Using and Learning Drake

Drake is a new piece of software I discovered that can be very helpful for automating data manipulation and management. The use case for Drake is simple, one of the biggest, and most time consuming, tasks in any data project is cleaning the data so it can be transformed into a format for analysis. Data often comes in crazy, non-standard, formats which need to be regularized in order to be imported into an analysis program like R or ArcGIS.

Leaving Facebook, Going to Twitter

I wrote this as an initial attempt to think through how one should approach life on social media in an age of political polarization. So how should you react to the triumph Trump? One of the major dilemmas to consider is what to do with and on social media in response. Let’s begin by considering the criticisms: Twitter is, in many ways, a cesspool, and it has been for a long time.

More Understanding, More Understanding

President Trump. I could feel my stomach dropping at about 9pm on Tuesday night when I read that Trump was winning the rural counties in the Florida panhandle by margins larger than 2012. My emotions told me it was a bad sign, and my cognition was soon proved correct. I turned off the TV stream, tweet, and my web browser and went to bed for a few hours. I woke around 3am and by then the election was over.

Political Correctness and Academic Punking

Political correctness is hot once again. Donald Trump is beating the drum against political correctness in his speeches and I suddenly feel like I was back in college. I was a freshman at Yale university in 1990 when Donald Kagan delivered an “infamous” public speech against political correctness and in favor of Western civilization during the freshman assembly. The speech was a bit of a bombshell in the 1990s culture wars and created a firestorm of controversy on campus.

Diagnostic Politics and National Psychoses - Part 2

I want to continue some of my thoughts on psychotherapy and politics that I started to discuss in Tuesday’s post. I’m following the Politicopsychopathology essay by Benjamin Kunkel a bit more closely. The idea of political dream-work is very intriguing. Kunkel describes the persistent sense of deception that now pervades most political debate and discussion in America. The constant praise for ‘job-creators’ by Republicans like Mitt Romney comes in for some close analysis.

Diagnostic Politics and National Psychoses - Part 1

So I have been thinking in psychiatric terms about a number of topics over the past few weeks, in relation to my own work in data management and the contemporary news of the day, which is inescapably about Donald Trump and the American political world in 2016. As the prospect of Trump becoming the Republican nominee for president in 2016 becomes increasingly certain, I’ve started to see a few characteristic stories published.

Rethinking Internet Addiction

When I first read the news reports about internet addiction in the early and mid-2000s I dismissed the idea. How, I thought, could anyone be addicted to the internet? Again in the mid-2000s I started reading more about information overload and personal productivity. I read about Inbox Zero and the transformative power of Getting Things Done. When confronted with a problem created by technology, namely too much information, many people in the technorati went looking for a technical solution.

Libraries, Data, and Collectionism

So I’ve been thinking about a way to describe the enthusiasm about big data that has captured the business, government, and academic worlds over the past decade. I will admit up front that the rapid advances in deep learning technology that large businesses like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon have accomplished in the past few years should be celebrated. The efforts by these companies and the fact that they have open-sourced many of the artificial intelligence frameworks they are creating should be applauded.

Zen and the Art of Science Popularization

I remember reading a stack of popular physics books back in the 1980s and 1990s that proposed a connection between quantum physics and Eastern philosophy. For example, The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra and The Dancing Wu-Li Masters by Gary Zukav. What happened to all of those ideas? I recalled this experience while I was reading parts of Ecology, Ethics and the Future of Humanity by Adam Riggio. I’m in the middle of writing a review of the book and one of the early chapters mentions the connection between ecological thinking and Eastern philosophy and religion.

How important is usability for data librarianship?

A comment on discussions during the DLF forum 2015. Does usability matter for providing access to library collections as data? As a librarian the answer may seem obvious. Of course, usability matters, without proper usability testing and design best practices we will limit the accessibility of our collection, potentially screening out some of our user community. I agree that access is a key goal for any library project. But I want to push back on the default assumption that data should not be released without proper usability or even documentation.