# 12 Days of ChaRt-mas

As everyone has already checked out for the rest of the year, I’m going to mess around with R to the tune of *The Twelve Days of Christmas* and maybe throw down a few tips. You’re welcome.

##
On the First Day

♪ A Bar Chart that Looks Like a Tree ♪

Get it? Instead of a partridge in a pear tree, I said a bar chart that looks like a tree.

Oh whatever. It’s hilarious. Here’s the R code you grinch:

par(bg="#333333") xleft <- seq(5, 45, 5) xright <- seq(95, 55, -5) ybottom <- xleft ytop <- ybottom + 5 plot(0, 0, xlim=c(0, 100), ylim=c(0,60), type="n", asp=2, axes=FALSE, xlab="", ylab="") rect(xleft, ybottom, xright, ytop, col="#0fb500", border="#333333") points(50, 55, pch=8, cex=5, col="yellow") rect(45, 0, 55, 5, col="brown", border="#333333")

##
On the Second Day

♪ 2 Stupid Bugs ♪

- On more than one occasion I’ve edited a file that defines a function and then gone back to a script that runs said function, only to discover nothing changed. I go crazy for a little while trying to figure out
*wtf*. Then I remember I have to`source()`

again. Oh. - I often shift between R and JavaScript. I often accidentally write JavaScript in R and R in JavaScript, only realizing it when I get an error. I’m smooth.

##
On the Third Day

♪ 3 Charts Originally Drawn with a Pen ♪

Statistician John Tukey is a legend. Look him up if you haven’t heard of him. In his 1977 book *Exploratory Data Analysis*, he describes how to use pens and pencils to draw visual variation. The charts in the book are also hand-drawn. John, these charts are for you.

First, here’s some random data:

x <- rnorm(100, mean=10, sd=10) y <- rnorm(100, mean=10, sd=10)

The stem-and-leaf, my friends:

The decimal point is 1 digit(s) to the right of the | -1 | 2211 -0 | 9987766 -0 | 43333321100 0 | 0112223444 0 | 5566677778888889 1 | 00011122223334444444 1 | 5666677788999 2 | 00001111223 2 | 6666778 3 | 2

stem(x)

The box and whisker diagram:

boxplot(x, horizontal = TRUE)

The dot plot with x’s because they’re easier to draw by hand than a bunch of circles:

plot(x, y, pch=4, asp=1)

##
On the Fourth Day

♪ 4 Places to Add More Words ♪

Charts need context, and words are a good way to add context.

- Label your axes.
- Use a descriptive title.
- Annotate or highlight important data points.
- Say where you got the data.

Related: Annotating Charts in R.

##
On the Fifth Day

♪ 5 Golden Rings ♪

par(bg="#333333") plot(0, 0, xlim=c(0, 120), ylim=c(0,10), type="n", asp=1, axes=FALSE, xlab="", ylab="") x <- seq(20, 100, 20) y <- rep(5.5, length(x)) symbols(x, y, circles = rep(8, length(x)), inches=FALSE, add=TRUE, fg="gold", lwd=5)

It’s days like these I’m glad that R includes a bunch of `colors()`

written out instead of in hexadecimal. But how do I choose between gold, gold1, gold2, gold3, and gold4? Decisions, decisions.

##
On the Sixth Day

♪ 6 Minutes of Praying this Script Finishes ♪

I am the king of slow R scripts. Sometimes I like to play a game called “Let’s see if I can write and run a Python script that does what this slow R script is supposed to do before the R script finishes.”

##
On the Seventh Day

♪ 7 Squares a-Switching ♪

Thanks, animation package for letting me stay out of the terminal.

library(animation) nframes <- 14 saveGIF({ for (i in 1:nframes) { par(bg="#333333") plot(0, 0, xlim=c(0, 160), ylim=c(0,10), type="n", asp=1, axes=FALSE, xlab="", ylab="") x <- seq(20, 140, 20) y <- rep(5.5, length(x)) col <- rep("#000000", length(x)) if (i <= 7) { col[i] <- "#ffffff" } else { col[15-i] <- "#ffffff" } symbols(x, y, squares = rep(16, length(x)), inches=FALSE, add=TRUE, bg=col, fg="#ffffff", lwd=1) } }, movie.name = "a-swimming.gif", interval=0.1, ani.width=720, ani.height=350)

