super secret logout access.

Go ahead and invest / waste 36 seconds of your life on the video, and another minute going off and discovering that it actually works. Here’s how it looks for those who like numbered instructions. For some reason.

As simple as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12

The secret pattern revealed. After this, the account page magically appears. Really.

The End of Speech

No non-electronic talking allowed during the movieI don’t usually bother with product surveys, but occasionally I’ll give some free data in an effort to steer companies to continue doing things I like. A recent but ominous example comes from fandango.com, who has a promotion running where you can get a free ticket (2-for-1) on Friday nights when using a Visa Signature credit card.

Survey question #4 gave a jolting update on our state of existence in the electronic age. The question was simple enough — I thought it even contained its own answer in the question, like Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? But the potential answers opened my eyes to the new reality.

#4. How did you talk about the Visa Signature “+1 Movie Fridays” ticket offer?

Answer choices were …
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Blog Post
  • Phone/Text
  • Email
While one might learn or share about this offer in many ways, it seems obvious that the only choice on this list that could be used for talking is the ‘Phone/Text’ choice. Although, like all other choices, that requires an electronic gadget.
In my case, I actually talked about the promotion the ancient way: in person, with spoken words, and without the use of electronics. I am now painfully aware that I am obsolete, a relic perhaps, and I need to make sure I’m never separated from my phone or other internet-capable device if I hope to do any of that ‘talking’ stuff in the future.

Strategy tip: Since the offer is only good once every 30 days with a given Visa Signature credit card, you should get several cards and rack up thousands of dollars in debt on each in order to get a free $10 movie ticket each week.

Creative writing teachers take note — sometimes you just can’t make up this kind of fiction. While perusing the web for a place to stay for a couple nights in Venice, I came across a hotel review that was complete with mystery and intrigue. Two people describe the same episode, each spinning their own tale and both appear to be sincere attempts to describe what happened. There were clearly some language issues, an emotional meltdown, and expectation differences — that latter point indicating some good marketing work by the hotel. Well, good until you arrived, to the travellers.

Click/Tap HERE for the stories – the ‘Absolute Scam!’ review. And vote for your favorite version.

And if you’re a writing teacher, this would make a good creative writing assignments: Create a tale of an episode described from two opposing viewpoints, both of which are true to the respective parties.

Scam or friendly hosts? You decide.

With the Samsung Galaxy S4 phone coming out, Apple has countered by … coming out with their own new model? No. Instead, they issued an ad. This pitch attempts to re-convince the world that the existing Apple iPhone is what we really want. Intended message: please please please don’t run out and buy one of those Samsung Galaxy big phones with their ever increasing big share of the market.

(Please note that I am a long time Apple customer, and like them so much that I built my own Mac-Pro-like “Hackintosh” computer, which had the side effect of Apple making almost zero money on that computer. Oops.)

The ad provides “talking points” for you to use, both when talking to Galaxy phone owners, and when engaging in self-talk because you’re being tempted once again to buy a Galaxy for yourself. I will give some pointers on how the talking points are supposed to work. Click/tap HERE for the love-iPhone ad. And be prepared to fall in love all over again.

Feel the (iPhone) love

Apple is sensitive to the larger size of the Galaxy phones, as it seems to have taken them by surprise that everyone wants one. So among the ad features is the claim to the ‘Retina 4′ display. This can be used as follows:

Galaxy owner: “Wow, I just watched another movie on my phone’s theater-sized display. It was great!”
iPhone owner: “But does your phone have a Retina 4 display?”
Galaxy owner: “Huh?”
iPhone owner: “Ah-ha! I thought so! You didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as you could have!”
Galaxy owner: “What’s Retina 4?”
iPhone owner: “No idea, but who cares? My phone has it. Right here!”
Galaxy owner: “Where? Oh, you mean that little thing is a phone? How cute.”
iPhone owner: Urggh!

The ad also mentions other nice features like Siri, the female robot that lives in the phone, dines on quarks and electrons, listens to you talk, and then helps do things. For example, on a number of occasions I’ve told Siri to dial phone calls for me, and have talked to several different people that way (even though I was only trying to call one of them).

Anyway, I think Apple failed to highlight the important and poignant features that would remind current users to stick with iPhones and draw in new customers. I offer these free of charge.

Swype-free: As you may know, Swype is a method of using the keyboard to form words just by tracing your fingers through the desired letters, instead of pecking at each one. It’s one of those miraculous technologies that you know can’t work until you try it and see that it does.

That swype either spells 'quick' or 'qwertyuihgfcvbnjk'

Quickly swyping the word ‘quick’

iPhones don’t support Swype, like Android-based phones do, although you can get a Swype-like app on your iPhone that allows swyping. But only in that app. So you can make swype-words that you can’t do anything with in a practical way. When you want to send a text message, it’s back to keyboard pecking. This is surely clever, for reasons we haven’t quite worked out; but that’s to be expected because Apple is smarter than us. We all know that.

That swpye doesn't spell anything on the iPhone

I think I may have identified an angle Apple could exploit. Imagine (try!) that it could be possible to get cancer from using Swype too much (research has not ruled this out yet). If that were true, then anyone who stopped us from doing that and therefore stopped us from getting cancer would be doing us a big favor!! I think a sales slogan that would probably withstand most legal challenges, because it’s technically accurate(-ish), is along these lines:

Swype-prevention feature stops potential associated injuries,
including cancer and agonizing death.

In these Obamacare days people are surely worried about medical issues. Apple should capitalize on this, but just needs to be careful not to mention anything about frustrated Swype-wannabes who bang their head against the wall or throw their iPhone at the window when they realize they’re limited to keyboard pecking.

