Being sick with only half of my brain cells functioning, I spent the weekend reading random articles on some of my favorite sites. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find one had the stock title:

“Do you want to start your own business, escaping the cubicle, be the next Mark Zuckerberg, do you have what it takes, is a start-up for you, are you an entrepreneur?”

Okay, well, maybe I ran a few together. My problem with all of these articles is that they combine the obvious, the overly general and the Black Swans.

The obvious:

The head of a troutSell a product or service people want. Oh, thank you for that advice. I was going to go out and start a business charging people $42 to come over to their house and hit them in the face with fish heads. But now I won’t.

 The overly general:

“Every small business owner needs to immediately hire two people, an accountant and an attorney, both with small business expertise. An attorney will save you far more in contract problems than you pay.”

In 27 years in business, I’ve never had an attorney look over a contract. Much of our work is with the federal government or very large organizations. They have boilerplate contracts and we are pretty much the bee to their elephant.

We also do a lot of work with small non-profits. If the contract is only $5,000, there isn’t much point in paying $250 for a lawyer to look it over.

What if someone sues us, you say? For what? We write programs and conduct research to specifications in the contract. We don’t miss schedules – ever. (No, not ever. Not when my husband died. Not when I was in Costa Rica. Never.)

A lot of our work is done on Indian reservations, and although tribal judges are far from perfect, most of them are pretty practical. You go into tribal court wanting to sue us because you slipped on the ice coming into a meeting and the judge is likely to say,

“Ice is slippery! My three-year-old grandson knows that. Get out of here and quit wasting my time.”

We NEED an accountant, but that is because we have to do billing to our clients, pay employees, pay workers compensation, have insurance, a 401 k plan – but we didn’t have any of that when we started out. I was in business about 15 years before I hired an accountant. Now, I couldn’t live without her.

Here are two bits of advice that worked for me, and they weren’t so obvious early on.

1. Keep the rights to everything if you can.

Sometimes it is not feasible or not even reasonable to ask – the client is doing a big project and calls us in to do the analysis or the data are highly sensitive. That’s fine. We usually get paid commensurate with our work on those and all is well.

Generally, though, if I write just about anything, from a report to this blog to a conference paper, I try to get the rights to everything – the report, the website, the data. My standard contract gives the client “non-exclusive right of use for any legal purpose”. That means they can take any program or report that I wrote and do anything they want with it.

However, if I want to later use that report as a chapter in a book, a conference presentation or to paper my office, I can.

If I need real-life data for a class that I am teaching (with personally identifying information removed, of course), I have dozens of data sets to choose from.

Having the rights to a pile of stuff has turned out to be immensely useful to me and I fell into it way back when. I was doing consulting for student dissertations, (I don’t do that any more because …) many of them could not afford to pay much but I felt bad for them and wanted to help them out. So … I would cut them a break on the price and add a clause in the contract that said I got the right to keep and use the data.

If I needed to test new software with data that I had results on from previous analyses — just in a whole bunch of ways, it turned out to be useful. I started adding this clause into contracts with my other clients, many of whom are non-profits. They had no intention of publishing the data they collected, and if I wanted to go and submit an article to some academic journal and their program got attention for being part of it, they were thrilled.

I, on the other hand, got data I did not have to go to any effort to collect, and on which the analyses had already been done – by me- for pay.

2. Speak your mind with all your heart now

I don’t mean that if your latest client is a die-hard Republican and you voted the straight Democratic ticket since you turned 18 that you need to harangue him on it. I’m Catholic and if you’re not, that’s fine, and if you think my immortal soul is in danger and I’m going to burn in hell for all eternity, keep it to yourself.

On the other hand … if someone starts to tell me how the increase in the percentage of Hispanics is bankrupting the public education system, I am going to stop them immediately. I’ll let them know in no uncertain terms that *I* pay taxes and my children attend private schools and I am one of their beloved “job creators”.

I’m not going to tell you where your lines in the sand are. What I will tell you is this – as Carly Fiorina said,

Once you sell your soul, no one can buy it back for you.

