Testing ai2html on a North Korean Defector

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: North Korea, Policy & Politics, South Korea

A few weeks ago I wrote about the daring defection — and eventual rescue — of a North Korean soldier who barreled across the Demilitarized Zone in a truck and then ran as fellow troops fired on him. The story centers on a dramatic video of the ordeal released by United Nations command.

The video, shot the afternoon of Nov. 13, shows the soldier speeding down a road toward the Joint Security Area, a border outpost that’s been the site of military skirmishes and diplomatic talks between the Koreas, still technically at war, and the U.S.

The soldier can be seen driving in a green military-style vehicle past a North Korean checkpoint before wheeling past a monument inside the area, where soldiers from both sides of the conflict are posted in relatively close proximity. The footage is a series of videos taken from different cameras at different angle.

The video fascinated me, but I found myself wanting someone to explain the sequences more clearly, so I started crafting a graphic in my free time to annotate the defector’s journey. I tried this using the ai2html tools created by The New York Times that are built into NPR’s dailygraphics rig. After a visit to the location with United States forces last week, I’m confident the graphic is accurate. I’m less confident, unfortunately, in its storytelling, design or technical merit.

Oh, well. Your first try with a new tool is never perfect — especially when this work is just a hobby.

Try it on desktop, tablet and mobile — and let me know if you have thoughts.

Dramatic Coastline Changes Around Korea’s Main Airport

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea

Note: My family last year relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is the first in an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.

When we travel to and from South Korea, we first always check if Expedia will give us a rebate then we take off! We’re often forced to trek out to Incheon International Airport (this country’s Dulles). The massive airport, located on an island about an hour west of Seoul, opened in 2001 and is now one of the largest and busiest in the world.

I had no idea, until today, how dramatically the shoreline around the airport has changed in the last three decades. Previously separated islands along the Yellow Sea coast were joined together as reclaimed land. The airport is now connected to the metropolis by the Incheon Grand Bridge, which opened in 2009.

For context, here’s a current Google Map showing the region:


Now check out how much the land area has changed and the urban growth has expanded, as depicted by these Landsat images acquired in 1981 and again in 2013. The Landsat archive contains 40 years of data, allowing users to see changes (like those in my former home, Washington, D.C.) to the Earth’s landscape. Check it out.

Here’s a before/after view of the airport:





Monitoring D.C.’s Growth With Landsat

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Landsat system, a group of satellites that offer scientists a continuous view of the earth.

“The data from the satellites provide a permanent, objective record of land conditions and are routinely used to measure and monitor changes brought on by natural or anthropological events and actions,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which operates the system in partnership with NASA.

Here’s an example. Four decades ago, the system took this color infrared image of the Washington, D.C., area. “The red tones represent forests and large grassy areas. The light tones indicate cleared fields and the highly reflective impervious areas of urban development,” according to USGS:

Landsat also captured this image earlier in 2012. “A comparison of the two images illustrates the significant growth in the greater D.C. area,” the agency said:

More about the Landsat system here:

Real-Time UARS Tracking

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Uncategorized

As you may have noticed, a large NASA satellite is expected to crash into the earth sometime this week, but fortunately not in DC, according to the Post’s Joel Achenbach: 

This just in: Washington will be spared when the NASA satellite UARS crashes to Earth. So will Manhattan. Indeed, the entire East Coast of the U.S. looks safe as I examine the projected crash map.

This isn’t class warfare, it’s just physics.

You can watch the 20-year-old satellite, which right now is moving (at about 4.7 miles per second) over the South Pacific, with this service