My long and occasionally-storied career began as an industrial engineer, where I had drilled into my brain one of my most useful life lessons.
Here is the secret to mastering your life, reducing your stress by a good 50% —
Learn the difference between standard hours and actual hours
The business dictionary laughably defines a standard hour as the hours that the average worker would take to complete a job under normal conditions.
I would not say that is exactly correct. A standard hour is based on time and motion studies. If it takes 2 minutes for you to walk from Point A to Point B to pick up the raw material for a widget, 7 minutes for you to mount the material on the Widget-Maker 1000 machine and have it processed to come out the other end, and 3 minutes for you to take the completed widget off, put it in a stack and be ready to re-start the process than in a standard hour you could make 5 widgets (60 minutes in an hour divided by 12 minutes).
If I were an idiot, I would then say that a reasonable number of widgets to be made by you would be 12*40*52 = 24,960. Twelve widgets an hour, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks out of the year.
Here is the problem – you need to go to the bathroom, go to lunch, take union-mandated breaks. The union is correct to mandate those breaks, by the way, to reduce fatigue and possible related accidents. Some days, you get sick and don’t come in. Some days are holidays.
On top of all of that, there are material problems – the raw material of widgets is not delivered in time and you are sitting there with no widget-making stuff.
Then there are machine problems – the Widget-Maker 1000 breaks down and it takes you three days to get spare parts and another day to fix it.
In short – the NORMAL condition is that you don’t take anywhere near an hour to make five widgets.
As a rule of thumb, I would double the standard hours to get actual hours – how long it would, on the average, actually take. This isn’t based on time and motion studies but on actual experience. You count up the number of widgets made, divide by hours and that gives you the actual hours it really took.
Now apply this to life. If you are traveling – which I do A LOT – don’t plan on an arriving an hour early because the airline suggests that. Assume that the security line will be slow, there will be a convention of all of the dentists in the world going to Hawaii and they will all be in front of you. Give yourself an extra thirty minutes or more. Make sure your connections when you need to go through customs are at least two hours apart. I don’t care WHAT Delta Airlines tells you. Trust me.
If you’re in LA and have an important meeting that is 15 minutes away, leave 30 minutes early assuming there will be traffic because – hey, you live in LA, there’s always traffic.
This doesn’t just apply to transportation. I start on anything – a grant, a conference presentation, final report or coding part of a computer game – long before it is due. To those of you who say that you work best to a deadline – well, I doubt it.
I had three children under age five while getting a PhD and working. At the last minute, someone would come down with chicken pox or the nanny would have a family emergency and need a week off. Because I had started far in advance, when the deadline came up, I was done, or nearly so, and things that could have been a catastrophe were merely inconvenient.
Anyone who ever planned a factory based on the assumption that work could be accomplished in standard hours – material would always arrive on time, machines would never break, people would never get sick – is an idiot.
Yet, people plan their lives that way, assuming there will be no traffic accidents, snowstorms, sick children.
I can hear the objections already –
Sure, YOU can say that. You have a nanny. You have the luxury of setting your own schedule, so you can afford to plan that way.
Well, let me tell you this — all of those things that keep your standard hours from being actual — they are going to happen whether you plan for them or not. Making any plans that don’t take that fact into account is just deluding yourself.
Several years ago, I was reassured once again that I had married the right person when The (much smaller then but equally) Spoiled One asked him,
“What does the name of your book mean, God created the integers?”
He explained that while one can have 1 rabbit
You can have zero rabbits.
All of those are concrete things that exist in nature. You cannot, however, have one-half of a rabbit or one-seventeenth of a rabbit.
Well, theoretically, you could, if you killed it and chopped it into four pieces, as The Spoiled One gruesomely pointed out. Her father, who watches too much Monty Python countered that then it would not be the rabbit as God made it but, in fact, an ex-rabbit.
All of which brings me to Fish Lake, the game we are working on currently, which involves fractions. It really has not been that difficult to come up with believable examples of how early Native Americans might have used fractions –
“Leave for camp when the lack is three-quarters in the shadow.”