People think I am outspoken now because I own the company and cannot get fired.

No.

When I was an assistant professor with three small children and a sick husband who was in and out of intensive care, I was the exact same way.

Recently, a young person told me that I could hold to my principles about the importance of my family, honesty and equality – and any of a hundred other things because I had “made it”.

This troubled me. It troubles me when I hear the same thing from new Ph.Ds who are trying to get tenure. I don’t see how you can pretend to be someone else for 5 or 10 years until you have “made it” and then be your true self.

Be who you are.

I do censor my tweets, blog posts and what I say often, but I do it because I think it’s wrong to casually hurt people’s feelings – that’s why I didn’t mention the specific article I read. If someone criticizes my faith, friends, country or family, I stand up for them because I believe that’s the right thing to do.

Maybe I will lose some business because of it.

Maybe.

Here’s some more advice, though, from Charlie’s grandfather in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

“Money is the commonest thing in the world. They print more of it every day.”

Hello Kitty Pez dispenserI had a bit of difficulty remembering the exact way push and pop functions in JavaScript work until I thought of the PEZ dispenser.

When you have an array that you create like this:

var bob = [1,47] ;

and you do this:

bob.push(9,12)

now your new array is   [1,47,9,12]

In other words, push adds the elements at the end of the array.

It always seemed to me that it should be adding it to the beginning until I thought of the PEZ dispenser. If your array was a PEZ dispenser and you added something to the PEZ-array you would add it to the top, wouldn’t you?  Of course  you would!

When you push an element into an array, the length of the array increases by however many elements you pushed. Similarly, if you had 7 candies in your dispenser and added two more, of course your stack of candy is now equal to 9 pieces.

Similarly, the pop function, returns the value of the top element in the array and removes that element from the array. It also reduces the length of the array.

So, after I had pushed the new elements to my array named bob, if I did this

bob.pop()

it would return the value of 12 and leave bob as this array — >  [1,47,9]

and bob.length = 3

If you think about it, that is exactly like what happens when you pop a candy in your mouth from the PEZ dispenser. You get whichever one is on top, that candy is no longer in the dispenser and your total number of pieces of candy is one less.

If you  want to add elements to the FRONT of the array, use the unshift function, like so

bob.unshift(42)

and if you want to remove an element from the front of the array, use the shift function, like this

bob.shift()

Think of it like everyone at a movie theater shifting over one seat to be closer to the aisle.

Sorry I do not have a candy analogy for the shift and unshift.

Thanks to Debbie for putting the Hello Kitty PEZ dispenser on wikimedia.

The PEZ store photo was taken by the rocket scientist. There is actually a store in Universal Citywalk Hollywood where you can buy hundreds of different types of PEZ dispensers if you are into that sort of thing. There’s also a PEZ dispenser conference in California every year, just in case you were wondering where besides this blog you could go to expand your PEZ-related knowledge.

After over a quarter of a century of experience working as a statistical consultant in a wide array of settings, it’s safe to say that a large proportion of the statistics presentations cover topics I have been over before. Still, even if it is a technique I’ve used many times, I almost always come across some bit of information I didn’t know.

For example, every graduate student learns that when you have repeated continuous measures, like a test score, you use repeated measures ANOVA. You can do PROC GLM or PROC MIXED.

When you have a categorical dependent variable, you use logistic regression.

Well, what if you have a repeated measure on a categorical variable? I haven’t done that kind of design. If I’m doing an outcome study it’s usually with something like mortality or graduation as the dependent variable and we do a one-time analysis. In the events that subjects are measured repeated times for something like health or education studies, I’d do a survival analysis looking at how long the person lived or stayed in school.

Logistic regression assumes you have independent observations, but that is not always the case. Certainly if you have measured the same person multiple times, the observations are likely to be correlated.

Correlated measures aren’t only on one person over multiple time points. It could be that you are measuring several people in the same family to see if they have a certain illness.

