3月 252009
 
Today’s lunch with Dr. Arthur Benjamin, self-proclaimed mathemagician and Professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, was everything it was hyped to be. Benjamin combines light math puzzling and his lively sense of humor for a show that keeps even an analytical audience entertained.

He opened the show with a classic sleight of hand – a card trick. His twist was using an invisible deck of cards that he made reappear before our very eyes. He picked a random audience volunteer to choose an invisible card from his deck.

“Take a look at your card, but be very careful not to let me see it,” cautioned Benjamin. The hilarity grew when the volunteer dramatized his movements like a mime on the streets of New York City.

Benjamin dramatically shuffled his invisible deck.

“Now carefully place your card upside down in the deck.”

The volunteer took one last look at his invisible card and slid it into the deck – upside down. Magically, Benjamin made the invisible deck of cards reappear from an empty box, which had been stowed in his pocket. He asked his volunteer to name the card that had been placed upside down in the deck.

“You’ll notice that the two of hearts is the only card that has been turned upside down,” said Benjamin, with no further explanation as to how he’d known that the volunteer would choose the two of hearts from his invisible deck. (Magicians are sooo secretive about their hanky panky!)

His next trick: squaring numbers in his head. Mathemagically. He started out squaring two-digit numbers and worked his way up to four-digit numbers. Keep in mind that Benjamin was competing against calculators!

After many more tricks and jokes, Benjamin settled into a quiet moment before his finale. He told the audience that he wanted to discuss his stance on education with them. According to Benjamin, math in the US is based on two fundamentals: mathematics and algebra and at its summit, is calculus.

“If President Obama were to name me the Czar of Mathematics, the first thing I would do is replace that summit with statistics – probability and statistics,” said Benjamin. “Very few people use calculus on a daily basis. They use statistics every day to understand risk and reward, to understand trends. And it’s fun! That’s what got me interested in it, and it would get other kids interested. It teaches people how to think.

Instead of learning the Rules of Calculus, it would be better for everyone to know two standard deviations away from the mean. And, I mean it!”

Drum roll, please
For his finale, Benjamin asked five audience members for a single digit.
“Five.”
“Seven.”
“Zero.”
“Eight.”
“Three.”

He intended to square a five-digit number before our very eyes: 57,083. He began by showing the audience how he breaks the problem into three parts:
• 57,000 squared
• 80 squared
• 3 squared

“Let me recap,” he said. Recapping the marker like a mischievous child, Benjamin drew a deep breath and began to solve the problem aloud.

He sounded like a livestock auctioneer as he solved the problem in less than one minute flat, racing against the calculators and stopwatches in the room: 3,258,468,889! The crowd exploded.

Benjamin’s solving tricks:
Benjamin says he’s learned some quick tricks for himself that perhaps you’ve already learned.

Say you are trying to multiply 22 times 5. In this case, he does math from left to right. (Backwards from the way we were taught, right.)
• 5 times 20 = 100
• 5 times 2 = 10
• Add the two totals
• 22 times 5 = 110
Here’s an easier one: 398 times 7
• You could multiply left to right – but it is easier to add 2 and multiply 400 times 7
• 400 times 7 = 2800
• Now, 7 times 2 = 14
• 2800 minus 14 = 2786
So how does he square in his head? Let's use the example of 37 squared
• Add 3 to make 40, and take away 3 to make 34.
• Remove the 0 in your mind and multiply 4 times 34 =136, add the 0, 1360
• Remember the 3 that still needs to be squared = 9, add it to 1360 =1369
• 37 squared = 1369
3月 252009
 
In hopes of adding to your SAS Global Forum experience, we've kicked off a SAS presenters series. Here, we’ve asked some of the SAS presenters five questions to learn more about what makes them tick, why they chose to present and what they hoped you would take away from the presentation. Take a look at Chris Hemedinger’s answers.

