Monday, March 23, 2020

Clean (Don't) Freak

Cleaning your place can be boring, but with a pandemic going on, it's important to keep your living space clean, even if you're the only one using it. Plus, when you break things up into manageable tasks, cleaning can be fun, meditative, and a nice break from work (especially if you're working from home). So here are some cleaning tasks to pick from that can be done in 5 minutes or less:
  • Vacuum your living room rug/carpet - move any furniture that gets shuffled around regularly (like that end table you use to eat dinner in front of the TV - no judgement, I do it too - or the chair that gets brought in for extra seating or the ottoman that goes wherever you feet are) but don't bother with any furniture that isn't moved often
  • Sweep or vacuum the bathroom floor (if you're lucky enough to have more than one bathroom, pick the one most frequently used)
  • Wipe down the kitchen counters with cleaner spray or a warm, soapy rag; if you have a big kitchen, choose the counter(s) adjacent to the sink or the one that gets used most frequently (for me, it's the counter between the sink and the coffee maker)
  • Clean the bathroom mirror(s) with glass cleaner
  • Vacuum the office floor/rug
  • Clean your cellphone screen with rubbing alcohol or screen cleaner (even a warm washcloth is better than nothing)
  • Dust your bookshelves with a warm, soapy rag or duster (you can push the books back, but don't worry about moving them; it isn't dusty underneath them)
  • Sweep or vacuum under your dining table; move the chairs out, but don't worry about moving the table itself
  • Wipe down the fronts of your appliances (like your microwave, dishwasher, or oven) with a warm, soapy rag or cleaning spray
If you have some extra time, pick one:
  • Wipe down stove cooktop (move burner grates if you have gas, or just spray and wipe for electric cooktop; and if you have gas, throw the grates into the dishwasher)
  • Strip your bed and wash your sheets and pillow cases (I know it's a hassle, but trust me: clean sheets feel wonderful)
  • Dust tops of shelves, above trims, and/or the tops of picture frames (a duster, like these Swiffer Dusters I absolutely love, makes this task even easier)
  • Move the houseplants off the window ledge or the stuff that accumulates on your dining table or desk, and wipe the top down with a warm cloth or cleaner spray (I use a disinfecting spray for just about everything, except my dining table, which I clean with a warm, soapy washcloth or wood cleaner)
  • Move the end tables that generally stay in place and vacuum the living room (but don't worry about moving the couch, unless you have help and somewhere to put it)
Though some of these tasks take longer than others, none take very long; you could pick one or two of these tasks a day to tackle.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Talking with Numbers

Illinois residents have been asked to shelter-in-place. I've got plans for writing projects, gardening, and an office to clean/reorganize, so I should be able to keep busy when I'm not working (from home). A few of my writing friends are talking about organizing CoroNaNo - National Novel Writing during COVID-19 quarantine. Anyone want to participate?

Monday, March 16, 2020


What a strange time we are living in. My CEO has closed our office and is having everyone working from home for at least the next two weeks. On top of that, we've learned that employees in my office building as well as a coworker have been exposed to COVID-19 (so far, none have tested positive). Since my parents are both over 70 and have health conditions that put them at greater risk for complications if they contract COVID, I'm back in Kansas City, working there and helping out by running errands and doing things around the house.

Plus I've got two of the best social distancing buddies on the planet:

Teddy, on the left (my parents' dog), is almost 11 and Zeppelin, on the right, just turned 2 yesterday! We celebrated with a drive to Kansas City, a new toy, and a yummy peanut butter treat he'll get later this evening.

I was invited to complete the 2020 Census, so I hopped online and filled it out. Surprisingly, all they asked me was gender (binary - male or female, with no options for other or even prefer not to say), birthdate, zip, race, and whether I rented or owned. Nothing about marital status, income level, sexual orientation... I expected a series of demographic questions, but what I ended up with took 2 minutes. So yeah, the Census is going to be a joke this year. Of course, I suspected this would be the case when I blogged about it previously (here, here and here). And Trump from the beginning has been problematic with data (see here) and his (lack of) response to COVID is likely also to keep the numbers artificially low and help his reelection odds. 

Otherwise, things are quiet here. Schools are closed (mostly because they're on Spring Break, but they're likely going to stay closed even after that) so there's not much traffic, and we have plenty of food plus Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+. The dogs have no idea what's going on in the world, so they're pretty happy. I'm crunching away analyzing data for work and texting with friends, dreaming about spring and my garden, and taking inventory of my huge stack of books to read.

