15 December 2012

almost there.

It's 10:30PM on a Saturday night, what are you doing?

Well, I have no shame in saying that I'm sitting in the computer lab of my school's library working on this post. There's two other students in the lab so whatever haha... Here are some highlights and personal improvements since the last post!

10 December 2012: I (somewhat) pretended to be someone else.

In August, I started to look for my first real-world job. There's been many ups and downs, but I definitely learned a lot about myself. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? After applying to about 80 different positions, I only had two interviews! The phone interviews were both for companies that I'd only dream to work for. I completely bombed the first one with a bunch of "likes, ands, and umms." I feel embarrassed just thinking about the second phone interview... Finally, I felt exhausted and fed up with myself.

Before the final presentation of my senior thesis, my advisor gave me some advice to combat the nervousness. "Think of it as acting. You're just an actor on stage and the thesis is your script." BAMMM! I took the advice and survived; there are other reasons how I survived the situation but that's another story. I used the same advice for another phone interview and it went surprisingly well! The company was excited to hear more. There was suppose to be another preliminary phone interview, but that was bypassed and I was scheduled to meet them in person!

13 December 2012: I promised myself to just be me

The day of my first in-person interview. I made sure to conserve my mental energy by planning everything I had to do the night before. During the morning of the interview, I woke up and followed my schedule but I noticed one huge difference. Everything just seemed to go according to plan! This never happens. I can only thank Dr. Radziwill for the Politically Incorrect Secrets for Getting Through College!! The Law of Attraction has gained another believer. I promised to just be myself and to encompass myself with positivity. Anyways, I strolled into the office like a boss and blew the interview out of the water!

14 December 2012: I cleaned my room.

My room is not usually clean. I try cleaning my room often but I don't clean my entire room because...  I slightly like to hoard. At least I admit to it! I cleaned my room and rearranged everything to improve the Feng Shui. As a kid with a superstitious asian mom, I know all the rules and configurations for the best Feng Shui. It may be coincidence, but I absorbed all the good energy and actually enjoyed waiting on tables. All the good energy must have rubbed off on my tables because I made over 25% of my total sales!

07 December 2012

the end of the world.

One of the coolest people I know has introduced an interesting challenge, The December 2012 End of the World Improvement Challenge. I accept! It's for the greater good so I suggest that you accept the challenge because it's never too late.

So... the world is apparently going to end on December 21, 2012. What are your thoughts? I realized that I'm too involved with a bunch of other things that I don't give it much thought. However, thanks to Dr. Radziwill, I like all things quality and self-improvement is a way to improve the quality of me! Anyways, let's get in the habit of improving at least one thing a day between now and the much hyped "end of the world." How do I improve? What do I improve? Where do I start? These answers are up to you. When it comes to self-improvement, there's no right or wrong way to achieve success as long as it is right for you. This improvement challenge is not limited to yourself. You can help someone else improve something as long as you or that someone feels good/better.

How will you improve something today?

04 December 2012

the pareto principle: the vital few and trivial many.

Hello! I've always known December to be cold and dark because I grew up in New York, but the Virginia weather is stunning today and I'm loving it!!

Today, I'd like to talk about the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, states that about 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. My simple explanation is that 80% of the trouble comes from 20% of the problems. To apply this principle during analysis, the Pareto Chart is used to determine the "vital few"causes that are responsible for the majority of defects. The Pareto Chart is a type of bar graph. Each bar displays the frequency of occurrences in a certain category and is organized from the greatest (left) to the least (right).

The Pareto Chart is one of the Seven Basic Quality Tools and I'm going to show you how I analyzed my expenses from November in R! If you'd like to follow along, download the current version of R: 2.15.2 "Trick or Treat." You'll also need to install the "qcc" package in order to create the chart.

1. I created a vector named "expenses" that contains the cost of each expense I paid in November.

> expenses <- c(495, 286, 81, 80, 73, 39, 40, 25)

2. Next, I categorized or named each expense with the names() function. Note: the names must be in the same order you listed for costs.