Although this hasn’t come up yet (and it kind of surprises me, now that I think about it), if it DOES, I can use PROC GENMOD to do a logistic regression with correlated data, as I learned in this presentation by Dachao Liu.

I mentioned this to a couple of people who were surprised I did not know this already, but honestly, it had just never come up.

I guess if you had asked me if JMP did non-linear models I would have said, “I assume so” but I wouldn’t know for sure. Now I know for sure. I had kind of forgotten that JMP does some pretty complex models. If you’d asked me if you could save your prediction formula in JMP, I would say, “I assume so,” but again, I wouldn’t have known for sure. As you can see, I don’t use JMP all that much, but it is good to know since I have the occasional client using it.

You can learn everything you want to know about non-linear models with JMP from Don McCormack’s paper

Even though I won’t be using JMP for this next project, the presentation by McCormack got me to thinking about saving equations and gave me some really good ideas about running the analyses nightly against the larger database to create the equation and then applying it on the fly when users access our application.

So, in short, at SAS Global Forum, I learned some things I didn’t know, was confirmed on some things I was pretty sure I knew and remembered to use some things I already knew.

Was it worth spending four days in Orlando?

Since after thirty years I am still learning, yes. Yes, it was.

Two years ago, I said that data visualization was the next big thing. I also said that people would stick with SAS because it was easier to use and there are more people who DON’T want to be programmers than do.

Fast forward to 2012 and Visual Analytics is all over the place. SAS On-Demand, the free SAS offering to academics has made a rapid improvement from slower than The Spoiled One cleaning her room to actually usable. In fact, I’m giving a Hands-on Workshop on using SAS Enterprise Guide with SAS On-Demand on Tuesday at 1:30. Show up.

Unless you already know a ton about SAS Enterprise, in which case I’d go to Anders Milhoj presentation on time series. He’s from the University of Copenhagen and a pretty good speaker. He tells me that he is even funnier in Danish. I’ll have to take his word on that.

My point – of which I occasionally have one – is this: You should really pay attention to me this time when I tell you what the next big thing is. Not only is my previous prediction evidence of my prediction making ability, but I also came up to the room at 10 and did work while the rest of you people were still drinking. Tomorrow, you will be hung over and I will be richer. So there.

Ready – here it is – big data and cloud computing.

What? No fan fare? Are you thinking that is old hat? Are you saying that is nothing but going backwards to the days of main frames and when time share referred to computer time and not condominiums in Florida (anyone remember TSO?)

Half of you are thinking that and you are wrong. The other half of you are still wondering what the hell is TSO.

When I was in high school, the school got a couple of hours a semester of computer time for our inner city school students (i.e. me, my friend Michael and maybe one or two other people) to have a programming class. Computer time was EXPENSIVE. We wrote our programs out by hand. Made sure everything was right and then someone more trustworthy than me was allowed to key in the programs on punched cards. (They were right not to trust me, too. You have NO idea, how right they were.)  The next day, someone would go back to the university and pick up our output.

Here is the difference, and Paul Kent and Gary King at the SAS Executive Conference touched on it very well …. the difference is that the cost and time to get that output is quickly becoming a non-issue. Kent said we have only just scratched the surface of what can be done with big data, and he is right.

It’s almost 38 years ago since I was a student at Logos High School and 37 years since I saw my first personal computer that a guy in the dorm across from me freshman year made out of a kit. There were no apps then. Now there are over a million apps.

You know why there are a million more apps now? Because people have computers. Not just professors at universities, programming staff at enormous corporations and a few very sketchy high school kids, but millions and millions of people.

Monkey

Release the flying monkeys

Well, maybe it’s kind of like  a million monkeys at a million typewriters coming up with Shakespeare over a million years.

You see, there are literally millions more computers available compared to when I was young and they are running a million times faster. Anybody remember the Atari 64? No, I didn’t think so.

