My last post has been a while since I have been in San Jose, Oakland, San Diego and Fort Totten this month. That is just the beginning of what our Chief Marketing Officer has referred to as the 7 Generation Games World Tour.
Perhaps this would be better suited on our 7 Generation Games blog but I started writing it here so damn it, I’m finishing it here!
In addition to work for The Julia Group, like the site visit I just finished in North Dakota, I’ve been working feverishly on starting up the next phase of game development.
We received a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department Agriculture Small Business Innovation Research competition for rural development. As you can see from the photo above, the areas where we are working are pretty darn rural. The photo below is the view across the street from the office in Fort Totten. The dirt you see there is the parking lot. They’ve been promising me for the last three years that it’s going to get paved. With the new, proactive tribal council, this time it looks like it might really happen.
Two things related to this I’m particularly excited about because they pull together both work for The Julia Group and 7 Generation Games ….
The very first Annual Tribal Disability Conference will be held on the Turtle Mountain Reservation on October 3rd with Dr. Longie and I as the keynote speakers. We’re giving a talk with the title, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re disabled”, discussing the great optimism people had twenty years ago about the Internet breaking down barriers and how this hasn’t completely panned out. There will be several speakers talking about their personal experiences with disability – my friend and colleague, Willie Davis, who had a spinal cord injury right before his freshman year of college, an individual with a traumatic brain injury - and lots of other people that promise to be really interesting.
Western Users of SAS Software conference in November, I will be giving a one hour workshop on Exploring Your Data with SAS Enterprise Guide. We’ll be using the data from our pilot study as an example so this will be the first actual publication of our data. Yes, we did a final report to USDA but that doesn’t really get as much visibility as the WUSS conference and proceedings.
Today, someone asked me,
“Is it really true that guy you see on the Internet with all of the question marks on him, that it’s possible to get a government grant for anything?”
In a word, no. People come to me all of the time with ideas that not even your own mother would fund. They want to pay for a preschool program for upper-middle-class families or to start an ice cream shop in Santa Monica or start a ferret preserve. Okay, well no one asked me to help them write a grant for a ferret preserve, but the other two really did happen.
Here are what you really need for a successful grant proposal:
- Need. Whatever there is has to be lacking and it’s lack must affect the public good in some way. Whether or not children from privileged families benefit from preschool is open to debate (although the advantages for low-income children are well-established). While ice cream is very yummy, I’m not sure the city would fall into the sea without it.
- Program. Say you do document a need – unemployment is bad, therefore you should give me money for an ice cream shop so I can hire people. Even with half the equation, you have to convince grant reviewers that your program is a better way to meet that need than funding a training center so that people can learn computer skills and qualify for a better job than scooping ice cream. There will be lots of proposals to reduce unemployment and you need to provide numbers and studies to back up that yours will probably have a better outcome than the rest.
Here is a secret that novice grant-writers often miss : Start early. Start months before the request for proposals is published.
How does that make sense? How can you respond to a request before it is published? First of all, government agencies tend to have the same schedule year after year. If they released an RFP for small business innovation research grants in December of last year and for vocational rehabilitation for American Indian reservations in March, they will probably release very similar RFPs at about the same time this year. So, around January, you get last year’s RFP and you start preparing for the one to be announced in March. If it says you need letters of commitment from school districts, you go around and start talking to the superintendents of schools in your area. If you need resumes from all the staff members who will be involved, email them and tell them to all update their resumes. You’re going to need a literature review. Start reading those books and articles now.
I used to be proud of myself as on top of things because I would watch the Federal Register and know as soon as a request for proposals was released. I would pride myself on the fact that no one could possibly have been working on this one minute longer than me. (I was very young.) I’d also be confused as to how anyone could get all of this done in the four weeks or so allowed from when the RFP was released to the due date.
