Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese


Stuff I Learned This Year: Excel Edition

I <3 spreadsheetsI like to think of myself as rather proficient in using Microsoft Excel.1. I use it for everything from keeping simple lists to advanced data analysis. I love pivot tables and conditional formatting and even have a favourite Excel function2 The other day at work I taught a bunch of colleagues, who are all very well versed in the use of Excel3 that you can copy something from one cell down a whole column by double clicking on the bottom right corner of the cell you want to copy. Most of them knew that you can grab that bottom right corner and drag it down as far as you’d like to copy, but they were all suitable stunned with the double clicking trick – which comes in especially handy if you have hundreds or thousands of rows of data – that’s a lot of scrolling if you are using the drag method instead.

Which brings me to the new thing I learned about Excel. It has a limitation that I’ve never run into before, but which is now an issue for me. Specifically, that limit is the number of rows you can have in a single worksheet. That number: 1,048,576 4,5. And I learned this as a particular set of data that I’m working with had more than a million rows of data! Our makeshift solution is to have multiple worksheets in a workbook, though now that we have almost filled our our *second* worksheet, it really slows down the old laptop!

Clearly, the next thing I have on my “things to learn this year” list is database management!

Image Credit: Posted by Crishna Simmons on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

  1. One of the things that I do in the statistics course that I teach over at the Justice League is make sure that everyone who takes my class can use Excel properly – it’s probably one of the most useful thing they use in the course, to be honest []
  2. CONCATENATE. Mostly because the word is awesome. I probably use “Text to columns” more often, but I love to say “concatenate”! []
  3. Including one who I’d say is the best Excel user I know. []
  4. Source: []
  5. It also has a limit of 16,384 columns, but I haven’t run up against that particular limitation yet. []


It Wouldn’t Be Vancouver if We Weren’t Talking About the Weather

It rained in Vancouver yesterday, so naturally everyone was all “WHEN ARE WE GOING TO GET SUMMER?????” and then I was all “Um, didn’t we have like 2 weeks of straight sunshine? Haven’t we had summer weather pretty much since April??” And then I was like this:

So then I decided to go to the data. According to, this has been our rainfall in Vancouver for the past two weeks:

Rainfall over the last 2 weeks

So we haven’t had *straight* sunshine for two weeks leading up to yesterday’s rainy day – we had a whooping 0.6 mm of rain on Aug 2 and 1.8 mm on Aug 3. And then no other rain in the past two weeks!

And then I looked at the temperatures. According to Accuweather, we had temperatures at or above the historical average for:

  • 28 of 30 days in April
  • 29 of 31 days in May
  • 24 of 30 days in June
  • 27 of 31 days in July
  • 5 of the 10 days so far in August1

Here are the graphs, because all data should always be graphed2!

April 2016 temperatures

May 2016 temperature

June 2016 temperatures

July 2016 temperatures

August 2016 temperatures

Now, I realize that last summer it was even hotter and much, much drier. So much drier that we were on water restrictions due to the drought were experiencing3. But this summer has been warm and sunny here in Vancouver and I’m actually sad that it’s on its way out – sunset is coming noticeably earlier and I’m having to think about whether I need to bring a sweater with me when I go out if I’m going to be out until the evening, which I haven’t had to do for quite some time. But I am glad that we’ve had a long summer and I do plan to enjoy the remaining above average temperatures we have coming for the rest of this month!

  1. With a forecast that we’ll be at or above historical average temperatures from now until Aug 29. []
  2. Note that I didn’t make the graphs – I just took screenshots from Accuweather. []
  3. And as much as I love the heat, I prefer not having all the plants dying and not worrying if we were going to run out of water! []


How Many Hours Does One Spend on Homework in a Part-time MBA Program? The Final Analysis

Hey, remember that time that I did an MBA? That was pretty awesome. And remember how I’m a huge nerd and was tracking all the hours that I spent on said MBA? Also pretty awesome. Anyway, the last time that I provided an updated summary, it was of the data up to the end of summer 2013. So, for completeness sake, I’ve analyzed the full data set, from the beginning of the pre-core program until I handed in my industry paper, the final thing I had to do in my MBA. (Spoiler alert: the final analysis is not much different from what I saw in the preliminary analysis). A few caveats about these data:

  • I completed the program in 24 instead of 28 months, so the amount of time I spent per week is higher than it would have been if I’d completed the program as scheduled
  • The part-time program, as scheduled, consists of a full weekend of classes roughly every third weekend, except July & August, plus work on a business plan and industry project that spanned several months and was done outside of class weekends. I took some courses from outside my program (e.g., full-time MBA classes offered in the evenings, EMBA courses offered on different weekends, some online/distributed learning courses). This makes my time spent in class less regular than it otherwise would have been.
  • My industry project was a project that was related to work, so some of it was done on work time. Since this was work I’d have been doing anyway, it was not counted as school work time (Though anything I did that was extra for the industry project was conducted on my own time and is counted in the data).
  • Transit time to and from school was not counted, unless I happened to be doing homework (e.g., reading while on the Skytrain) during that time.

And now, to the juicy data!

Overall for the two years, I spent:

  • 831 hours on homework
  • 641 hours in class
  • = 1472 hours total

If my next best alternative use of that time was to do freelance work and I charged $100/hr as a consultant, that would mean my opportunity cost for that time was $147,2001.