Now, extrapolate that to big data. I can think of some really cool work I would like to do if I had access to a high performance computer. I have even considered hacking into one, but my aversion to the hours they keep in prison has prevented it. What if getting time to run your job on a thousand processors was really cheap, say not much more than AOL used to be (9.99 a month for life, I believe, if you were one of the first subscribers).

If you had millions of people who had access to high-speed computers, with a program that automated parallel processing (for example, SAS), all you’d need to do is make it easy to process that data.

I’ve written many times before about how open data is a good idea but it is not as simple as running a million correlations and pulling out the 50,000 that are significant and throwing them all into a stepwise regression equation as independent variables.

(Those of you who are non-statisticians are thinking, “Huh, that sounds pretty good to me.” While the statisticians are wishing they were dead so they had graves to roll over in at the very thought.)

To keep on with the analogy with my high school days, imagine how many fewer apps we would have if they had to be written in Assembly language. We actually thought Fortran and BASIC were pretty nifty, new ideas.

Can you imagine writing an app with either of those? No, me, neither.

Big data (and its “software”, data visualization) is pretty much in the embryonic stages that hardware and software were when I was in high school. Looking at the explosion there has been in desktop computing and other ways unimaginable back then, I now find it very easy to imagine that we are going to see a similar explosion in the next few years.

I am going to link back here then and say, “I told you so.”

Another thing I will have told you …. SAS is exploring the possibility of a SAS that runs in the browser. You would not have to install SAS on your desktop. If you want to hear about it, you should meet up with Amy Peters at 6 pm on Tuesday somewhere in the Dolphin. If you paid attention to the last 972 words, it should be obvious why.

If you are at SAS Global Forum you can find the meet-up sign-up list on the bulletin boards across from the registration that will give you the room. There are usually other interesting things posted there, too, so if you haven’t gone and looked, you should.

 

 

Don ChapmanThe taiko drumming on trash cans at the opening ceremony was kind of cool, but being a true geek I have to say the cool thing of the day goes to Visual Analytics. By the way, ten brownie points and kudos to whoever had the bright idea of having the SAS demo room open on Sunday. Often, I get there for about five minutes between sessions. At one conference,  I didn’t manage to make it at all. Having it open today before any papers was a great idea.

Today I only got there for about 15 minutes but it was the perfect amount of time to meet Don Chapman and hear about Visual Analytics which is a brand new product being rolled out by SAS and one of the things on my list to check out at SAS Global Forum. See picture of Don Chapman lest you need to identify him and get your own demo, which I highly recommend you do because this is way cooler than I am going to be able to describe it.

 

The first question I asked was how is this different from JMP. His answer was that while both were very graphically oriented, Visual Analytics is more so. Secondly, Visual Analytics runs on the web while JMP runs on your desktop. Third, VA (we’re now on a nickname basis we’re so tight) is good for running against really huge data sets.

What do we mean by more graphically oriented? Well, check this out.

Correlation matrixTHIS is a correlation matrix. Doesn’t look like your typical matrix, does it? The darker the box, the higher the correlation between the two variables.

If you want to explore the relationship further, you can click on any one of those boxes, say it is marketing expenses and revenue, and you’ll see on the right side of the screen a plot of the two variables.

This ability to just click and get more information is included throughout. For example, with the box plot, you can drag variables from the left pane to the large middle pane and get a box plot. If you want more detail about one of the variables click on the box and a pop-up window gives you basic statistics on that variable.

Box plot

This is not, at present anyway, a very sophisticated statistical tool. What it IS, is a way to look at large amounts of data without knowing anything about SAS and being able to explore relationships in your data.

If you’re a really serious statistician, you might turn up your nose at things like the correlation matrix boxes.

Since I have never been a really serious anything, I think it is a great idea. In fact, I think they stole the idea. from me. For years, if we have had a project with a large number of correlations, I would sit down with a highlighter and mark those I expected to be substantially positive(negative) and were in one color, those I expected to be correlated but were not in a second color and those I did not expect to be correlated and were in a third color.Say the first color was blue. If I looked at the huge matrix and saw mostly blue and little of the other colors, that was good. (Good being a technical term used by not really serious statisticians to mean not sucking. )

This isn’t the exact same thing but it is the same concept, of taking a huge amount of data, say millions of records on 20 variables and being able to see at a glance which of those are the largest relationships.