“We used two rabbits to make enough stew for two people. If you are out hunting alone and just making stew for yourself, you would make half as much, so you’d only need one rabbit.”
As our Dakota cultural consultant, Dr. Erich Longie pointed out, of course the Dakota people used math. The traveled over a very wide area and would meet up in the same locations, it was hardly by accident – well, you’ll have to see the next two games.
The part I am having a hard time with, though, is coming up with realistic uses of percentages and decimals. I can see where a chief might have 100 warriors and need to put them into four groups, say, to attack from four different directions. So, 25/100 = 1/4 and maybe then each group would get 1/4 of the food, 1/4 of the war ponies and so on.
I really can’t think of any situations, though, where the chief would sit down and say,
“Okay, 75% of the warriors have a horse, that is the equivalent of 3/4. Thinking of it another way, if I had ten warriors, 7.5 of them would have a horse.”
We have four cultural components – two are Dakota (Sioux) and two are Ojibwe (Chippewa) and they have given us a lot of great examples using math for travel, measurement, building tipis and wigwams, calculating odds when deciding to try to steal a buffalo pony and more. However, I’m still puzzling over how to include realistic problems to meet common core standards on decimals and percentage equivalence with fractions.
God may not have only created the integers, but I am pretty dead certain that it is accountants and engineers who created the decimals.
Any creative suggestions would be much appreciated.
Last month, I was super-stoked to be listed in Forbes as one of the 40 women to watch over 40. As I’ve written on here several times, I call bullshit on the belief that start-ups must all be run by Mark Zuckerberg clones. The idea that everyone over 30 has outdated skills is based on the ludicrous assumption that all people quit learning when they finish formal education. Sadly, that is true for too many people but there are plenty of people who are just the opposite.
Make deliberate attempts to keep on learning: #48 of the things I have learned in (almost) 55 years
When I first finished my PhD at age 31, I looked around saw people who were every bit as capable as me who had fallen into a trap – they climbed the ladder in administration, taught the same classes to 200 undergraduates four times a year or wrote the same type of programs over and over – and at 50 they were ten years behind the field because they were “too busy” to keep up. I swore that was not going to be me in twenty years. (Some of those same people were very helpful and encouraging to me, I might add, cautioning me against taking on too many committee responsibilities, for example.)
Over the years I have made it a point to
- teach at least one graduate course per year, because you have to really learn something well to explain it,
- speak at least three times a year at a conference, (same reason as #1)
- attend a DIFFERENT conference I have never attended at least every two years – that way I am not hearing the same people repeat the same ideas, nor giving the same talk myself
- take a “reverse sabbatical” every ten years and work at a university.
Two years ago, I attended to Gov2.0 conference in LA – see my point #3 – and met some interesting people, who I promptly followed on twitter because that’s what one does these days. One of those people, Martha McLean who works for the Canadian government, tweeted about “Reading Week”, something Canadian universities did where students had no classes but were just supposed to read.
As for the other two books, yes, I can read on the plane, I can read in my office at home, but I have found a major benefit to being able to read for hours at a time uninterrupted. Things just seem to connect and sink in more, I have more time to reflect on what I’m learning.
Being a “life-long learning”, continuous self-improvement, staying current – whatever buzz phrase you want to apply – takes a serious, conscientious effort. You don’t have time NOT to do it. You’ll gradually end up being less and less efficient because you haven’t learned the new tools and techniques that can help you do your job.
You’ll re-invent the wheel because you didn’t find the time to read a wheel catalog.
#49 of the things I have learned in (almost) 55 years — Reading week is a damn good idea.
After installing the latest version of SOD with Enterprise Guide 6.1 on Virtual Box and finding it really slow, I decided to re-install the operating system I had on bootcamp to upgrade to 64-bit and see if it ran better native.
When I downloaded the file to install it said it was not compatible with my operating system, which made NO sense to me since it was the identical CD I had used to install the operating system that was working fine on Virtual Box.
After a bit of investigation I discovered that when The Invisible Developer installed this while I was up in Hollywood feeding Jenn’s cats for some reason either the install process did not prompt him to check for updates or he just skipped it.