That's all for now! Hopefully more blog posts soon!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Money Walks

Another cool visualization - Neal Agarwal has created a site, Printing Money, that visualizes earnings at various hourly rates, revenue of major companies, and spending by organizations like NASA and the US Military.

If you scroll partway down, you can enter your own hourly rate and watch the money scroll by. Fair warning, watching the growth of the National Deficit race by at $125m per hour is dizzying.

You can check out Neal's other coding projects here. I particularly enjoyed his Life Stats project, where I learned that the moon has orbited 509 times in my lifetime, I've blinked about 300,607,247 times, and there are 3,120,013,847 more people on Earth than when I was born. And I'm currently playing with Where does the day go?, which asks you a series of questions to let you visualize how you spend your time each day.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Visualizing the Tallest Building in Each State

Via Digg:
This data visualization, put together by takeasecond on Reddit, shows the tallest building in all 50 states in 2020. As the graph demonstrates, the current tallest building in America is New York's One World Trade Center at 1,776 feet tall. In contrast, the shortest building on the list is the Decker Towers in Vermont at just 124 feet tall.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

On Presidential Approval Ratings and Opinions on Conviction

New research from Gallup suggests that job approval of Trump is strongly correlated with opinions on whether he should be convicted in his impeachment proceedings, a relationship also observed during Clinton's impeachment proceedings:
Americans' support for the Senate convicting Clinton in 1999 was much lower than current support for convicting Donald Trump. Gallup's Jan. 22-24, 1999, survey (one of a number we conducted while Clinton was on trial) found 33% of Americans in favor of Clinton being found guilty and removed from office, while 64% were against. Our latest survey on Trump shows 46% in favor of his conviction.

In the 1999 survey, Clinton's job approval rating was 69%, much higher than Trump's current 44% approval. So, the lower support for Clinton's conviction went hand in glove with his approval rating: 64% were against conviction compared with his 69% approval rating, and 33% were in favor of conviction juxtaposed against a 29% disapproval rating.
One interesting observation from the survey is that people place a higher bar on conviction than they do disapproval of Trump's job performance:
As noted, Americans' views on the impeachment of President Trump largely correlate with their overall views of the job he is doing as president. There is, however, a slight but evident deviation from a 100% relationship between Trump approval and views on the desired impeachment verdict.

Just 4% of Americans who approve of the job Trump is doing as president say he should be convicted, while a modestly higher 15% of those who disapprove of Trump say he should be acquitted. Apparently, there is a slightly higher bar for conviction among those who don't like Trump than there is for acquittal among those who do like him (although both of these positions are very much in the minority).
Research also suggests that Trump's current approval rating is almost the highest it's been in his presidency, but is still a lackluster performance when compared to post-World War II presidents in general (who historically average 53 percent):

Enough about politics. Here's a cute puppy (mine)!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


New year, new job, new blog post describing it all. On January 6, I started working as a Data Analyst at the American Board of Medical Specialties, which oversees certification and maintenance of certification activities for 24 Member Boards (such as the American Board of Dermatology, American Board of Nuclear Medicine, and so on).

The main part of my job will be doing analysis, research, and program evaluation of the CertLink program, which is a really cool online system that tests physician knowledge in their certification area, provides feedback and introduces new information to improve over time, and measures the relevance of items to their practice, so that their maintenance of certification assessments can become more targeted to the population and types of cases they encounter in their practice. We're hoping that this kind of system will become the future of medical specialty certification, so rather than taking a high stakes exam every 10 years, medical specialists can maintain their certifications through targeted, longitudinal assessment and continuing education. And we're hoping to show this approach works by tying it to long-term, quality of care outcomes, like prescribing patterns. I'll share more as I learn more about the company and my role, to the degree that I can based on data privacy. But I'm so excited to be involved with this, using my psychometrics and statistics skills for the data I'm working with, and my research/program evaluation skills to show (how) the system works. I also finally get to use my SQL knowledge as part of my job, and will be using my R and Python programming skills pretty regularly as well.

Zeppelin is adjusting well to me working again. He adores his dog walker, who he sees three times a week, and has made many new friends in the doggy daycare he attends twice a week. He also has a huge crush on Mona, who can be found at Uncharted Books, stopping to stare longingly at her every time we walk by the shop. As is the case with so many crushes, this love seems to be unrequited; Mona tolerates Zeppelin but doesn't like the way he drinks out of her water bowl when we stop in.

On the blogging front, I'm working on an analysis of the 88 books I read last year, and might even do some long-term analysis of my last few years of reading data. Stay tuned for that.