It also does several other types of plots

bubble plot

As well as maps

map

It is full of coolness and brand spanking new. It was released in March and I don’t know anyone who has it installed, so I am the first kid on my block to see it. So, part of my purpose of SAS Global Forum – learning what is coming down the pike – has been fulfilled.

Go find Don in the demo room and check it out.  As you can see, I have helpfully included a photo to assist you in Don-identification. Or you could just look for the big sign that says Visual Analytics.

SAS Global Forum has the usual required conference amenities. There is a nice hotel.
View from our balcony

There is swag. See photo below received by knowing trivia answers.

Hint: A good place to find the trivia answers in advance is the SAS users blog.

SAS swagIt is also good to know the name of the SAS Global Forum chair and the location of Chris Heimidinger.

As proof for my accountant that it was not ALL just sitting out on balconies, and is therefore legitimately tax-deductible, I will offer some actual information that I want to follow up on later:

At the local users group reception, I met (again) fellow WUSSie William Benjamin of Owl Consulting (who I always mistakenly call Benjamin and who is always very nice about it). He is giving a talk on connecting Excel and SAS. In short, his program allows you to request SAS reports that will then be delivered in Excel format. It is way cooler than that, though, because SAS actually passes back to Excel information that is used in formatting the Excel files.

I could see what he is doing being useful for me, but unfortunately, he is presenting at the same time as me and my presentation on SAS On-Demand is better.

{Shameless plug” Hands-on Workshops, Southern Hemisphere I
SAS® Enterprise Guide® with SAS® On-Demand for Academics: Everything You Need to Know After “It’s Free”   De Mars, 1:30–3:10 PM, 152-2012}

Well, I don’t actually know if it’s better, but I’m doing it.

As consolation, though, I found out that Bill’s Excel presentation will be part of the SAS Global Forum Takeout. (Check out the takeout from last year if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s pretty cool. )

Beginning of tweetup

Tweet-up pre-possibly drinking

At the tweet-up, organized by Waynette Tubbs I met Iain Brown who is presenting on advanced modelling for imbalanced data sets using Enterprise Miner on Monday. There is another session I want to attend at the same time, so now I need to decide which to attend and which to just read the paper in the proceedings. I really want to go to both of them. Where is my clone when I need her?

I also realized and immediately rectified my omission of not following Gordon Cox on twitter. Gordon is in EBI at SAS but it looks like he may be doing more on grid computing which is the wave of the future. Okay, well, one of the waves of the future.

Having put in so much actual work (are you reading this, Donna), I am going to head to the pool and meet-up with LABSUG chair Kim Le Bouton where we will tan, um, I mean discuss very important LABSUG business.

 There are no post-possible drinking photos as I am saving those for blackmail purposes. Bribes to delete all possible photos from all of my electronic devices will be accepted through the end of the conference.

The rocket scientist told me that I am too one-dimensional and write too much about “that SAS thing you are always going on about”. Since I will be at SAS Global Forum for days and writing about nothing else, here, straight from BFE, Florida, in a nod to the paternal figure of The Spoiled One is something else.

Palm tree growing sideways

Even the trees are laid back here

I will never replace my laptop with an iPad – but that is the topic for another post. That being said, here are several reasons an iPad is a must for business travel for me:

  1. Internet access anywhere. I am currently meeting with people in Tampa and staying at my mom’s house which is not in Tampa. It is not precisely in the middle of nowhere. It is east of there. Mom retired 14 years ago and getting a reliable wireless router has not been high on her to do list. I can read email, surf the web while sitting in the living room or outside on the porch with Mom. I do realize this is a real First World Problem having to have my laptop tethered to an ethernet cable, whine, whine. Still, I am staying here to visit my mom and if I spent all my time working in the room where the cable is, it kind of defeats the purpose.
  2. Cheap Internet access. I am in airports A LOT. At $12.99 a day, I only need to be in an airport twice a month for my data plan to pay for itself. And I am ALWAYS in an airport at least twice a month.
  3. Keeping up with social media. Today I was reading tweets and tweeting while in the car on the way to Tampa. No, this isn’t the latest idiocy, tweeting while driving, I was a passenger. Still, it was very convenient.
  4. Checking and occasionally answering email from clients. The iPad kind of blows for typing, which is a major reason it won’t replace my laptop, but I can check my email while I’m on my way out to dinner and make sure there is nothing that has to be dealt with immediately that requires a phone call or getting back early enough to take care of it. If it is really short and simple I can take care of it on my iPad. If it involves attaching several documents, revising budgets, running a program, not so much but I can at least let the client know that I am working on it.
  5. Reading faxes If you have efax (which I do) you can read faxes received from clients anywhere, even in the car. Someone asked me why I still get faxes. The answer is because people who give me money want to fax me things.
  6. Reading documentation. I have both iBooks and the Kindle app. Where before I might have to choose which four out of nine books I wanted to take on the plane with me, now I can have dozens of books on my iPad. Many O’Reilly books come with a free or very cheap electronic version when you buy the print version. If I am in the middle of reading a book, I can leave the print version at home and copy the pdf from our server on to my iPad. When the book is something like the 1,100 page JavaScript: The Definitive Guide, the savings is great indeed. SPSS manuals came free with the software. I copied a dozen manuals from the CD on to my iPad.
  7. Taking notes on the notes app, like these, so I can write them up later on something I can type ten times as fast on.
  8. Taking notes on Evernote that I can access from all of my devices.

Now, you might say that I could do all of that on my iPhone but you would be wrong. The reason that you see so many pictures of me with sunglasses isn’t for looks. It’s because I have very poor vision. I have industrial strength contacts to see and glasses to read. I also have glasses that I wear a lot when I am traveling, so I can sleep on the plane without my contacts in, but then I can’t read unless I hold the book/ computer within two inches of my face. The font is set to 40 pt on my iPhone, which means I can read about 2 sentences on the iPhone screen. When the iPad came out my kids scoffed,

“It’s nothing but a giant iPhone.”

To which I replied,

“That’s exactly what I need.”

And promptly went out and bought one. I think as the market ages, the number and percentage of people with poor vision is only going to get worse.

As for me, since it was possible for me to get my email read, documentation read, notes written, faxes read on the iPad, I still had time to induce Mom to go out in the evening and hang out in the pool – though she drew the line at drinking the blue martinis. (As you can see, I didn’t.)

Me my mom and a martini or two

Me my mom and a martini or two

 

P. S. I have been told, by people who tell such things, that bloggers should disclose conflicts of interest every now and then, especially since there are a number of commercial products and services mentioned.

Here is my disclosure:

 

 

Nobody gave me diddly-squat for writing this post. 

Whether they should have or not, that is a separate issue.

How I look to my 14-year-old daughter

How I look to my 14-year-old daughter

 

As The World’s Most Spoiled 14-year-old reminds me often,

I am old.

I remember SAS version 5.

I also remember SAS 6.12 which is noted for being the last version of SAS to run on the Mac.

Several years ago, I was at a SAS conference where the soon-to-be released version 9 was under discussion. I asked an executive from SAS why they no longer had a Mac version and whether that was a consideration. He shook his head and said,

 

“You know, people who have Macs are very passionate about their computers, however, that passion doesn’t necessarily translate into profits. We had a Mac version of SAS at one time. I think we sold about six copies.”

I guess I was one of the six.

I’m also old enough to remember when Michael Dell said he would shut Apple down and give the money back to the shareholders.

Even though Apple has made a revival worthy of Lazarus, SAS has been a hold out. I have boot camp on both my laptop and desktop for the SOLE purpose of running SAS. There is not a single other thing I need to do that doesn’t run native on my Mac.