This all came back to me today when I was surprised to get an RFP. I was surprised because we have been working on this proposal for two months. Of the five sections, two are almost final. I sent both out for review, got the review back from one person and made the changes. A second section has been revised twice and I should be finished with it next week. The other three sections – literature review, program plan and budget – I have drafts written. So, when I got the email in my inbox today, I briefly wondered, “What’s this?” and then realized, oh, yes, it was officially released today – and I’m more than half done.
The second secret to grant-writing is so obvious but it is unbelievable how many people miss this: Follow the instructions. All of them.
When I received the RFP today, I read it. All 52 pages of instructions. By the time I submit the proposal, I’ll know those instructions better than God knows the Bible. That wasn’t too bad because the last one I wrote had 83 pages of instructions. The instructions were very similar to last year, but not identical, so I needed to make some changes in my proposal. Some years, for some proposals, they are quite different. For example, the page length went from 25 to 15 pages. In that case, since I already had a draft done, I had to cut everything by more than half. If it says the grant should be 12-point font, 1 inch margins, then it has to be or they will reject it. If they say you need a bibliography, cite scientific literature, review how this relates to your own prior research – whatever it is, do it! You’d truly be amazed the number of grants I’ve reviewed that were obviously written for a different competition.
Follow these two suggestions and it really will help you win more grant money.
I’m not really swearing in the title of this post because I am not so much angry as sad. I have been reviewing grant proposals recently. Generally, I hate reviewing proposals because the pay is minimal relative to the time you put in, there are usually a lot to be read in a short time, and it adds up to a couple thousand pages. I do it anyway, kind of like having to be the Brownie Troop Leader at least once if you have four daughters. If you write a lot of grants, it’s kind of obligatory to review them.
So … I am reading this grant and it is all about a wonderful program to teach students science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). There are going to be all sorts of resources, they are going to offer these amazing courses, it is based on the latest educational research, students will be doing cutting edge science. I am getting all excited and proud of my country just reading it. What a great program! What terrific curriculum! What fabulous technology.
and then, I realize ….
This isn’t a new program.
This is a renewal application.
I have BEEN to this program.
And it is nothing like that.
The sites each have maybe one relatively new computer that works. If they have any other computers at all, they are ancient. The staff turns over every six months or so. Every time I go there it is new people. Very little of the training stated in the proposal occurs.
I was a speaker at one of the training sessions they did have, many years ago. One of the staff members fell asleep. Afterwards, one of the other employees said to me,
“Your training was interesting. It’s not you. She’s just on drugs. She falls asleep at work all of the time.”
The students who are supposedly learning programming and taking courses in advanced science and mathematics are, on the average, reading and doing mathematics two to four years below their grade level. Not only are they not taking the courses described in the proposal, I didn’t even know they were supposed to be learning anything like that until I read the proposal.
Basically, the students get help with their homework sometimes and do some social activities. That is not terrible, but it is NOTHING like what was described. So much so that I did not even realize it was the same program at first. I thought it was just another program with the same name.
So …. did I say something in the review panel? No, because the proposal was pulled from our panel due to a conflict of interest – one of the other reviewers had been an employee or consultant of theirs – so it went to some other group who will review this fictitious program and probably give it funding. I would have – if it really existed.
As I said, I’m not angry so much as disappointed.
Someone sent me a video on self-defense a while back showing the various ways people respond when threatened. It noted that we automatically think of ‘weapon-like’ objects for self-defense. We may not actually have a knife or club but we grab a letter-opener, baseball bat or broomstick. The sender noted that other objects can be equally effective – whacking someone on the head with your laptop could make a substantial impact – although probably not good if data conservation is high on your priority list. My favorite video seemed to be a villager in eastern Europe with his small child. When threatened by an intruder, the father picked up a goat (yes, a goat), swung it by its feet and beat off the intruder.
I am really not interested in whether or not this is an urban legend, the aerodynamics or physics of impact of goat horns to the head going at a given velocity, nor am I advocating goats as the new weapon of choice, so if you want to comment on any of those things or you are a member of PETA, don’t contact me.