> names(expenses) <- c("rent", "car"," phone", "groceries", "insurance", "gas", "electric", "water")

Use the data.frame() function if you prefer to work with a data frame. I'll name mine "df.expenses"

> df.expenses <- data.frame(expenses)

Print the vector (expenses) and the data frame (df.expenses) to see how the data is displayed.

> expenses
  rent  car  iPhone  groceries  insurance   gas  electric  water 
   495  286      81         80         73    39        40     25 

> df.expenses          expensesrent           495car            286iPhone          81groceries       80insurance       73gas             39electric        40water           25

3. Now we use the library() function to load the "qcc" package and create the Pareto Chart.

> library(qcc)
Loading required package: MASS
Package 'qcc', version 2.2
Type 'citation("qcc")' for citing this R package in publications.

> pareto.chart(expenses)

Pareto chart analysis for expenses
              Frequency   Cum.Freq.  Percentage Cum.Percent.
  rent       495.000000  495.000000   44.235925    44.235925
  car        286.000000  781.000000   25.558534    69.794459
  iPhone      81.000000  862.000000    7.238606    77.033065
  groceries   80.000000  942.000000    7.149240    84.182306
  insurance   73.000000 1015.000000    6.523682    90.705987
  electric    40.000000 1055.000000    3.574620    94.280608
  gas         39.000000 1094.000000    3.485255    97.765862
  water       25.000000 1119.000000    2.234138   100.000000

(Above) By default, the pareto.chart() function shows a Pareto analysis and the corresponding chart. Let's add some labels and spice it up!

> pareto.chart(expenses,main="Pareto Chart for Andy's November Expenses",xlab="Name of Expense",ylab="Amount of Expense",las=1,col=topo.colors(8))

Here is a list of the arguments I used and what they mean:
- main: title for Pareto Chart
- xlab: x-axis label
- ylab: y-axis label
- las: orientation of labels on axes (1=horizontal, 2=vertical, 3= perpendicular to axes)
- col=type(length(expenses)): if you don't like the cool tones of topo.colors palette, replace the type with heat.colors for warm tones, terrain.colors for earthy tones, or rainbow for ROYGBIV colors

4. To make it easier for analysis, I added a horizontal line at 80% to see which expenses were problematic for in November.

> abline(h=(sum(expenses)*0.80),col="red",lwd=4)

R calls lines "A-B lines" so we use the abline() function. The h stands for horizontal. This horizontal line is equal to the sum of my expenses multiplied by 0.80. By default, the line width is set to 1 and the color is black but I used the col and lwd arguments for a red colored line and a thicker line width of 4.

5. There's my final product! The major contributors of November's expenses were rent and car! In other words, my rent and car account for the majority of my expenses (80% of problems). Also, I should focus my efforts on these two expenses for the greatest improvement -- note to self: find a place with cheaper rent and/or sell my car for a bicycle!

The Pareto Principle states that about 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. The chart illustrates the small number of causes that account for most of the problems. Remember, the Pareto Chart can only be used when your data are broken into categories with the corresponding frequency of occurrences.


28 November 2012

how to summarize data.

Hi! I hope everyone had a great time with family and friends last week. I'm very thankful that I got to spend the week relaxing and seeing old faces.

Today I wanted to write up a little guide on how I summarize data. This post was motivated by poker... I know nothing about poker but after grasping some of the concepts, I went straight to the UCI Machine Learning Repository to see if I could find a poker-related data set to play with in R. Fortunately, the Poker Hand data set is one of the most popular ones.

This guide comes from old notes that I took for my senior thesis last year but they came in handy! This guide will be helpful when trying to understand the most basic properties of a data set.

#1. Discover the central tendency.