Out-of-this-world Camera: 

I don’t want to go into great detail here, but as I posted previously, my iPhone allowed me to capture a rare shot of our binary sun system. Really. (As far as I can tell.) Enough said on that.

Rounded corners:

Apple went to the trouble to sue and at least partially beat Samsung for violating some of their patents, which include their rounded corner case designs. For crying out loud, let’s not leave that one on the table — it needs some media coverage! One possibility is to use this to expand on the medical benefit angle:

The iPhone rounded-corners case design:
Specially engineered to prevent inadvertent lacerations
and accidental stabbings.

I don’t see how that can be anything but a big winner.

Sharp looking corners!

Apple Maps: This is clearly an underrated feature because, very literally, it takes you places you never imagined. That is something special that should be shouted from the rooftops, not hidden away like a dirty secret.

iPhone owner: “I had an amazing day today! I drove to Nevada. And then back through Montana.”
Other person: “Really? Where were you going?”
iPhone owner: “To the grocery store across town.”

I had my own fun with this one day, when I first went to use Apple Maps. I figured that the problems other users had been reporting were just obscure cases by a bunch of whiners that could never happen to me. [Cue spooky music here.]

Apple maps took me to a place that was almost where I wanted to go, and confidently announced I had arrived where there was no house anywhere in sight. My first thought was obvious: pull up Google Maps and get myself over to where I was supposed to go. But unfortunately this in was a remote location where the only service anyone’s phone could get was the GPS signals being used by Apple Maps to get us to our “destination.” We had to drive 10 miles back toward civilization to pick up service and find my way back to the real address.

Will the real 2nd Creek Rd please stand up

2nd Creek Rd mysteriously relocated

The many marketing possibilities just about leap from the page:

“Unanticipated Adventure!”
“Enhance your problem solving skills!”
“See the world – by surprise!!”
“Character growth through handling adversity!”

Wide screen, and then some:

When the big Galaxy phones first started cutting severely into Apple’s market share, the user community was eagerly waiting the response that the iPhone 5 would bring. Apple delivered a surprise, all right, when they increased the phone size by making it about one-third of an inch taller, and no wider. Wowza! This was such a clever engineering move because hardly anyone could tell that the screen had actually been made larger.

Apple has apparently stuck to a philosophy that people want a fairly skinny phone and are willing to have widescreen (when turned sideways) as long as it doesn’t lose that skinnyness.

This makes us fairly confident that the following prototype is what the iPhone 6 will look like. This model, which goes by the code name “iSwizzle,” was found left in a bar, where it apparently was also used to stir drinks. This aspect ratio indicates that Apple will be first to support upcoming very-very-widescreen movies — yet another game-changing move.

Perfect for panorama movies

Water Sensor:

A feature you might not be aware of in the iPhone is the moisture sensors in the phone. This one has surprising potential, yet so few are aware of it — but I’ve seen it unleashed. You bring in your non-working phone to the Apple store, and the technician feeds in a little scope to take a look at these concealed sensors inside the phone. If you accidentally did something like dropping your phone in the toilet, these sensors will remember it. And Apple may be suddenly very reluctant to help you out.

Well it’s all about how you spin it, and I think this one might work:

The Apple iPhone:
Finally, a smartphone smart enough
to know that it’s been in the toilet

Reach in and call 911

Recent evidence indicates that Earth may unexpectedly be orbiting a pair of stars, instead of just the one that most people call the ‘sun.’ And since we exist on this planet, there’s a reasonable chance that such orbits can yield habitable planets. The picture below was taken at the Charlotte, NC airport and appears to clearly show the two stars out on the morning horizon. This is an un-retouched photo — it’s just as it came out of the iPhone camera. (OK, the bottom part was cropped out.)

When will the textbooks start including our other sun?

Morning photo over downtown Charlotte, NC

Binary stars — with two suns orbiting each other — were first discovered (in public consciousness) in 1977 in the first Star Wars movie, as Luke Skywalker gazed out from the planet Tatooine at the two stars in his solar(s) system. Since then, scientists have discovered that binary stars are actually fairly common in the universe.

Luke and his two legitimate suns

Many stars are in binary (dual) or larger systems — perhaps one-third of star systems are binary (or more), meaning (do the math) about half of the stars are in these systems. But there is some controversy, that lots of little, harder to see stars are singles and thus binary stars are not quite as high a percentage. (Pretend to care about that for a moment … OK, done.) A visible-to-the-eye case is the second star in the handle of the Big Dipper, which has in the past been used as an eye test. It also turns out that the North Star is part of a triple star system (but two of them can’t be seen with the naked eye). Here’s how that works, using the Alaska flag for convenience.

Alaska flag with Big Dipper and North Star

Alaska flag with Big Dipper and North Star

There has been a fair amount of calculating going on, trying to figure out if a planet can orbit a binary star system in a stable, life-friendly way. A quick survey of the literature indicates that the definitive answer is: maybe yes, maybe no.

Some folks claim that if things are just right, like if two closely placed stars are about 80% as big as our sun (the one you read about, not the other one in the first picture above), then there could be some places where a planet could sneak in and orbit stably and comfortably for life to exist. There are, unfortunately, a lot of ways a planet in a binary system could try to orbit that would alternately freeze its local residents to death, followed a little later by cooking them to death, due to odd shaped or perturbed orbits (such as ones that eject the planet from the star system). Try this link for the hopeful story. Some other pictures here.

But another article studied this problem and, not to give things away or anything, they put the word ‘pulverized’ in their title, as in “Planets Pulverized in Double-Star Systems.” If you want to live there, at least housing should be affordable, and you should ignore any analysis of the planet’s orbit that includes the phrase, “Something chaotic is very likely going on.” Why worry about things you can’t affect?

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