My point is that we often limit ourselves to familiar ways of solving a problem when better ones are available. A prime example of this is people who all took the same classes on database design and learned about the infamous star schema, and the importance of having whole bunches of tables to expedite the speed of access. They don’t seem to have gotten the memo that their education is only relevant if one of the following is true:
- You work for Amazon, the Social Security Administration, Google or other site that handles hundreds of millions of records.
- You are living in the previous century.
- You live in the country where technology is approximately equivalent to that of the family in the goat-swinging video.
If none of the above are true, you are wasting everyone’s time and are an annoyance to me personally. One of the reasons that we did all of this with the tables and the look-up and the binders saying what was where is because it saved us oodles of computer time, at one point – that point was back in the 1990s, which in technology time is about equivalent to back when our ancestors where dancing with Australopithecus if you happen not to believe in evolution (which I am guessing by looking at your code).
For the umpteenth (def: umpteen – a number that comes before umpteen and one) time, I am working with a database that has about twenty different tables and around 50,000 records. There is not one unique id that fits all of these tables. This is the standard sort of thing where you have a customer id, product id, sales id and you merge them altogether, do table look-ups and so on to get, for example, the total purchases and dollar value of a given customer. Do you know what I did? I merged all twenty tables together to be one SAS dataset. The whole thing took about 85 MB, which can fit on even the cheapest flash drive. Rather than having to document what is in each of the twenty tables and where to look, I can just do a proc contents. I don’t have to spend any time worrying about which table or query has the data I need. It is all in one spot. This dataset with the 50,000 records and less than a hundred variables is not the dumbest example of this sort of thing I have seen. More often than I care to recount I have seen this key table + student records table + student profile table etc. ad nauseum sort of design for datasets with 500 people or less.
Okay, there are some REALLY good programmers I know who are self-taught. However, there are also some people who learned one thing, read a book on Access, took a six-month course, whatever and for the rest of their lives pound every problem into the same round hole whether it makes any sense or not.
Listen, if you are managing the data for a small project or company, think about doing it with SAS. Just enter the damn data into one file. You can do your reports, graphs, statistics – and documentation is easy because it is all in one spot. You could also use SPSS. It even comes with a data entry tool (costs extra over the base package).
Many, many years ago I remember doing data entry screens in SAS, if you need that sort of thing. It was either with FSP or SAS AF, both of which have kind of faded in my memory due to disuse, just like that course I took in college on Medieval Economic History to fill some graduation requirement. Really, if you only have a few hundred records to enter, it’s probably not even worth it. Just open a SAS or SPSS dataset, create some variables and enter the @#% data. The multiple tables with key fields solution is equivalent to bringing in sword-wielding mummies back from the dead to defend your family when you could have accomplished the same task just by swinging a goat.
The NIH stimulus grants were supposed to be announced in August. Many people I know have already been turned down, no surprise since there were 10,000 applications for 200 grants. I checked on grants.gov last night and our proposal has been assigned a panel with a review date of 10/2009 which is very weird since I thought the grants were to be announced in August. I am just happy we are still in the running. We may have been shifted over to some other competition. I know some of the institutes had extra funding for Comparative Effectiveness Research (which ours was not) and other specific interests of the particular institute. This was the most interesting, exciting research I had proposed in a long time. For now, I am not committing to any new projects just in case we get funded. In any event, it was a ton of fun writing it, and how often can you say that about a grant proposal?
Bouncing back and forth between SAS, SAS EG, SPSS and a very tiny bit of Stata. Things I am learning that I like and don’t like
SPSS doesn’t do Cochrane-Armitage test for trend analysis – I mean, of course you can program it, but it is not an option, where in SAS it is incredibly simple
Proc freq data = datasetname ;
table variable1*variable2 / trend norow nocol nopercent scores=table;
I swiped this code out of a short and sweet paper from PharmaSug
SAS Enterprise Guide is good for data analysis and graphs but anything that uses functions, merges files, sorts files it is a little clunkier. While it may work fine for lots of people – the Excel and Access users of the world, of which there are approximately ten jillion – I do think some things still require code or are easier with it. Recoding lots of variable using arrays, use of functions like the input function and many more are much easier just writing SAS code.