  • To find the central tendency of your data, look at the sample mean and median.
  • The sample mean and median are not always the same! If these values are different, find out why.
  • Sample mean - the sum of all measurements divided by the number of measurements in the set (or the average). 
  • Note: since the sample mean equally represents each measurement, any extreme value (or outlier) will create an impact on the mean.
  • Sample median - the middle value of the ordered data. If there is an even number of observations, the median is the average of the two middle values.
  • Note: the data set must be properly ordered before finding the median.

#2. Measure the variability.

  • Determining the variability means to measure how the data are spread out relative to the center of the data set. There are a few ways to do this depending on how the data are distributed.
  • Range - subtract the smallest value from the largest value.
  • Note: the value for range increases as the sample size increases. It's only fair to compare the ranges between two or more samples if the sample sizes are equal.
  • Variance - the measure of how the data is dispersed.
  • Note: if units of your data are measured in seconds, then the units of variance are seconds-squared. (I hope that makes sense, I could only define the units with an example!) 
  • Standard deviation - the measure of dispersion (or variation) from the mean. 
  • Note: standard deviation is determined by the square root of variance and is measured in the original units of the sample.
  • Interquartile range - the distance between the upper and lower quartiles or the difference between the 75th and 25th percentile.
  • Note: quartiles break a data set into four even parts (25/50/75th percentiles) to create a box plot.

#3. Visualize the data.

  • It's good to visualize your data so you can see its distribution (where the center of the data occurs and how the observations are spread out around that center). 
  • One useful way is to use histograms, which are graphs that display the frequency of data.
  • Box plots, like histograms, are organized to give you a sense of dispersion and skewness. I like box plots because you can pinpoint the extreme values.
  • Scatter plots are used to see how bivariate data are distributed. This is when you determine if there is a correlation between x and y -- and if it's positive or negative.
Cool, huh? One last point to consider is sensitivity to oultiers. Sample means and averages are sensitive to outliers, whereas IQRs and medians are not.  

15 November 2012

daily joy and appreciation.

Can you believe it's already Thanksgiving next week? It seems like this morning I was looking in the mirror to fix my cap and gown. Anyways, I recently reread a book that was given to me a while back titled, "Politically Incorrect Secrets for Getting Through College" written by Dr. Nicole Radziwill. As a gift to all students everywhere, Dr. Radziwill provides a link to the free pdf ebook!

Stated in the title, the book provides secrets for getting through college in a funny, smart, and motivational way. I enjoyed the book because it gave me a new perspective on things. The cool part about the book is that these secrets can be applied at anytime. I'm happy that I stumbled across this book again because now I have the politically incorrect secrets for getting through post-grad life :)

Dr. Radziwill explains a three-point plan for success and making your dreams come true. One of these points says to choose a daily joy and appreciation. I'd like to share my daily joy and appreciation with you all!

While taking a drive today, I got to relax and really enjoy this sunset! It was so peaceful that I had to dangerously pull out my phone for a picture. My appreciation for today is dedicated to Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik, a blog that's all about decision-making and web analytics. 

web analytics gold.

Fact: Avinash Kaushik is a pure genius.

Avinash Kaushik is the Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google, the Co-Founder and Chief Education Officer for Market Motive, and the author of my next two must-reads (Web Analytics 2.0 and Web Analytics: An Hour A Day).

Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik. If you're infatuated by web analytics, then it should be a requirement to read everything from this blog. I appreciate this blog because you can learn about web analytics and Kaushik's articles radiate inspiration.

I'm still rummaging through all of his great blog posts, but I just finished taking notes and reading Web Analytics 101: Definitions: Goals, Metrics, KPIs, Dimensions, Targets. Yes, I take notes in my Moleskine on everything and anything I find awesome and useful. Kaushik is brilliant because he explains concepts and terms with examples that just make sense. Before reading this article, I was confused between a metric and a dimension but Kaushik defines the terms extremely well. A metric (count or ratio) is simply a number, but a dimension is an attribute of the visitor and their activity on your website. Dimensions are also important for analysis because they help to group your web data.