Chris Hemedinger, Senior Software Manager in SAS Research and Development

Chris, most users and SAS employees know you from your blog, The SAS Dummy, and your book, SAS for Dummies. Tell me something about you that others might not know.
My first job was with the Buffalo Courier Express as a news carrier (OK, paperboy). It was a great gig, delivering the news each morning while most people were still in bed. The job ended abruptly when the newspaper closed. I was 14 years old and laid off. I didn't miss a day of work though, because I took a "second shift" job delivering the Buffalo Evening News. Since then, I've appreciated stability in my workplace and here I am, at SAS.

How many times have you been to SAS Global Forum? What was your most memorable experience so far?
This is my 7th SAS Global Forum (née SUGI). At SUGI 29, in Montréal, a bunch of us SAS folk got stuck for an extra night when our flights were cancelled due to bad weather along the flight path. The next morning in the airport we were easy to spot. We were all wearing bright red long-sleeved conference t-shirts, the only clean clothes that we had left.

I follow your blog posts, and I follow you on Twitter, so I know that you often talk and write to our customers about SAS® Enterprise Guide®. What made you decide to write What's New in SAS Enterprise Guide 4.2?
Every year we try to present a "what's new" talk to promote the new features in our software. Our primary goal is to inform our customers, of course, but we also want them to see how we've improved the software according to their feedback, to help them to be more productive.

During your presentation, were you able to cover all of the most important highlights and information that you hoped to cover?
This major revision of SAS Enterprise Guide has been 3 years in the making, and there is no way that I could cover all of the new features in a short 50-minute talk. But we'll be on the demo floor during the conference to drill into the details that customers want to know. We also have a great support structure on support.sas.com to provide a continuous flow of information for those who need additional information or for those weren’t able to make it to the conference.

Were there unexpected user questions that will send you back to the drawing board?
As more of our customers adopt use of SAS Enterprise Guide, the expectations and requests keep growing as well. We are already hard at work on the next versions of our software, and the questions that we receive provide us with great validation (and the occasional course correction) for our product roadmap. Looking for a SAS program editor with syntax autocompletion? That's coming. Need a version of these features for use on the Web? That's underway as well. And SAS Global Forum attendees will get the first glimpse of these exciting projects.
3月 252009
 
SAS Global Forum is aptly named: SAS users are spread throughout the world, and many of those users are here this week. Nearly 25 percent of SAS Global Forum 2009 attendees are from outside the US.

Monday evening’s International Forum and Reception was hosted by the SAS Global Users Group Executive Board, and was attended by more than 40 users from around the globe who are either current or past SAS Users Group (SUG) leaders or were interested in establishing a SUG in their region.

The attendees were from nearby Canada and from distant locations including Brazil, Australia, France, Mexico and even Finland.

“It’s very rare for these groups to be able to get together in one place, so we wanted to provide a place where they could network, discuss best practices, and learn ideas about promoting member participation,” said board member Tony Ona.

The forum included a panel of eight guests (listed below) who spoke of best practices they’d learned and told of their users clubs and groups.

“Friends invited me to come to this reception because I’m interested in finding new ideas for the SAS Users Group in Finland (SUGIF) and giving the Finnish SAS Users more information about solving SAS related problems,” said Marja-Leena Sihvonen, President of SUGIF.


Panel speakers:
USA – Gerry Hobbs
Brazil – Carlos Andre Reis Pinheiro
Canada – Matthew Gaouette www.monsug.ca
France – Gilles Fontanini, Pascal Maurice
Mexico – Ramon Santoyo
UK – Phil Holland
SAS EMEA – Quentene Finnegan
3月 252009
 
The numbers are in and SAS Global Forum 2009 had strong attendance with 3,353 attendees.

What do we know about the SAS professionals who gathered in Washington, DC, this week?

• 25 percent of attendees traveled here from outside the United States.
• The top 10 countries represented were: Canada, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, Belgium, Brazil, Finland and Germany.
• 29 percent of attendees are first-timers at the conference.
• The top three industries represented are government with 19 percent of attendees; education with 8 percent; and consulting systems and integration with 7 percent.
• Rounding out the top 10 industries are: pharmaceutical; financial services; insurance; banking and depository; computer software and peripherals; retail; and life sciences.

