data diving, drilling and mining


Currently fussing about with Google’s App Engine – first step in creating a visual trend app…yes, I’m an amateur…you know, love of the sport…and it keeps my head in the game.

I love data-mining…finding correlations….like Freakanomic’s consilience…and as a systems thinker, databases are a natural conclusion to the organization of information.

I’ll probably sideline this page…not enough time…and I only dig into the bag when I need to solve a bigger problem…like below under ‘Just Shoot Me’


Filed under: Uncategorized

Oh just shoot me

If necessity is the mother of invention, then boredom is it father

Turns out I’m not the only one that thinks that boredom is one of the engines of innovation. Adam Smith puts it in a more considered light in The Wealth of Nations.

“A great part of the machines made use of in those manufactures in which labor is most subdivided, were originally the inventions of common workmen, who, being each of them employed in some very simple operation, naturally turned their thoughts toward finding out easier and readier methods of performing it.”

In example

I was tasked with populating an ‘activity checklist’ for use during the installation of tools at Intel’s D1D development Fab, later to be rolled out worldwide. By ‘tools’ I mean complex, multi-million dollar fabrication equipment. My job was to transcribe the data detailing the multitude of equipment connections from paper copy to an Excel spreadsheet.

It required going to Document Control, signing out the design documents, and manually transcribing the data for each of five trades, for some 300 tools. I thought, ‘just shoot me’. I couldn’t imagine anything more mind numbingly boring. Not to mention there were constant revisions taking place. I had a permanent job in hell.

I got to thinking about it – or more accurately, got to thinking of a way out of it. I realized that the drawings started out as electronic CAD files, so there had to be softcopies available. And if there were softcopies, then the data could be extracted and the ‘checklists’ automatically populated. By the time it was all said and done the entire set could be run, or revised, in 7 minutes.

The client loved it. Did I get a pat on the back and an ‘attaboy’ from our management? Ah, hell no. We were a consulting firm, that got paid by the hour. They wanted butts in seats billing time and 7 minutes doesn’t add up to much.

On the other hand, I had to learn database programing to make the ‘checklist’ project go away and on the back of that success we were invited to bid on a purchase requisition tracking system. Up until then our competitor had a lock on providing database services. We won the bid and went on to provide a range of database solutions. (BTW…I can’t program my way out of paper bag, but I can write a damn good functional specification)

The takeaway

So you can kind of see how this works. Exceed your client’s expectations by striving to continually innovate, provide more for less, make it up by increasing your menu of services, resulting in customer loyalty. Business otherwise is just so boring.

Filed under: Uncategorized

This Tract…a view into US Census Data

Use This Tract to explore your neighborhood or follow a news item back to it’s source and get to know the locals.

Filed under: Demographics