Carola Oriane June 5, 2021 Spreadsheet
Microsoft Excel is a phenomenally powerful calculator. You can create spreadsheets with 10,000 lines of data and calculate subtotals instantly. Indeed, if you change your data, any totals will get automatically updated. Arguably that‘s not too impressive. If we have quarterly revenues of $1m, and we secure another $20k, we can update our subtotal without summing revenues from scratch. So it‘s more impressive that Excel can do the same thing with statistical functions. If you‘ve ever plotted a chart on Excel, you may be aware that you can add a best fit line. These best fit lines are calculated using a method known as regression. Basically, you have to calculate the distance of every single point from the line, and minimise the sum. The maths is a little more sophisticated but the key point is that, every time you change the data, you need to perform the analysis all over again.
Lester P. Goodbinder had suffered another agonizing week in Pittsburgh. The semi-annual audit he conducted at the Bourgeois Ball Bearing Factory stretched into five 14-hour days examining electronic spreadsheets on an archaic computer system installed in the early ‘80s. The equipment churned so abysmally he cleverly joked to himself it was powered by lazy hamsters on treadmills. Not only that, the accounting software loaded on the system was an early version of ”Abacus,” and only slightly faster than a key-punch adding machine but considerably slower than a hand-held calculator.
As a set of general rules data is most useful when things like text fields hold only names as well as meaningful and validated codes, categories and classifications. Text notes and other free form text should be isolated to a dedicated notes field and thus separated from other numeric data. Numeric fields should hold only numeric values (numbers, dates, %‘s and in the correct quantum or magnitude with no text prefixes, suffixes, spaces, text elements or text notes present. You must also be careful that numeric data is not stored as text and it should be internally consistent in terms of the correct format so that it can be used in calculations or for comparison and queries. Finally, addresses should be separated out into multiple fields such as street address, town /suburb, state / province, postal code and country to allow for geographic analysis and mail outs if required. Fixing up a data set to meet these criteria is called data scrubbing, cleansing or massaging. This data cleansing process can be very time consuming even for an experienced Microsoft Excel user, database engineer, business analyst or computer programmer.
”Happy crapola!” he exclaimed, rising from the rollered chair and scooping accordion folds of printouts into his tattered briefcase. He snatched his worn black suit coat from a hanger on the back of the office door, switched off the fluorescent overheads, and walked to the executive offices in the adjoining building. When his audit week ended, Lester typically teamed with Lance Lott for a tour of the local watering holes. Lance was a marketing guy he‘d met when he first worked the Bourgeois account. Lance also was single, and resembled Keanu Reeves on a bad hair day. Lester considered him a ”chick magnet,” and although he himself never got lucky on their semi-annual expeditions, the other always disappeared with a babe on his arm. Lester decided, tonight would be HIS night.
”Rippeto‘s Rendezvous” was only a block away, and attracted patrons from all levels of the social spectrum: Primarily fringe types, college students, and the occasional Young Urban Professional. It was near the University, and close to Civic Arena and Three Rivers Stadium. On clear nights, you could look out Rippeto‘s windows and see the Monongahela River afire in the distance. Two things are striking about Rippeto‘s when one weasels through the wall of humanity standing outside, and plasters oneself against an identical living wall inside: The smoke and the smell.
Lester‘s temporary office at the Factory was glassed on all sides, and surrounded by the sights, sounds, searing temperatures, and smells of the smelting and pouring areas. Originally, the cubbyhole had been used for storing coal and coke until the plant converted to gas-fired furnaces in the mid-‘50s. Over the next three decades a succession of plant superintendents used the room to boink their secretaries, which necessitated its windows being painted a squalid olive drab. During 10 years of performing this chore every six months, Lester had scraped two panes clear, so now he could gaze into the murky, smoky, smelly pit outside as he waited for the grinding computer and clackety printer to spit out a stream of spreadsheets.