Enterprise Guide does have some benefits to recommend it, though, in addition to the graphics, the much easier ways of doing summary tables (yes, I can type out proc tabulate code no problem but that is not 99.9% of the general public). I like how it is much easier to change data attributes from characteric to numeric and vice-versa. SPSS has had that for a long time. It used to be a bit of a pain in SAS and with EG there is nothing to it.
In short, though, computers are wonderful. I wrote a SAS program to pull all the paid-up users out of our database and am sending them all an email on how to renew their license with the setinit attached. I wrote a second program to pull out all those who haven’t paid and email them a reminder. Since my computer did all the work, I am going to reward myself for a job well done by heading over to the library and reading through the new Stata manuals to see if there is anything interesting on survival analysis. After that, I think I will see what is in these new SPSS modules that I received a month or so ago and still have not had time to examine – complex samples, exact tests and other goodies.
What more could a person ask out of life ? (Well, except for getting that grant funded.)
“Is there anything you can do to help? I’d kill you but there is a law against it. You’d better leave before I figure out a way around that.”
This comment was made by a co-worker of mine who had saved all of the data for his thesis for a masters in computer science on his hard drive. Someone who needed assistance had stopped in his office, popped in a floppy disk and accidentally formatted the hard drive instead of the floppy. I tell this story just to point out that people screwing with your data is a phenomenon that dates back to at least floppy disks, which, if you ask my children, is equivalent to prehistoric.
Why You Need to Look at Your Data Seven Different Ways before you do ANY Statistical Analyses.
- The data were entered by clerks making minimum wage who hate that they are doing a job that, were it not for animal cruelty laws would be done by a half-trained monkey.
- The data were entered by really bright undergraduates at a prestigious university who smoked something really good before coming in to work. (Are they still called joints? Email me if you know the answer.)
- After you taught all day, graded papers, read the RFP for your next grant, you entered all the data yourself – and finished both data entry and your third martini at 2 a.m.
So… you have your data entered into SAS Enterprise Guide. Congratulations. The very first thing you should do is from the Tasks menu, select Describe and then, select the List Data option. If you have a small dataset, you may want to list the whole thing. Otherwise, click on the Options tab. In the window to the right in the drop-down box under Rows to list select ‘Every nth row’, giving a value for n, say 10. This is what statisticians refer to as a systematic random sample and what other people, who do not invite us to their parties, refer to as every tenth row.
The output is very plain vanilla, as you can see. You could make it prettier, but why? I do like the fact that SAS EG lets me output it as an html file so it can be uploaded easily and read by anyone. Because I do a lot of work as a telecommuter, this makes my life easier. Unlike most of what makes my life easier – the housekeeper, the detail car wash guy, Safari Books – the html output feature doesn’t charge me. So, props to it.
Go here for more step-by-step on how to use List Data. This is my personal university web page.
(I can link from here to there but not vice versa because some people are concerned about a rumor that this blog is written without supervision by the university attorneys, or in fact, by a responsible adult of any profession. This rumor is true.)
Next awesome innovation, go to Tasks again, then Describe then Characterize Data. This task reminds me of the first grader who wrote in his book report, “This book taught me more about penguins than I wanted to know.”
The characterize data task may tell you more about your data than you want to know if you just go with the default options, so I wouldn’t. I’d recommend unchecking the boxes next to Graphs and also the one next to SAS Datasets that produce the datasets containing Univariate statistics and frequencies. You may need those datasets or charts for every variable, but usually you don’t. It just slows down your job and produces a bunch of output you aren’t going to look at, especially if you have dozens or hundreds of variables. You may want to look at graphs for some selected variables later.
By default, the characterize data task will give you frequency distributions for categorical variables with 30 or fewer categories, and, for other categorical variables, the frequencies of the 30 most common categories. You can change the default from 30, if you would like. It will also produce descriptive statistics for all numeric variables, as well as the number missing values. Again, you can make your output prettier than my output shown here, with titles, footnotes and probably embedded images of bells and whistles, but since the purpose of this page is to check for out of range values, outliers, etc., why bother, unless you are really, really bored.
