Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Blogging A to Z: The A to Z of tidyverse

Announcing my theme for this year's blogging A to Z!

The tidyverse is a set of R packages for data science. The big thing about the tidyverse is making sure your data are tidy. What does that mean?

  1. Each row is an observation
  2. Each column is a variable
  3. Each cell contains only one value
When I first learned about the tidy approach, I thought, "Why is this special? Isn't that what we should be doing?" But thinking about keeping your data tidy has really changed the way I approach my job, and has helped me solve some tricky data wrangling issues. When you really embrace this approach, merging data, creating new variables, and summarizing cases becomes much easier. And the syntax used is the tidyverse is much more intuitive than much of the code in R, making it easier to memorize many of the functions; they follow a predictable grammar, so you don't need to constantly look things up.

See you tomorrow for the first post - A is for arrange!

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!