3月 252009
 
Stephen E. Wilson, Director of Biometrics III, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was a presenter for the SAS Industry Solutions’ Pharma, Life Sciences and Healthcare section on Tuesday. Wilson, who’s used SAS since he was an undergrad at the University of North Carolina in the mid-1970s, addressed the globalization of clinical research.

“There are big experiments taking place, multicenter trials, 872 in India alone, and by big companies,” said Wilson.

“There are more regions, more trials than ever before. Companies are outsourcing data management, and the government is passing legislation that has implications for what data we collect and how we collect and store it,” said Wilson.

The FDA strives to be a good steward of data, said Wilson, by bringing in data from a number of companies and making it available so that companies can collaborate for the betterment of science.

The volume of submissions is staggering, but as the FDA is working toward a vision of global standards (such as eCTD – electronic common technical documents for uniform submissions), it’s also working hard to keep up with current volume.

According to Wilson, the FDA is looking for programmers and data architects to help with these efforts. “We want you for the FDA,” joked Wilson. He closed by telling the crowd, “We are all still riding the same elephant, and we should all be collaborating and working together.”
3月 252009
 
Tune into the March 26 episode of DM Radio at 3 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S.) as editors from Information Management magazine (formerly DM Review) talk to several experts about the power of analytics. The live Internet radio broadcast will include SAS strategist Tammi Kay George, Forrester Analyst Boris Evelson and SPSS vice president of Customer Analytics, Colin Shearer. Together they'll answer the following questions: Why Analytics are bolstering BI across the board ; How the Cloud can make analytics very affordable ;
Why text analytics can be crucial for BI and customer relationship management
Forrester Research predicts that the BI industry will grow to nearly $13 billion by 2014, despite the current economic downturn. This is due in part because of the power and popularity of analytical software, including text analytics, data mining and predictive analytics.
While that statement comes as no surprise to readers of this blog, I find it exciting that others in the IT and BI world are finally catching on. That's why I'm recommending this short DM Radio session -- so you can invite YOUR manager to listen to this broadcast either live (with opportunity for Q&A) or as an archived recording later. Visit the Information Management site to register and find additional information.

Hot news flash - SAS just signed on as sponsors to the Boston TM summit this June. For those readers who have experience with SAS Text Miner, I invite you to contact me in the next week or two. I may be able to reserve a speaking slot on the program agenda for YOU-with SAS helping pick up your registration and travel expenses. Come see first hand what Teragram and SAS are sharing June 1st and June 2nd.
3月 252009
 

Kelly LeVoyer from SAS Marketing Editorial spent some time yesterday with Stephen Baker at SAS Global Forum.

At Monday’s SAS Global Forum, I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes to chat with Stephen Baker, BusinessWeek writer, author of The Numerati and SAS Global Forum presenter. In addition to being interested in his book, I had learned from reading about Baker that we had a few things in common: working/living in Latin America, sons named Henry, he lived in Paris (I want to live in Paris), and a (surprising) lack of math training.

Despite the name (which Baker admits that, in hindsight, he might reconsider because it connotes a higher degree of math than he intended), The Numerati is an entertaining read, revealing the analysis and data at play in our everyday lives.

What’s it like being a journalist with a history degree who’s now a numbers rock star?

When I started, I had these two worlds separated, thinking they were so different. I realized as I interviewed the subjects of the book, the numerati don’t think that differently than I do. We all think statistically but we don’t think of it that way. Let’s say a neighbor asks you for $100. You immediately start processing the request: Do I trust him? What are the chances will he pay me back? What are the risks of saying no? And you’re weighing the importance of each question before answering. The people I interviewed are, for example, just trying to determine what consumers think of a certain product. People in business are doing the same thing: How much weight do we put on the fact someone has stayed at a certain hotel? Is that more meaningful to our decision-making than their annual salary? I don’t know how to do the math, but the logic was very accessible to me. [Note: Baker’s math education ended at intro to algebra in school. I barely got past pre-calculus. Finally, someone I actually surpassed in math!]. They just have some tools and know-how I don’t have. And many of them disproved the stereotypes I realized I harbored too.