SAS On-Demand requires Windows 7 64-bit service pack 1. I went to the Microsoft site, downloaded service pack 1 and installed it. I also installed Microsoft .Net Framework 4. Then I proceeded with the install and all is well. It still doesn’t work with blistering speed.
As my lovely young niece, Samantha says,
“Hey, it’s sending a signal through SPACE and back again and it’s not fast enough for you because it takes six seconds?!”
So, anyway, if you are having problems installing on a 64-bit system, trying downloading and installing service pack 1 for windows 7 64-bit and your problems will probably be solved.
Because it’s not tomorrow until I go to bed and get up again, as far as I’m concerned this is still technically the weekend so I am going to dispense Mama AnnMaria’s advice on personal relationships. …
I blame the internet.
My grandmother told me (more than once) that if your husband doesn’t beat you, gives you children and pays the bills that’s all you can demand. Anything else is gravy.
While I would not go to that extreme, I think far too many people, both married and single, both men and women are going too far in the opposite direction. They are confused by the fact that there are 173,982 men (or women) that pop up in response to their search for gender+age + location that they can find the perfect one.
I have been married to The Invisible Developer for 16 years. Before that, I was married to a really great guy, who had an accident and died after we had been married for 11 years. (It’s a long sad story.)
My point is that I have managed to do that until death do us part thing twice now, despite fitting very closely the description of Murphy Brown,
“She can’t cook, she won’t clean and I suspect her last boyfriend is buried under the back steps.”
My young, beautiful niece who owns TWO businesses posted on Facebook that after she went on a date with a guy, he sent her a text message saying he was no longer interested in her because he’d sent her a text and 20 HOURS later she still hadn’t responded!
I see this kind of stupidity all of the time from both genders.
“I really care about my body and I can’t see myself with someone who drinks Pepsi.”
Really? Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me?
Let me explain this to you …. Half of those people on the internet are lying about their age and if that picture is them at all it is from ten years ago. I’m short. Usually the first thing people say when they meet me for the first time is, “I thought you’d be bigger.”
Yet, I know plenty of women my size who insist that anyone they date has to be at least six feet tall. How do you have a height requirement for dating? Men aren’t any better, they often have a weight requirement.
Does this not sound stupid to you? You are looking for someone with whom you will spend the rest of your life, in sickness and in health, to raise children together, pool all of your income and worldly goods, pursue mutual goals that you decide on through communication – and the most important thing is he can reach shit on the top shelf without using a stepladder? What is WRONG with you people?
I’ve written about this before under a post Tech Tip: Marry the Right Person, where I pointed out what should be obvious
“a helpful, knowledgeable supportive colleague who can discuss technical issues with you is worth his weight in gold. And, if you have the added benefit that you are having sex with him, well – duh – you have the added benefit that you are having sex”.
Eventually, my dears, whoever it is that you are dating is going to be wrinkled and grey (and so are you). Are you going to still like each other then? Will they still have your back? Will they spend two hours installing the latest version of Windows while you drive to Hollywood and back to feed The Perfect Jennifer’s cats because she is in New Orleans? Will they buy your granddaughter a lollipop and a candy necklace and go on the Ferris wheel at the pier even though they hate Ferris wheels because said granddaughter thinks it’s amazing?
My point is, once you find someone with a lot of good points, instead of focusing on their flaws (which everyone has, including you), appreciate their good points, marry them and have a good life.
Here is the sad truth … if there is a superb dancer- ski instructor- super-model- cardiologist – multi-millionaire who never forgets birthdays, with vacation homes in Aruba and Aspen out there – well, he or she can probably do better than you.
One of the darling daughters asked me,
“So, you’re saying that I should just settle?”
If you keep looking for someone who is perfect, you’re going to miss seeing the perfectly good person standing right in front of you. Or, now that I think about it, as I read the dictionary definitions:
3.b. To establish residence in; colonize:
You know … to be in a desired position, established in residence and profession, calmness and comfort – settling doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all. That is #47 of 55 things I have learned in almost 55 years – and now, it being close to 3 a.m., I have to go chase The Spoiled One to bed.