In addition to the examples, Kaushik plants pieces of advice and reminders throughout his articles that reinforce your understanding and learning. Now whenever I think about business objectives I'll remember that they must be DUMB: Doable, Understandable, Manageable, Beneficial. If you want to learn more about web analytics and relevant topics, then Occam's Razor is the place to go!!

don't be screened out.

Whether you're looking for your first job or looking to advance in the professional workforce, you may be asked to schedule a phone interview.

With more people earning degrees, the competition becomes increasingly fierce. Also, as a result of advancing technology, we can practically learn about anything we desire! Basically, the chances of anyone getting an offer are slimming down as more smarties pop out. There's also the economy... but I won't go there.

On the other hand, it's just as tough, if not tougher, for companies to find these smarties! Again, better technology means more competition, which applies to companies too. As companies are faced with a million problems, they post job openings in hopes of finding someone who can solve these problems.

HMM? What's the fast and efficient way of sorting through all the candidates? Oh yeah, phone interviews. Interviews are stressful by nature, but there are ways to combat those sweaty palms. Prepare yourself by learning all about your future employer and their hiring practices. Be energetic because who wants to hire a Negative Nancy?

While I was preparing, I found an article on CNNMoney that had some useful tips. In "Don't wear pajamas for a phone interview," Annie Stevens suggests wearing business attire, eating a medicated cough drop beforehand, having a photo of the interviewer on your computer screen, and taking notes. Interesting, huh?! Check out the article for other tips like these!

10 November 2012

more than raw.

Hi! Do you remember your earliest years of science class? Last night I tried to 5S my closet but stopped when I found my lab notebook from sixth grade!! I kept this notebook because of my sixth grade epiphany, which was realizing that I enjoy science.

This lab notebook contains the first time I conducted a lab experiment that required me to collect raw data. I remember going home and stressing over the numbers that didn't help me answer the questions for analysis. During an era where books were majorly used to find answers, I pulled out my textbook and found equations that used my raw data to find derived data and BAM BAM BAMMM!!! It was like looking through a microscope and finding the perfect adjustment for a magnified and crystal clear view of a chloroplast. The analysis was clearer than ever.

Why am I telling you guys about this? I was inspired to share my nerdy moment because of an article that I found on Viget's Advance blog. I'm infatuated with this company and their blogs. The article (Change is Good) was written in 2010, but the information is still very relevant and useful.

The author and marketing strategist, Anjali Merchant, for Viget explains why focusing on raw numbers only reveals raw numbers. Check it out!

08 November 2012

political numbers.

Let's talk politics.

Okay, just kidding. Political science was never my thing but thanks to the Revolution Analytics blog and a post from yesterday (How Nate Silver won the election with Data Science) by David Smith, politics became my thing... or at least for about 20 minutes!

Smith explains the great details of Nate Silver's successes as a statistician such as using many data sources, understanding correlations, consistency in methodologies, and great communication skills. Check out Smith's article!

Nate Silver's forecasting analysis concluded that President Obama had a 90.9% chance of winning! I'm a big believer of numbers and numbers do not lie. Whether politics or data are your thing, read "As Nation and Parties Change, Republicans Are at an Electoral College Disadvantage" because I guarantee you'll learn something (plus, the graphs and charts are neat)!

07 November 2012

something to think about.

On a daily basis, we are required to make all sorts of decisions. In the aggregate amount of decisions, I lost sense of what it means to really make a decision. Yesterday, I came across an insightful blog post written by one of the most influential people in my life, Dr. Nicole Radziwill.

