Monday, April 12, 2010

SAS in Seattle

By sheer coincidence, almost exactly a year after an AERA convention in San Diego, I extend greetings from the Sheraton on Pike Street in the heart of downtown Seattle. Arriving late Saturday night, Sunday I walked all over downtown, having breakfast at the delightful Von's Roasthouse famous for it's exquisite $3.50 martinis (skipped these - 10 AM).

Von's place is fantastic for an afternoon drink among friends. For lunch enjoyed phenomenal seafood at the famous Ivars on the water watching the "dainty" eating seagulls descend on tossed scraps of fish, other meats, or french fries.

Seattle is an extraordinary city in the big leagues with San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and NYC, real cities with diversity, massive economic infrastructure offering real jobs, developed public transportation, and real downtowns that attract tourists from other countries. Today I walked by restaurants that together featured food from just about every country on the planet. The coffee is incredible, and the coin laundries have free wireless internet. On 12th Avenue I saw a film house showing unusual, award winning independent films no Republican has ever heard of, let alone seen. On the same street I entered a coffee shop, sat down with my coffee, and in minutes found myself talking to an engineering student who had expressed enthusiasm for his differential equations class. We had a terrific conversation about what ODE opens up beyond calculus and the role of math in engineering. In listening to him it became clear the guy should be a teacher, which I told him and explained why. He left beaming.

Seattle has committed to be a carbon neutral city by 2030, the first in the country. I love Seattle.

The SAS Global Forum is also terrain about as x4mr candy as an environment can be. SAS is the Rolls Royce of statistical software, a far superior product to STATA, and infinitely beyond the user friendly but inherently novice oriented SPSS. Beginning statistics students typically get an introduction to SPSS as part of the course. STATA enjoys quite a large set of users, especially in fields like sociology and education research, and some of these are very brilliant scholars. They just don't want to invest in the SAS learning curve. Now that IBM has purchased SPSS, it will be interesting (for some) to see how it evolves.

In the major leagues, enormous financial institutions, insurance giants, global economists, health and medical research statistics, institutional research at many universities, where mind boggling quantities of data and highly sophisticated data mining algorithms (SAS Enterprise Miner) are used, SAS rules. Co-workers are promising me that the next couple days are going to blow my mind. I hope so.

Event Promo Video

Tonight's kick-off event gave a taste. Among other things, they are looking at mining social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to conduct what they are calling "sentiment analysis."

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2 Comments:

Blogger The Navigator said...

I imagine your conference group looks a lot different from the distilled KKK white of the tea mob.

I imagine there are other differences as well.

4/12/2010 5:03 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Nav,
My brain is full, and tomorrow will be even more intense.

Regarding the group, you are right. I don't know if raising the diversity of a group necessarily increases its cerebral horsepower, but it is definitely the case that raising cerebral horsepower increases diversity.

The ASHE/Lumina Fellow gathering in DC last June, where everyone had a PhD, either the faculty, sponsors, or the Fellows themselves, was probably the most intellectually gifted group I have ever been around. They were totally diverse with as many women as men and racial diversity all over the place, with no race claiming a majority.

Because SAS is so computer / technical, I anticipated many more males than females. I stand corrected. While men comprise over 50%, there are plenty of women in the group, and many in senior positions. The chair of the entire conference is Lauren Haworth, a high ranking Genentech executive.

Yes, this group is very diverse, and also very global. 25% are from other countries.

4/12/2010 10:05 PM  

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