In some cases, it may be of interest to see if you have a normal distribution because you really do expect one. In this case, go to Tasks again, select Describe then Distribution Analysis. If you select Normal under Distributions, you can enter the hypothesized mean (except it isn’t hypothesized at all since you just saw it in the previous task) and standard deviation, too, if you so desire. Click on Plots and then select Histogram to see a histogram of your data with a normal curve super-imposed.
You can also use the Titles options to enter titles and footnotes, since one should never miss the opportunity to suck up to the funding agency. If for you want to change the output for some reason, say, you have a purple fixation, you can go to the Tools menu and select Options. Click Results, then HTML. You can select a different style for your output, then re-run the distribution analysis.
There. Purple. Are you happy now?
Actually, I am happy. The data look pretty good. Everything is pretty much in range, as shown in the descriptive statistics, not much missing data, the values and distributions on all the categorical variables are reasonable, the dependent variable is approximately normally distributed, so we are good to go on parametric models.
Reality check passed. For the data, that is. As far as those smoking, martini-drinking minimum-wage earning data entry people, the jury is still out.
FINALLY got a few minutes to download the latest version. For some reason the download I received was for the planned installation as opposed to the basic installation.
In 25 words or less, basic installation is for stand-alone installs on a single machine, which we have hundreds of users doing. The planned installation would be used if you had a meta-data repository, SAS on a server distributed to client machines or some other configuration which we did not have.
So, I have logged in as SAS administrator, downloaded the download manager, applied the order number and key, created a software depot and — nothing.
After slogging through several documents, I realized that we had been sent the wrong thing. Either that, or one of the right things telling us how to use this for a non-planned installation, had been omitted. Got through right away to the lovely Angie McKinley from SAS who sent me a link how to skip the planning part and voila ! My deployment deploys and I now have SAS 9.2 v2 and Enterprise Guide 4.2 on a computer running Windows XP.
By the way, since I am taking this incredibly stupid required course on Workplace Harassment Prevention let me just specify that I do not actually know what Angie McKinley looks like and the lovely is referring to her helpfulness and is not in any way a reflection of ageist/sexist/gender-specificist/racist/lookist stereotypical intent. Come on, I am Hispanic, female and over 40. I believe as a group we are mostly accused of harassing our children for not calling often enough. (“Yes, I know you are covering the World Cup. So, what, they don’t have phones in South Africa?“)
SAS 9.2, which I am testing in between clicking on the stupid harassment training, is so far working well. Opened up an xslx file no problem. Tried Enterprise Guide 4.2 and
Hey wait a minute …. something looks different here…
First of all, there is no longer a DATA menu. Instead, under tasks, there is a FILTER and Sort. There is also a QUERY BUILDER which is where you now create new variables a.k.a. computed columns. Okay, so having just completed the docs on Enterprise Guide on my personal pages, I will need to go recreate them. This does not motivate me to do my little happy dance.
Other than having to redo a few pages I just finished, though, I cannot complain about EG 4.2, personally. With the FILTER & SORT and Query Builder, it looks more Access-ish.
So, what have we got here… a combination of SAS, SQL, Access, Excel and something that looks like the new ODS Graphics. SPSS users will find it WAY easier to move to Enterprise Guide than they would to SAS. Kind of like Esperanto, it has bits of everything to make it a little familiar to anyone who has experience with just about any fringe of data management and statistical software package. Except, unlike Esperanto, I think it will catch on. (You see, I used the Esperanto reference here rather than some breeding analogy so that no one could feel harassed. Except for maybe celibate people who speak Esperanto, but AFAIK they are not a protected class.)
Yes, I am the F-word – a feminist. I was at a faculty meeting this weekend and one of the presenters began by saying, pointing to a colleague in the audience,
“I am sure Dr. Y knows more about this than me.”