In "Decidere: The Power of Decision," Dr. Radziwill notes the Latin origin of the word "decision," which is decidere - to cut off all other options. I (naively) thought that post-grad life would be a breezy walk in the park, but I was so wrong... and I'm happy that I was wrong. The anxiety of making the wrong decision plagues my mind everyday, but why should I worry about this?
"Being submerged in a continual stream of decisions not only weakens mental energy, but depletes emotional reserves (and willpower) too."
When I started the search for my first job in the professional workforce, I was worried about anything and everything. Where and when should I apply to jobs for better chances to be hired? Will I have a chance with this company? The infinite list of worries and questions clouded my judgment and, ultimately, deterred my endeavors to find a job.

Thank you, Dr. Radziwill, for illuminating my subconscious and showing me how to improve the quality of life by making decisions.

04 November 2012

data and the future.

I recently found an awesome blog that provides information on analytics! The website is called Decision Stats and I think it's great because it shows readers where they can learn for free!

Right now I'm learning how to incorporate the data that is collected from Google Analytics into R to forecast information!! I'll be keeping in touch with the results!

show me the numbers.

Why am I crazy about numbers? Well, it all started last year with my senior thesis. A group of us led by Dr. Nicole Radziwill had the opportunity to analyze the production data from Starr Hill Brewery and the goal was to improve the overall beer brewing process. By using R to play with the numbers, we were able to use:

Cool huh? The project also employed Lean Six Sigma management methods and the DMAIC framework. Any time there are problems to solve with data, count me in!!

29 October 2012

what does energy mean to you?

What is energy? Where does energy come from? What does energy mean to you?

Stumped? Don't worry, you've come to the right place for a simple explanation. First, it helps to understand the concept of work. Imagine a box that you've pushed from your bed to the closet door. To push the box (or change its movement), a constant force is applied. The physical length between your bed and the closet door is the displacement. When you find the product of force and displacement, work is defined.

Now we'll take a look at power, which can be understood as the rate at which energy is converted or the rate of doing work. Defining power gives you the degree of speed per unit of energy.

In physics, I memorized the definition of energy -- the ability or potential to perform work or cause changes. Energy is the capacity for doing work. But what does that mean? Energy is essential to do work and it's useful to understand the amount of energy required to do work.

Increase your energy consciousness.

Did you know that about 20% of your home energy budget is consumed by lighting? ENERGY STAR explains the differences here. Basically, incandescent bulbs require more power to output 800 Lumens than the CFL alternative and more power means more energy!      


due to severe weather...

JMU will be closed on Monday, October 29, 2012!! After getting a text message about classes being cancelled, two thoughts came to mind: 1. YAYY! I get to sleep in and work leisurely from home and 2. Oh man, I miss pulling all those times I stayed up all night to finish an assignment only to find out that class was cancelled.

So... Hurricane Sandy! What have you done to prepare yourself for the upcoming crazy weather? The winds are expected to reach 60 MPH!! Don't leave your house and plan for widespread power and communication outages. Awesome!

Maybe being trapped in my apartment will motivate me to read a book or go to the gym... okay, no I'll probably sleep until Wednesday.

28 October 2012

Here's a face to the name, andy anchovy haha

hi, bloggers!

It's been an idea of mine to start a blog for a while now... and here it goes! Since I graduated from college earlier this year, I'd like to blog my post-grad life. I graduated from James Madison University with a bachelor's degree in Integrated Science and Technology (ISAT). 

In January, I started a project with a group of students to create the first student-derived and student-taught course at JMU titled, "The Energy Challenge." The goal of this course is to teach students about energy and how it's applied in our daily lives. I know that sounds boring, but this class is different and awesome! Instead of impossible math problems and headaches, we designed The Energy Challenge to be interactive because a group of students will be teaching the hands-on material. Here's another twist: we want to show kids how to change their energy consumption habits. 

How do I go green? It may seem expensive or out-of-reach for students to go green, but there a ton of things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. For example, changing from incandescent to CFL or LED bulbs, adjusting the performance settings on your computer, and simply unplugging any unused appliances in your room or house. Ultimately, it's important for everyone to be energy conscious.

Here are some great and easy ways to cut your energy use, thanks National Geographic!