There have been days, especially when I started my first two businesses, when I was seriously stressed. What if I could not make the payroll? What about cash flow when the business was growing and expenses were due now but customers didn’t pay until the end of the month?
What if … for most small business owners, the real end to that sentence is … “if I fail?”
We all know that a substantial percentage of small businesses fail.
What if I fail?
Like many people, I’ve been fascinated in the turning to look at a wreck on the freeway sort of way by the blog “My startup has 30 days to live.”
It’s very sad and sometimes as I read it I think of the best lesson my late father-in-law left us. When he passed away, the only thing The Invisible Developer asked of his mother is if he could have the sign that was in the garage.
Forty years or so ago, my father-in-law started a business, a TV and radio repair shop. Eventually, televisions and radios became cheaper and more people decided to just toss the thing and buy a new one. That was the end of De Mars TV & Radio repair.
What happened to my father-in-law, the “failed” small businessman? He went on to work for a large company, the same company that sponsored a National Merit Scholarship that sent The Invisible Developer to UCLA to pick up degrees in math and physics, free of charge. He went on to buy a house in the suburbs, raise four children, stay married to his wife over fifty years until death did them part.
You know those families you see on 1950s sit coms? THEY ACTUALLY EXIST! I really think Leave it to Beaver was filmed in my in-laws’ living room.
What did his family think about his failed endeavor? The first time she saw the sign, The Spoiled One exclaimed,
“Wow! Grandpa started his own business when he was young? That’s cool. I never knew that.”
As for The Invisible Developer and me, things are going pretty well with the business. (However, if you would like to buy a pre-release license that gets you three games for $35 please rush on over to 7 Generation Games and do so.)
Still, we keep the sign around as visible reminder that …
If I fail, it’s very likely that I’ll go on, do something else and have a perfectly fine life.
So, my advice to you, young entrepreneurs is to work hard but don’t worry so much. The most likely scenario is that you’ll be fine one way or another.
And that’s number 46 of 55 things I have learned in (almost) 55 years.
I’ve been working with SAS Enterprise Guide 6.1 with SAS On-Demand on Virtual Box and I can’t find much to complain about. It is slow, but since I’m usually doing 14 things at once, while I’m writing for a task to complete I can read an email, download a file or answer a phone call. Why bother? Why not just use something quicker? Well, there is the free part. I expect to be teaching at a different university this fall with a higher proportion of low-income students (stay tuned), so “free” would be good. Virtual Box is also free.
Then there is the ease of explanation of some topics with graphics, a big soapbox issue for me. Also, the SASHELP library has some ready to use data sets. Here is just one example, from the Heart data set.
Then I selected from TASKS > GRAPH and clicked on the picture of a stacked bar chart.
I dragged sex under Column to Chart and Status under Stack.
Under the ADVANCED tab I selected Percentage as the Statistic used to calculate bar and clicked the box next to Specify one statistical value to show for bars and picked percentage from the drop down menu.
With a little pointing and clicking I have a good first look at our data. It is obvious that there were more women than men in the sample – 55% to 45%. It’s also obvious that the odds of a man dying were much greater. While men were about equally likely to be alive as dead, women were twice as likely as being alive as dead.
So, from this little chart we can start talking about odds, then move to odds ratios. We can also raise objections to looking at just a single variable related to death. Were the women in this sample younger? Certainly age would be related to death. What other variables should we include?
So, here you have a sneak peek at the beginning of my class on categorical data analysis at WUSS in November. You should come. It will be fun. There will be pictures. And cookies.
Even potentially pictures of cookies. I have to go now because I am hungry.
There was supposed to be a new SAS On-Demand in June so I put off downloading the latest version to prepare for my fall courses. When I went to download SAS Enterprise Guide, however, I saw that the upgrade had been postponed until July. Not sure what that will entail but since I had recently installed Virtual Box on my Mac and I was curious to see if the latest version would install on a virtual machine, I went ahead and downloaded it anyway.
This installed SAS Enterprise Guide 6.1 . It took about 20 minutes to download. Not sure if that was just due to slow download speed on my part – we have seven people staying here at the moment, and between desktops, laptops, iPhones and iPads it easily adds up to over 20 devices that could be hitting the wireless, so, who knows.