Several times in her presentation on analysis of assessment data she would pause and make comments such as,
“Well, I am not very good at statistics, but this is pretty easy to understand.”
I was a bit annoyed at her self-deprecating manner. I wanted to walk up to her and say,
“You understand this perfectly well and I know Dr. Y, who is very smart and competent, but no more so than you.”
Even more annoying was another presenter, also a woman, also very competent, who gave a very good presentation on assessment. Near the end of it, she said,
“You don’t have to use numbers. For those of you who don’t do math, you can put your students in categories as having exceeded criterion, met criterion or failed. You can just put it in bullet points.”
For those of you who don’t do math …. ????
What the hell? This is a university faculty meeting; 99% of the people in the room have graduate degrees and at least three-fourths of them have Ph.D.’s.
Since when has it become acceptable to not be competent, particularly in math??? Would that same presenter have started a sentence with,
“For those of you who can’t read, I have recorded this presentation as a podcast?”
There may be some people who can’t read because they are visually impaired or have a learning disability, but we consider this a disability, not a lifestyle choice.
This particular department is overwhelmingly female, and I could not help but wonder if the same sort of statements would be made in a predominantly male department? In my admittedly non-random and non-representative experience, the answer is, “No.”
So, first of all, for all of you women (and men), who say you aren’t good at math – cut it out! That’s a lot of nonsense that some people are naturally good at math and some aren’t. It’s a lot like swimming. You aren’t born knowing how to swim and, yes, very few people will become Olympic swimmers, but the vast majority of people can learn to dive in a pool and swim a few laps. It just takes time and effort to practice.
Let’s start with the phi coefficient. I blatantly stole this table from the Children’s Mercy Hospital website because I thought it was very well-explained and easy to understand – until I realized that it wasn’t and I only understood it because I already knew exactly how to calculate a phi coefficient. However, not one to let any act of larceny go to waste, I used it anyway.
The formula for Phi is
Notice that Phi compares the product of the diagonal cells (a*d) to the product of the off-diagonal cells (b*c). The denominator is an adjustment that ensures that Phi is always between -1 and +1.
Let me explain this a little better. We have two categorical variables, gender – coded 1 =female, 2= male, and “Did you eat today?” – coded 0 = no , 1 = yes
In our table below, you can see that there is zero correlation between gender and if you ate today, as males and females are both equally likely to have had something to eat.
Gender \Ate today? NO YES TOTAL
Female 10 90 100
Male 10 90 100
Total 20 180 200
When we subtract (10*90) – (10*90) — obviously, the numbers are the same, so we get zero. There is zero relationship. In the formula above, a, b, c & d are the numbers in each cell.
So, we have mathematically shown that there is no relationship between gender and whether one eats or not. Let’s try another question, “Did you do the dishes?” This time, we get the following results:
Gender \Washed Dishes? NO YES TOTAL
Female 10 90 100
Male 90 10 100
Total 100 100 200
Let’s look at the phi coefficient again.
10*10 – 90*90 = 100 – 8100 = -8,000
100*100*100*100 = 100,000,000 and the square root of that is 10,000
So, our phi coefficient is -8,000/ 10,0000 or -.80. That is a pretty high correlation, considering that the coefficient ranges from -1 to +1.0 . A negative coefficient means that those who are lower on one variable (1= female, 2= male) are more likely to be higher on the other variable (0 = did not do the dishes, 1 = washed dishes).
So, our conclusion is that, while women are no more likely to eat each day than men, they are significantly more likely to do the dishes with data that I just made up to prove it. My daughter, Maria, tells me that any married woman knows that without the need for statistics.
Why did I just go into this in such detail and all about one coefficient? Because I think that is a big part of the reason that many people don’t learn math is that there are so many assumptions that we can “just skip over this”. In fact, the reason I liked the Mercy Hospital site is it did not start out with n10n21 – n21n10 / √(n0+n1+n+1n+2)
and assume that everyone knew what marginal distributions and array subscripts meant, because, I can guarantee you, that they don’t.