So … you can imagine my excitement when I read about a new release of SAS On-Demand for Academics that could run completely on a web-browser with no local footprint.

This means, of course, that it would be feasible to run SAS on a Mac or Linux desktop.

On twitter, @JaDP (also know as Josep di Paolantonio , if that is his real name) asked why I would be so excited, because SAS on the Mac, or iSAS – as I am calling it until I get a call from either Apple or Sesame Street telling me that they have copyrighted the letter “i”  – appears to be a long way off.

Two reasons.

One, at my age, a long way off is relative. When I was in junior high and gave a damn if anyone thought my bell bottoms were cool or not is a long way off. The end of the summer, by comparison, is just a hop, skip and a wink.

Two, SAS has gone from writing off supporting the Mac as a possibility to penciling it into their plans, maybe even pushing down hard enough with the pencil that it looks like pen.

That decision may be good news for Apple. I think it is rather more good news for SAS. While they are still supporting their core business of ginormous companies paying huge fees, a cloud-based version down the line may make SAS accessible to a lot more students at universities. The requirement to have Windows installed has been a barrier to SAS On-Demand for a lot of students, so this is a step in the right direction.

In general, SAS taking new directions like this suggest that they may be going more in the direction of Apple (let’s make cool stuff!) and less the direction of Oracle (we’re boring but you need us).

So, why am I excited? Because I like cool stuff!

The Spoiled One said I was old. No one said I was mature.

Picture of fairiesThe very first month I started this blog, four years ago, I wrote a short post, Tinkerbelle visits The Julia Group. I said that after twenty years of writing grants for other people, I made a wish just for me, as Tinkerbelle said. I sent off a grant to create an on-line high school algebra course that integrated Web 2.0 technology. In the ancient history of the web, that sounded pretty cool at the time. I said that if it did not get funded, I would submit it again until it did.

Fast forward … as anything you read about start-ups will say, the business you end up with will be very different from the one you envisioned. Well, I did not get that first grant but I got several other grants and contracts. While taking the work that paid the bills, I met with potential clients, met with potential investors, met with potential collaborators, revised my ideas A LOT.

I toyed with the idea of using Ruby and decided that as cool as Ruby is, it wouldn’t do. Then, I picked up javascript, learned enough of that to decide that jQuery and javascript would be a good part of the solution. Along the way, I wrote a program in SAS to do text analysis, just to see if the logic would work. I wrote bits and pieces of the program in javascript, including something my daughter termed, “Angry Birds with a buffalo”. Now the rocket scientist is working on doing a major part of it using something else.

So, the first truism turned out to be true. The product we are developing is different in design, language and age group targeted than what I began with.

The second point I can vouch for from the Startup Genome project is that you are better off not going it alone. I went to a few meet-ups and other events, met a lot of people, but no one who seemed to share the same commitment I do. (When you’re young you talk about passion. When you’re old, you’re looking for commitment.) Speaking of which, while I would not go so far as to recommend sleeping with someone and having his baby to find a co-founder, since  I had already done it with someone my students’ referred to as “Computer God” and my children called “Code Warrior” ,  I figured I may as well get something out of it – well other than the sex and the baby.

When the rocket scientist retired and was thinking about doing work part-time for consulting income, I was first in line to snatch him up. He is writing the part that is not in JavaScript (for now).

The third true truism is that a start-up will eat your life. Although I have been in business for 27 years, we started to go in a different trajectory in 2008, when The Julia Group split off from Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. and became a separate company. I guess this makes me a serial entrepreneur. Better than a serial killer, I suppose, though I am not sure it is any better for your social life. Our new product is a game to teach mathematics. Yes, there are a million of those out there, but I promise you, ours will not suck. This is our competitive advantage.

I lose track of what day it is very, very often. Especially now that The Spoiled One is on spring break, there is no difference between my weekends and weekdays. I have to force myself to go to bed at night.  I have put on a few pounds because I have been sitting at my computer day in and day out for months. Of course, since I wasn’t much bigger than your average twelve-year-old in the first place, I’m not stressing over it, but it just shows you how extreme things have gotten around here.