Once I had downloaded the SAS Enterprise Guide download manager and tried to run it, I received an error message that I needed Microsoft .Net framework 4.1 .
So …. I downloaded and installed that, which took negligible time, re-started my computer, re-started the SAS install and it finished in a few minutes.
Opening up and connecting took very little time, however, once I started trying to do anything it took forever. The first thing I wanted to do was simply open a dataset from the SASHELP library that comes with every version of SAS Enterprise Guide I’ve ever seen. This took a while, as did a simple thing like doing a cross-tabulation and a few statistics like a chi-square. I wondered if I was just impatient, so when I clicked on the input data tab to go back and look at the raw data, I timed it. It took over 15 seconds just to open the data set.
At this point, I was out of patience so I just closed it and decided to try again later.
The good news:
You can install SAS On-Demand with SAS Enterprise Guide on Virtual Box and it will run analyses.
The installation process is relatively simple and painless.
It’s still free.
I like the new look with a log window that breaks down notes, errors and warnings. I think it will make it easier for people just learning SAS.
The bad news:
It’s slow. That may be a Virtual Box thing, a temporary Internet speed problem or that the computer gods hate me. I suspect it isn’t completely unintentional on the part of SAS Inc. since if it was equally good as the paid version you wouldn’t have much incentive to pay. There is also the fact that the average infant has more patience than me.
According to their documentation, you can only have one installation of SAS Enterprise Guide 6.1 on a machine. So, say you are a professor and you have SAS installed because your department pays for it. However, you want your students to use it and you don’t want to require them to pay for it because student is a low-paying occupation. If you want to test out what your students will experience using SAS On-Demand you need to install it on a different computer. That’s not a huge problem since there are very few differences between the on-demand version and desktop versions, but personally I like to be able to test things out, make movies of what the students need to do for them to watch before/after class and to just test out EXACTLY what students will be doing.
It doesn’t run on Windows XP, Windows Vista or any 32-bit operating system. Until recently, almost all of the Windows machines we had were 32-bit because we mostly use them for testing and we try to test at the lowest common denominator.Now, to run it on boot camp I’m going to have to erase everything and re-install the operating system. Again, since I just use that for testing also, it’s only a minor inconvenience and an upgrade was long overdue anyway.
I would have liked if it ran well on Virtual Box because it would have saved me re-starting in Windows whenever I wanted to use SAS and then re-starting in Mac OS when I was done.
I would have liked a self-cleaning guinea pig cage, too, and I don’t have that, either.
About a week ago, I went through pointing and clicking your way to a factor analysis. At the time, I suggested rotating the factors. Now we’re going to interpret the rotated factor pattern. Let me recap, briefly. Agresti and Finlay (p.532) put it way better than me when they said:
Factor analysis is a multivariate statistical technique used for …
1. Revealing patterns of interrelationships among variables
2. Detecting clusters of variables, each of which contains variables that are strongly intercorrelated …
3. Reducing a large number of variables to a smaller number of statistically uncorrelated variables, the factors of factor analysis.
All of which is well and good but once you have your factors, what do they mean? How do you interpret them?
Important point one: The correlation of a variable with a factor is called the loading.
Important point two: To ease interpretation we’d really like to have “simple structure”, that is, where variables load close to 1.0 on one factor and close to zero on the others. I mean, really, if you think about it, if your items load equally on all factors it’s going to be pretty hard to interpret.
Let’s take a look at my example from the 500 Family Study, which you have probably forgotten already. To make it easier to interpret, I copied the factor pattern output into a spreadsheet and sorted by the loadings on the first, second and third factor. You can see that almost all of the items relating to discussion loaded on the first factor. So, I could say that factor 1 is “Communication with parents”. The second factor seems to be mostly about rules, punishment and placing limits, such as punishments or reward for grades, curfew and time out with friends. The discussion questions that load more on this factor than the first are on discussion of breaking rules and discussion of curfew. The third factor is all of the items related to decision-making, with the exception of family purchases, which didn’t really load on any of the three factors.
