How a software geek prepares for the holidays


I'm not really into traveling and eating with family at Thanksgiving, but what are the local restaurant alternatives? The list was a bit overwhelming, so I used SAS to help analyze my options...

My holiday meal fall-back has always been the Waffle House - they're open 24/7, 365 days a year, and I like their kind of food (what can I say - I'm a "cheap date"!) But what if I want a more traditional Thanksgiving dinner?

I did a few Web searches, and found some lists of restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving day and offering a special/traditional menu. But I didn't recognize the names of many of the restaurants, nor their street addresses, therefore I didn't know what part of town they were in (I'm downtown-averse, for example), or how far they might be from my house. I thought about plugging each address into Google to plot a map and get a driving time estimate ... but that seemed like a lot of manual work. So, to solve this challenge, I turned to SAS software ...

I entered all the addresses into a SAS dataset, ran them through Proc Geocode (to estimate their latitude/longitude), and then plotted all the restaurants as markers on a street map. I set up each marker with html hover-text so I could easily see the name of the restaurants, and I set up html href drilldowns for each marker to launch a Google search (which would give me easy access to each restaurant's Web page, and also online review sites, etc).

Here's a thumbnail of the map - click it to see the full-size interactive version:


Here are some of the cool technical details:

I’m not really plotting the markers on a traditional SAS map (Proc Gmap), but rather I’m plotting them against a background of several map images (slippy map tiles). Also, I wanted my markers to show up brighter, and the map to be more subdued, therefore I annotated an alpha-transparent white polygon on top of the map to dim it, and then plotted my markers on top of that. ODS HTML created the hotspots for each marker, and set up a html page with my hover-text and drilldown tags. And now that my code is set up, I could easily swap out the data and re-use the code to plot something else!

Any other programmer geeks out there who use software to help prepare for the holidays? Feel free to share your geekiness in a comment! :)


About Author

Robert Allison

The Graph Guy!

Robert has worked at SAS for over a quarter century, and his specialty is customizing graphs and maps - adding those little extra touches that help them answer your questions at a glance. His educational background is in Computer Science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from NC State University.

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  1. Jonathan Freitag on

    Very resourceful, Robert!

    On my last visit to the SAS Campus years ago, our group dined at the Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse (one of the restaurants highlighted on your map). If choosing a place for dinner, that would be my family's first choice.

    • Robert Allison
      Robert Allison on

      Thanks Jonathan! - I always put much more weight behind personal recommendations, than the online restaurant reviews!

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