Sheila Tobias wrote a really interesting book about teaching and learning science, the title of which is “They’re not dumb, they’re different”.
Maybe, but I guarantee you that part of the problem is that they’re not clairvoyant. No one was born knowing that n10 means the number in the cell where the row value =1 and the column value = 0. It doesn’t help that at other times that same cell would be represented as n11 as the first row and first column.
If you can make that switch in your mind easily, it is no doubt because you, like me, have looked at thousands of matrices and had that notation explained to you so long ago that it is probably like learning to swim, you can’t even remember it. The secret to being good at math is the same as being good at swimming – practice!
Completely random fact – in my misspent youth, I was the first American to win the world championships in judo. If you type judo blog into google, the first of 3,000,000+ pages that comes up is mine. And my most recent judo blog was on outliers and practice. Rather unusual when the two halves of my split personality come together.
As to odds ratios, I have more to say about those, but it is 1:30 a.m. and I have to get up in 7 1/2 hours to go to work, so that will have to wait until another day.
It was 85 degrees in soCal today. Just thought I would rub that in for the benefit of my former and present colleagues in the frozen north. The advantage of having a blog as opposed to doing an on-line course is that I can just randomly switch subjects, which in my office is referred to as “not being corporate”. Don’t know whether it is corporate or not but I can see that a lot of people are going to be loving SAS Enterprise Guide.
I have to confess that many years ago when Enterprise Guide first came out I thought it was one of the stupidest ideas I had ever heard. It was horrendously slow and about as intuitive as building a nuclear reactor out of wood. Have times ever changed! It is still slow and if you look at the log, the code it writes certainly isn’t what I would do. However, you can open SAS datasets with no problem. People who have no idea what a permanent library or LIBNAME statement is can now use SAS to make graphs, do principal components analysis and analyze subsets of their data. Imagine that Excel and Access had a baby, who then grew up and married the love child of SAS and some really cool graphics program that was not SAS/ Graph and didn’t suck. That, in a nutshell is SAS Enterprise Guide. It is full of surprises and almost all of them are pleasant. For example, today, I used the Send to on the File Menu to send a file to Microsoft Word and, surprisingly, it opened in Office 2007. Everything I had read said SAS and Office 2007 were not yet compatible, but that is not the case apparently. It has been hard for me to let go of coding everything because it is such a habit after twenty-six years, but I am trying very hard to put myself in the position of the people who will be taking the Enterprise Guide workshop next month and realize that, to them, typing:
Libname in “c:\amsasex\project7\aimee” ;
data in.disability_study ;
set in.fullsample ;
if “disability_status = “Y” ;
is NOT the easy way. So, I have set myself the challenge of trying to use only Enterprise Guide to solve problems and not doing any programming. I have not succeeded at all, yet, by the way, but I am making progress. For example, I am starting to use the Filter and Query option from the data menu instead of those subsetting IF statements. It actually works just fine. In another post, I had talked about how people continue to use chi-square and ordinary least squares regression even when those are not appropriate at all for their data because they are familiar. I know I am in the same boat. Several times today, I exited Enterprise Guide, wrote the code in SAS 9.2 and ran it because I want to be able to look at my log and see what it does. Yes, you can look at the log in Enterprise Guide but the way the code is written is definitely not how I would have done it. In reality, the vast majority of people are very comfortable not knowing what goes on under the hood. How many people who use Word (including me) have the foggiest notion what the code looks like? Enterprise Guide can be a force for good or evil. It can allow researchers and executives more time to focus on how the sample was selected, the selection of the appropriate statistic and correct interpretation of the results. And it can be used by management-weenies and pointy-head boss wanna-bes to print out pretty pictures and tables with lots of numbers that they only pretend to understand.
My prediction, based on a random sample of zero, is that there will be a lot of both.