Notice a few things— Just like correlations, loadings can be positive or negative. How late your curfew is loads negatively on the Rules Factor. That is, families that have stricter rules have an earlier curfew. How often parents limit time out with your friends loads positively on the Rules Factor. Although it’s not ideal, variables can load on more than one factor. As noted, the discussion of breaking rules item loads both on the Communication Factor and the Rules Factor. Variables can not load on any factor at all, like the decision on family purchases. My guess is that most parents decide most purchases without consulting their adolescent children.
The really useful result of factor analysis is that it allows you to take your 42 items, discard one as not really fitting and distill the others down into three factors. Instead of using 41 individual items to predict your outcome of interest, say delinquent behavior, you can use three. It’s almost certain that those three factors will be far more reliable than any individual item, and your results will be far easier to explain as well, say, “Students who have more communication with their parents, moderate rules and moderate input on decision-making have the lowest rate of delinquent behavior and highest academic achievement.”
Not sure if that is true or not but with these factors we are now in a good position to test that. I just need a couple more measures, of delinquent behavior and academic achievement, and I can test my hypotheses. I expect there will be a linear relationship with communication (negative for delinquency and positive for academics) and a curvilinear relationship with the other two measures (inverse for delinquency).
I guess that will be my next thing to do when I have some spare time. Or, you can wander on over to ICPSR.org and download the 500 Family Study data yourself.
Want to know the secret to getting better at almost anything?
Rambling story that only appears to be irrelevant ….
For many years, I was on one committee or another that awarded funds to aspiring Olympic athletes. Often, my recommendations were at odds with the majority of the committee members, and if you looked back, you’d see I was almost invariably right. Here’s why – I’m a little person and sometimes when a practice was going on, I would slip in a side door and sit in a corner or up on a stack of mats, and just watch. You can learn a lot about a person by how they train when they think no one is watching them. Some of those athletes put on a good show when they knew they were being watched but were going at half-speed the rest of the time. Here is the lesson learned – we train harder, try harder, do more when we are being watched.
Want a less obvious lesson? That is true even when the person watching you is yourself.
This applies to virtually everything. Want to get more work done, exercise more often or spend more time with your family? Measure it. Write it down. Set goals. Track it.
For example, I am generally considered to be something of a workaholic by all of the people who nag me constantly that I work too much, from my mom to the neighbor who I had never formally met until today, and who immediately recognized me as “that lady who I always see in the window at 2 am working on her computer”.
I have known that I am not as efficient as I could be. I spend way too much time on twitter, just reading random political comments, and reading way too many blog posts on the Internet like this one on why we don’t need to teach math. “You will never need to know when two trains going at different speeds will meet. We have train schedules.”
The picture above is what I saw when I opened my eyes at 9:25 this morning. Not only was I awake before 10 a.m. but I was awakened by a small person sitting on my stomach. Given that Small Person Number One and her sister Smaller Person Number Two are visiting this week and insistent not only on waking me up before the crack of noon, but also jumping in the bouncer at the block party, going for a walk, being fed (several times), having Number Two’s diaper changed, reading books and on and on and on, it became apparent that I would need to be more efficient at work.
The four adults in the house took two-hour shifts of keeping the children from drowning the guinea pigs in the toilet and teaching them how to count by fives (the children, not the guinea pigs. Guinea pigs aren’t that smart. I’m surprised I have to explain this to you).
Given that I had only a few hours to work uninterrupted, I set very specific goals of what I needed to get done in those hours. Before it is my turn to watch them, I’m going to send Gene the script for the next video clip on fractions on a number line, while they are asleep, I’m going to finish the review of this article and get it back to the editor. I had an extremely productive day and I expect to have an equally productive week. The difference in efficiency is simply due to observing what exactly I got done in each two-hour block. It’s not goal-setting. Some of those tasks had been written on the white board in my office for a week. It’s measuring how much I accomplished toward that goal in a set period of time.
If something is really important to you, try measuring how many minutes you really spend DOING it each day. If you’re like most people, that simple act of measurement will make you more efficient and result in you doing more of whatever it is.