##
On the Eighth Day

♪ 8 Reasons for Kicking…Myself ♪

- There are a lot of R packages that help you visualize data in many different ways. So I usually search before I implement. Sometimes I forget and waste way too much time. Always search for previous work.
- Why isn’t this working? Why isn’t this working? Why isn’t this working? Oh. I should’ve read the documentation more carefully the first time around.
- When I didn’t set
`stringsAsFactors`

to FALSE. - When I thought I could work after eating that big burrito and chips for lunch.
- When I prioritized quantity over quality. Kind of like with this list. Good thing no one is reading this.
- Forgetting to include a description of chart encodings, because somehow everyone will magically be able to read a non-standard chart.
- When I spend too much time thinking about the “right” way to do something when I should really just start the project.
- Saying yes to that talk four months out, because that’s plenty of time to prepare.

##
On the Ninth Day

♪ 9 Dots Dancing ♪

library(animation) nframes <- 20 theta <- 2 * pi / (9) pal <- colorRampPalette(c("#000000", "yellow")) col <- pal(9) saveGIF({ for (i in 1:nframes) { par(bg="#333333") plot(0, 0, xlim=c(0, 120), ylim=c(0,120), type="n", asp=1, axes=FALSE, xlab="", ylab="") x <- 50 * cos((1:9+i/nframes*5) * theta) + 60 y <- 50 * sin((1:9+i/nframes*5) * theta) + 60 symbols(x, y, circles = rep(6, length(x)), inches=FALSE, add=TRUE, bg=col, fg="#ffffff", lwd=1) } }, movie.name = "dots-swimming.gif", interval=0.1, ani.width=720, ani.height=720)

##
On the Tenth Day

♪ 10 Places of a-Learning ♪

There are resources aplenty for learning R these days.

- The Art of R Programming (book)
- R Cookbook (book)
- R Graphics (book)
- R Twotorials (short videos)
- R for Beginners (pdf)
- #rstats on Twitter
- End any chart type web search with “in R”.
- R documentation. Learn to read it, and you will become master.
- Lots of R resources.
- FlowingData Membership. Duh.

##
On the Eleventh Day

♪ 11 Things a-Wishing ♪

- “Why would you do it like that?” is not a good way to answer a question on StackOverflow. I wish people would remember that everyone is a beginner at some point.
- I wish R docs for chart- and map-related things could include pictures.
- I wish everyone understood histograms.
- I wish visualization “thought leaders” would make more and talk less.
- I wish everyone could see all the colors.
- I wish I could properly pronounce “statistician” every time I said it.
- I wish I could understand data better by drinking more beer. Then I could say “for science” as I held up my pint glass.
- I wish I could type faster.
- I wish I could read faster.
- I wish I could live slower.
- I wish R was named something less ambiguous like “SuperDuperData” so that I could more easily find what I’m looking for.

##
On the Twelfth Day

♪ 12 Drummers Drumming ♪

First the function to draw the drum:

drawDrum <- function() { rect(10, 5, 90, 50, col="#cccccc") rect(8, 0, 92, 5, col="#0fb500") rect(8, 50, 92, 55, col="#0fb500") x1 <- seq(23, 80, by=18) y1 <- rep(7, length(x1)) x2 <- x1 y2 <- rep(48, length(x1)) segments(x1, y1, x2, y2) }

Then animate that drumstick action:

saveGIF({ par(mfrow=c(2,6), bg="#333333", mar=c(2,2,2,2), oma=c(0,3,0,3)) for (i in 1:12) { plot(0, 0, xlim=c(0, 100), ylim=c(0,100), type="n", asp=1, axes=FALSE, xlab="", ylab="") drawDrum() lines(c(0, 50), c(80, 58), lwd=4, col="red") lines(c(50, 100), c(80, 80), lwd=4, col="red") } par(mfrow=c(2,6), bg="#333333", mar=c(2,2,2,2), oma=c(0,3,0,3)) for (i in 1:12) { plot(0, 0, xlim=c(0, 100), ylim=c(0,100), type="n", asp=1, axes=FALSE, xlab="", ylab="") drawDrum() lines(c(0, 50), c(80, 80), lwd=4, col="red") lines(c(50, 100), c(58, 80), lwd=4, col="red") } }, movie.name = "drumming.gif", interval=0.3, ani.width=720, ani.height=420)

Sorry, Pixar, I’m not available for your next film.

Happy holidays! I hope the rest of your year is filled with family, friends, and good food.

**Become a member.** Support an independent site. Make great charts.