What was one of your favorite discoveries you made while researching Numerati, and what other discoveries have you made since then?

We all know a lot of things, but sometimes a truth hits us hard and we gain a deeper understanding—I experienced a lot of those. I knew math and numbers connect various domains—meaning , for example, the same algorithms can be used for marketing analysis and cancer research. But I came upon these realizations in surprising ways.

I was looking into blindness with a researcher in Iowa, at how they look for the genetic markers for macular degeneration. It ended up being the process Dave Morgan uses at Tacoda to determine which ads to serve to serve to which people. 

Another even cooler one was the Microsoft researcher, David Heckerman, who is both a physician and a computer scientist, working on software to defend computers against spam. Spammers regularly change their approaches to adjust to the spam filters, so he had to anticipate the changes that the spammers will make. He was anticipating mutations, and realized there might be a medical application. In 2003 he ended up shifting his work to focus on HIV research.

Back on the BusinessWeek side, what is one story you’ve written in the past few years that really stands out to you?

I wrote a story in December of ‘07 about Google’s computer. Google has built world’s biggest, and in many senses, greatest computer.  It’s one huge machine with connections to data centers all over the earth. Many people don’t think of Google as a computer science company—but they can do things that nobody else can do in the world. They built it all out of cheap, practically disposable computers, so if one blinks out, they just plug in a new one. Of course the newer one will be faster, so the computer begins evolving in complexity, like an animal.  

Your personal profile hints that you’ve written a novel. What’s that all about?

Yes, I have. It takes place in El Paso, deals with a bad lazy journalist who writes a bad story and gets a death threat from a Mexican drug lord, which makes him into a hero. I wrote it with the idea that I would get it published, turn it into a screenplay, make some money and live someplace cheap and warm. That plan didn’t work out. And then BusinessWeek sent me to Paris.

That’s not a bad consolation prize.

No, it certainly wasn’t!

Any ideas churning for a sequel to Numerati?

I’m working on a proposal. It’s in the same vein, but a bit less about the business side of things, more about the research and the experience of what happens when the Numerati have their way with you.

Oh my. And then Baker autographed my copy of The Numerati:  “For Kelly, Had a nice time talking with you, give my best to Henry. Stephen Baker, March 09.”

3月 242009
 
In hopes of adding to your SAS Global Forum experience, we've kicked off a SAS presenters series. Here, we’ve asked some of the SAS presenters five questions to learn more about what makes them tick, why they chose to present and what they hoped you would take away from the presentation. Take a look at Ed Hughes’s answers.

Ed Hughes, SAS/OR Product Manager

Ed, tell me a fun fact about you that would make your personality come alive for the readers.T
here are 104.5 regulation ice hockey pucks stacked neatly in the windows of my office, ten pictures of goalies (not counting mine) on my walls, and I'm pretty sure that I have the only Buddy Holly bobble head in all of SAS. I've been getting hit in the mask with hockey pucks for more than 23 years, and let's just say that shows in my personality as well as in my office décor!


104.5 hockey pucks?
That's just an estimate; one of the 105 total pucks is a small promotional puck that I found in a sports shop outside Zurich (along with, incredibly, a regulation puck for the local team—precisely was what I was looking for). The half-size puck advertises a hockey equipment manufacturer.

I also have two HP foam pucks that I think HP gave away at SUGI 29 in Montreal. It’s always interesting
when I toss one of them at an unfortunate office visitor and they think it's a real puck.

I guess from your last answer, you’ve been to previous SAS Global Forums?
Yes – ten times. I went in 1998 and then from 2000-2008. My most memorable experiences were at SUGI 23, when Lockheed-Martin Astronautics, a SAS/OR customer, won an Enterprise Computing Award and every time I hear opening session speakers, including Dr. Goodnight, single out operations research and optimization as one of SAS’ greatest strengths.