The fourth truism that turned out to be true is that if you keep working on it, even if you fail at first, you will make something. So … we now have $99,000 for our Phase I, test school sites set up that I will be visiting in a few weeks. Things are starting to take shape. We also have a second proposal under review.

If you are thinking $99K is not a lot, you are right. Here’s my fifth perhaps not so self-evident truth – sometimes, as Paul Hawken has said, the biggest problem with small businesses is that they have too much money. That may sound crazy, but I have always tried to keep overhead to the bare minimum. Almost everyone who works for us is a contractor, which means we pay them when we have work and when we don’t have work for them to do, we don’t pay them. I’m not too worried about being first to market – I see how well that worked out for VisiCalc and Netscape. I’ve way too much experience to think that you can do a project twice as fast with six programmers as with three. After 27 years, I still have an office in my house. When I meet people, I usually go to lunch – there are a whole lot of really nice restaurants in Santa Monica.

Because we saved up money to “retire” and I have consulting clients to pay the bills, we have been working for free for months. (Well, not exactly free. I own the company.) So getting paid for half of our time is a big step up, as well as being able to pay for supplies, data collection and a whole lot of other things.

Well, it’s 11 pm and I have to get back to work but here is one last truism that is totally true – I am having the time of my life.

 

And just to make life even better, I received an email from BlogHer saying, “We loved this post” and that it would be featured in their tech section on April 18. Since I’ll be en route to SAS Global Forum on April 18, I’m putting up my bragging badge now.

Speaking of SAS Global Forum, the pre-registration deadline is April 16th, so if you were procrastinating, time is about up. If you use SAS at all and live anywhere in the area, you should really register and head out there. It’s an especially good deal if you are a student or in an academic institution. Go. You’ll be glad you did.

If you ARE going to be there, there is a meet-up on Saturday. Email me if you’re interested or DM me on Twitter, @annmariastat since I have been told that only old people use email.

White flowers blooming in Santa Monica

There must be some hallucinogenic drug given off by spring flowers, because it is the one time in the year when I am struck by the irrational thought,

“Maybe I should clean my office.”

Like any other spring cleaning undertaking, random things are uncovered that make me think,

“Huh. I wonder what that was for.”

Here, for your entertainment, are a list of random things found under, in and around various crevices. I think several of these were notes for a blog post I was thinking about writing and never did, probably because my notes fell behind the couch and lay there until covered with dust.

  • Sticky note:  Wald = Z-squared  (always good to be reminded)
  • Another note: According to Agresti & Finlay, the likelihood ratio test is more powerful than the Wald test for small samples.
  • A scribbled note on conditional probabilities of  death calculable using logistic regression results
  • Another note: Logistic regression – interpreting confidence intervals….  for Exp(B) < 1 it means that, for example, if Hispanic = 1 and non-Hispanic = 0 then and CI = .20 – .86 then the event is LESS likely to occur for Hispanics. If it is 3.41 – 35.93 then the event is MORE likely to occur for Hispanics.

{Gee, I hope the event is something good, like getting Easter lilies delivered.}

  • Flowchart of my first draft of the project we are working on now, with a lot of scribbling on it and half the boxes scratched out.
  • Stack of SPSS output from a completed project
  • Stack of SAS output from another completed project
  • Dividend check for $3.68 from 2007
  • Receipt for purchase of my office guinea pig. Upon reflection, I conclude that, even though the guinea pig cage is in my office and should therefore technically count as office furniture, there is no way our accountant will allow this as a business expense and throw the receipt away.
  • Ugly Dolls Watch
  • Flowchart I wrote a month ago for part of project I am working on now ….

… this is the point where I got distracted because we really are in start up mode and I am so excited about our new project I am working on it pretty much non-stop …. guess the cleaning will have to wait.

Patty the official office guinea pig

I still think I ought to be able to deduct the guinea pig.

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