There are so many kinds of software now that it is hard to choose what you absolutely have to have. First on my list of software the company would fold up without is Dreamweaver. I am currently using version 8. This heavy-duty web development package does so much in the background I just love it. For example, as a test (yes, I know I am weird, don’t bother to email and tell me) I moved a folder that had files in it with links to hundreds of other files. Dreamweaver automatically updated several hundred links. There are dozens of books on Dreamweaver, so I won’t bore you with all the details of what it can do. One feature I do appreciate is that it has a split view where you can drag objects and basically use a point-and-click to build your web page, while at the top it shows the code so you can make changes there if that is easier for you. For someone learning web design it is also a good way to learn HTML and CSS because as you create the web page you can look up and see how that is coded. I know some people take the snobbish attitude of,
“Well, I hand code all my pages in HTML.”
Good for you. Guess what? You’re slow.
Dreamweaver is kind of pricey. Two of my other favorite pieces of software are really a steal. Omni Outliner used for organizing ideas is my second-in-demand. It also allows you to paste in pictures and links but I use it mostly for text. Here’s how -
When I start on a grant, I begin with reviewing the literature. I may read as many as 50 books and articles on the topic, highlighting sections to quote or reference in the grant. By the time I sit down ready to start, I will usually have over 50 pages of notes on the research literature. Usually, I work as part of a team and I will have notes from meetings, conference calls and other discussions, random ideas I jotted down on the plane. My first step in writing a grant is to open up Omni Outliner and create the main categories that go with the required sections, e.g., significance, technical objectives, work plan. Next, I enter under each of those main sections (there is an indent function) the required subheadings, e.g., need for the project, related research. Then, I start cutting and pasting my notes from wherever they are into the outline. By the time I finish, the grant is half-written. I just need to edit each section, paste it into a Word document and I am done. This works way better than the outline feature in Word.
Pads is a notepad function for the Macintosh. Big disclaimer here, it was written for me, literally, when I was complaining to my husband about the old stickies feature that used to come with the Mac. It was a good idea to have stickie notes on your computer desktop but I wanted to be able to search and organize them better. When I had a client call, I wanted to be able to stick their note on the top corner of the screen and talk to them while maybe looking at the document or budget they had called about. I use this program every day. Anyone who, like me, is often working on several different projects, will find the categories very useful. You can have all the various notes you wrote and stuck on the computer on your project together and flip through them to remind you just what it is you promised that client.
Adobe Acrobat Professional is not cheap and doesn’t do a whole lot of things. So, why the heck am I recommending it? Those things it does do, I often need, and it does them very reliably. Here are a few simple examples:
- Merges pdf files. Increasingly, federal agencies are asking for proposals sent as a single pdf file. If you have letters of support, faxes, a word document and some pdf files, this program can merge all of these together.
- Makes it easy to copy text from a pdf file into a word or html document, something not every program always lets you do, even if the ad says it will.
- Usually (not always!) allows you to edit a pdf file.
It’s funny, but Windows, which almost everyone on earth seems to own in the continuing effort of Microsoft to rule the world, is only installed on two of the six computers in our house, and Office, the other black hand of world domination, is on two others which, oddly enough, do not run Windows. This leaves two completely Microsoft-free rebels moo-ha-ha-ha (that is my evil scientist laugh). Windows, of any version, is not on my must-have list. I can get along fine without it.
I do use Word, Excel and PowerPoint all of the time, so those are in my must-have list. The other computers have various free versions such as Open Office or NeoOffice. Those are fine for people who just need to write a letter or balance a checkbook, but I do a lot of heavy duty document production and as much as I want to like the free stuff and empathize with their motives, right now those applications are not fast enough nor compatible enough with all of the other hardware and software I use.
Pretty much any mail program and any browser will do, but one of each is an absolute necessity. I use MAIL, the free program that comes with the Mac OS. For a browser, I use both Safari and Firefox. When doing web design, I always test in both. Once I have a near-final design, I test it in Internet Explorer as well.
I seem to have gotten along fine without Quicken or Quickbooks (tried both, bored me to death) and although I had Access and Filemaker both for years, neither were applications I couldn’t live without.
So, there you have my very idiosyncratic list of things I without which business would run much less efficiently and I would have less money for jellybeans, plane tickets .