Why did you write New Features in Optimization with SAS/OR?
Thanks to the global economy, virtually every organization is focusing on optimization. Everyone needs to make the most of their limited (and possibly dwindling resources) and to do more with less. Current conditions present challenges but also present opportunities to re-make the decision-making process to be clearer, more consistent and more adaptable to change. Optimization fuels this transformation, helps organizations not only survive a crisis but excel going forward.

During your presentation, what were the most important highlights or questions that you hoped to cover?
I hope that my paper on optimization shows how SAS, by coordinating powerful, accessible optimization methods with all of the data, analytic and reporting capabilities that are always needed to do real-world optimization work, is uniquely qualified to help our customers tackle the optimization challenges that they are confronting.
3月 242009
 
In hopes of adding to your SAS Global Forum experience, we've kicked off a SAS presenters series. Here, we’ve asked some of the SAS presenters five questions to learn more about what makes them tick, why they chose to present and what they hoped you would take away from the presentation. Take a look at Tim Beese’s answers.

Tim Beese, Software Developer

Is there something interesting about yourself that you could share with us?
I often do hip-hop karaoke with my friends. They even got me to perform ‘Rapper’s Delight' at my wedding reception. I am also a “Rock Band 2” drummer and was at one point ranked in the top 1000 bands worldwide.

How many times have you been to SAS Global Forum?
This will be my third trip to SAS Global Forum. The most memorable experience was the Scott Adams talk 2 years ago. It was one of the funniest presentations I’d ever seen.

What customer pain or business problem were you hoping to solve with your paper, What's New in the Add‐In 4.2 for Microsoft Office?
It has been 3 years since we’ve released a new version of the SAS® Add-In for Microsoft Office. Users are ready for a new release, and they’re excited to see what will be in it. I’m hoping to answer their questions and make them even more eager to get their hands on the new release.

During your presentation, what were the most important highlights or questions that you hoped to cover?
The most important highlights were covering how the Add-In and SAS® Enterprise Guide® share a common framework and also to highlight the new features with reporting and pivot tables in the Add-In.
3月 242009
 
In hopes of adding to your SAS Global Forum experience, we've kicked off a SAS presenters series. Here, we’ve asked some of the SAS presenters five questions to learn more about what makes them tick, why they chose to present and what they hoped you would take away from the presentation. Take a look at Robert Chu’s answers.

Robert Chu, Senior Manager, Software Development

Robert, tell me a fun fact about you that would make your personality come alive for the readers. (For example, did you have a ridiculous first car that really tells people who you are? Do you decorate your office in 18th century Chinese artwork? Do you kite fish or snowboard?)
I came to the United States 20 some years ago, but never stopped paying close attention to what happened in my hometown, which publishes only one printed newspaper, three times every month. As a subscriber, I’ve gotten each edition of the newspaper sent to my home in North Carolina. I read every article. Recently, I went back childhood home to visit my teachers, friends, schoolmates and relatives. It was hard for me to hide the fact that I knew more local news than they did, and then I got a kick out of it when I saw their shocked and surprised faces.

This is my first SAS Global Forum; have you ever been before?
This is my seventh attendance of SAS Global Forum. I always enjoy seeing old acquaintances and having enjoyable dinners and chats with them.

You, Jifa Wei, Emily Gao and Frank Wang wrote Dashboard Reports for Predictive Model Management for SAS Global Forum. What did you hope that customers would take away from that paper?
Customers could potentially create many predictive models and want to know very quickly how those models are performing. The problem is as hard to address as it is complicated. I hope the technologies described in the paper will whet customers’ appetites as to how they could go about addressing their model performance monitoring concerns.

During your presentation, what were the most important highlights or questions that you hoped to cover?
I wanted to cover the big picture instead of going into details as the audience member backgrounds are diversified. The most important highlight was to connect what is described in the paper to business ROI (Return on Investment.)