After some time away from my numbers (I got caught up in competing all-consuming interests), I’m back to crunching data for fun. Looking at numbers, “digiting” them out (reducing them to their single digit – e.g., 58 -> 13 ->4), and finding patterns in them… it makes me incredibly happy. Bliss.
Over the past years, I have dived deep into number-crunching for several-month spurts. It always seems to come back around as a recurring interest… along with the 12th Century Western European Renaissance, Bohmian physics, and woodworking. Each time I come around, my interest deepens a little more, and I find another way to interact with numbers that soothes me like nothing else.
The same thing with programming. The logic of algorithms is incredibly reassuring for me, as is the immediate feedback I get, tell me “right” or “wrong”.
A while back, a friend told me about free big data I can download from government websites, and that’s all I needed to whet my appetite and draw me in. I dove into the US government big data website (not sure it’s going to survive the current administration – note to self, grab as much data off there as possible), and I pulled down some pretty cool data. I crunched it, I rearranged it, I did calculations on it with my handy spreadsheets, and it was lovely and beautiful.
Then something else more pressing caught my attention (a job-related data issue), and I wandered off to focus on that, professionally. I built a program that parses log files from website interactions, so I could track the paths that people followed after they logged in, and I was able to reconstruct the actual experiences that people had on our website that left them dissatisfied, even annoyed… and sometimes angered.
And it’s been beautiful, tracking all that data on the job.
Of course, the politics have driven me half mad, and I’m eager to exit that particular drama-ville, but the data piece of it has given me solace in the center of the storm.
And now I’m back around to my recreational number-crunching. After my business trip last week, I’d reached a breaking point. Had a meltdown on Saturday morning, which is a terrible way to start the day — and the weekend. Had to recover and recoup… and in the process of going through my hard drive, looking for something or other (can’t remember what it was, to be honest), I came across my numbers again. Spreadsheets and text files and lists of numbers. Pi. Lottery drawings since 1997. Global data on US foreign aid since WWII.
Sweet relief. I pulled up my spreadsheets and started studying them again. I printed out 20-some pages of them. I made graphs and charts and color-coded patterns, trying to see what sort of flows came out of them. I found some interesting correlations, some very interesting patterns. Some of what I found (which I’d discovered a year ago, but didn’t really fully appreciate) is very surprising, and I look forward to digging a little deeper into the patterns behind the patterns.
Pi, especially, fascinates me. I’m working with it (such as I can, seeing as I can’t actually get that deep into it, because I don’t have the computing power to do so). I’m doing it graphically – visualizing it in some very cool ways. Generating art from it, and seeing where that takes me. I’ve got some cool ideas about how to elaborate on the visuals and make them really, really interesting.
It’s all great fun, and I’ve missed doing this. My all-consuming interests seem to go in cycles, taking me different places as I will, and when I’m wrapped up in one thing, I completely forget that something else actually exists. Until I come ’round again and realize – hey! that’s so cool!
And then I’m back at it. The never-ending cycle of discovery and exploration. And it’s all good.