Hours spent on homework per week, on average  7.95
Hours spent in class per week, on average  6.14
Total hours spent on school per week, on average 14.23
Hours spent on homework per hour of class time 1.3

When you break it down to core3 vs. post core, you get the following:

Core Post-Core
Hours spent on homework per week, on average   7.95  7.96
Hours spent in class per week, on average   6.85  5.64
Total hours spent on school per week, on average 14.80 13.82
Hours spent on homework per hour of class time   1.2 1.4

The above tables tells us that:

  • I spent more time per week in core than in post-core
  • I spent the same amount of time per week doing homework in core as in post-core (regardless of the fact that I had more class time in core))
  • I spent more hours of homework per hour of class time in core than in core

Now, because I, along with all my classmates swore to our business statistics professor that we would always graph our data, here are some swanky graphs (click to embiggen)!

Time spent on MBA program per day

Time spent in MBA - daily totals (FINAL)

Time spent on MBA program per week

Time spent in MBA - weekly totals (FINAL)


So, in conclusion, I spent a heck of a lot of time on the MBA program. However, you should note that this was my experience, but it differs from others. For example, I spoke to a classmate at graduation who told me that he spent 40 hours per week total, for the whole 28 months of the program4. And I’m sure there are students who spent less time and in different patterns, given what was going on in the lives at various points – a lot can happen in two and a half years! Basically, I’m pretty happy with my time allocation because while it was a huge amount of time and required a lot of sacrifice, I invested the time that was needed to learn what I wanted to and needed to learn, but I still managed to have some fun along the way5. But mostly, I’m happy that it’s done!

  1. Of course, that assumes I could find 14 hours per week of freelance work for 2 years. If my next best alternative use of that time was to sit around eating Doritos, the opportunity cost would be significantly less. []
  2. Note that if I’d taken the full 28 months to do the program – assuming that the total number of hours spent on the modules I would have taken would be the same as the total number of hours spent on the modules that I did taken – I would have spent an average of:

    • 6.68 hours per week on homework
    • 5.29 hours per week in class
    • =12.26 hours per week total []
    • When I say “core” here, I’m actually including the pre-core, which was three optional weekends immediately before the core, as well as the 10 months of the core program itself. []
    • Or possibly he finished a month or so early – so 40 hours per week for 26 or 27 months. I can’t quite remember for sure. []
    • Three half marathons and a trip to Europe come to mind! []


How Many Hours Does One Spend on Homework in a Part-time MBA Program?

Before I started the MBA, I talked to some alumni about what the program entailed. And one of the things that came up in these conversations was the amount of time they spent on homework. Most people estimated it to be around 15-20 hrs per week (remember, this is on top of a full-time job). Naturally, once I started the program, I wanted to see how I compared to this. So I’ve been tracking my time using a little program called “Time Edition1, which is basically a stop watch where you can associate specific projects with the time and it keeps track of it all for you in a handy dandy database2. Specifically, I’ve been tracking time spent in class and time spent on homework (e.g., solo studying and assignment writing, writing take home exams, group meetings and study groups). And, naturally, you are dying to know my results3, yes?

Hours spent on homework per week, on average 8.22
Hours spent in class per week, on average4 9.48
Total hours spent on school per week, on average 17.70
Hours spent on homework per hour of class time 0.87

So, I figure this is pretty interesting, right? My amount of time spent is in-line with the 15-20 hours per week, assuming that the people I talked to were including in-class hours in that number, which, to be honest, I can’t remember if they were. I have vague recollections of some people saying that it was 15-20 hours of homework per week in addition to class time and others saying it was 15-20 hours including class time – but it all seems so long ago now5, it’s hard to remember! At any rate, it means that doing the part-time MBA program is really like having a 0.5 job on top of my full time job.

Not satisfied to just have averages and ratios, though, having all these hot data points in my hands made me want more. Specifically – a graph. It took some wrangling, since the data as exported from Time Edition didn’t want to play nicely, but with some Excel-lent6 help from Dr. Dan, who managed to bend the data to my will so I could make this graph showing the hours spent on homework and in class over the first 5 months of the program:

Homework & In Class Hours

The red bars represent time spent in class, which you can see occurs roughly every third weekend, with a big cluster at the beginning when I had pre-core classes for the first three weekends in January. Blue bars represent time spent doing homework, which you can see varies a lot from day-to-day.

I should also point out that, with this amount of time being put into my school, I’m doing pretty well. I can’t tell you my exact GPA at this point, as we only get one mark for the entire 10 months of the core program and the formula to determine that grade from the 11 subjects, 2 major projects, case memos, participation, and integrated exam we have is more complicated than finding the Higgs boson7. But I can tell you that of all the things we’ve had graded so far, the vast majority have been in the 80s or 90s8. More importantly, I’ve learned an insane amount of things, many of which are useful to me professionally and some of which I can see being useful personally9

So, at this point, I think that the amount of time, which kind of insane, has been well worth it, given how much I’ve gotten out of it. I have another blog posting brewing in my brain about all the stuff I’ve been learning, but I shall have to leave that for another day!

  1. As per usu, I have no affiliation with Time Edition; sadly, they aren’t giving me copious piles of money to plug them. []
  2. You can also associate specific “customers”, since this is really meant to be a way to track projects that are billing someone for. If only! []
  3. Note: these are the results from the start of pre-core in January until the end of the last class in June. I’ve done more stuff since then, as we do have project work and assignments in the summer, but haven’t included those data in this analysis. []
  4. We have class roughly every third weekend, so this is the value when you average that out over the whole time period []
  5. It was only in November. []
  6. Excel-lent. *snicker*. I crack me up! []
  7. Oh yeah, I went there. []
  8. But I can also tell you that that seems to be true of virtually everyone I’ve talked to about grades. []
  9. Such as being able to read – and understand – a company’s financials before choosing to buy stocks in said company. []


Linked In – I’m Doing It Wrong

So the other day I noticed that you could make a map of all your Linked In contacts, which shows you where you have clusters of contacts and where the clusters connect. Naturally, because I love visualizations of data, I jumped on it. And this is what I got:

My LinkedIn Network

The first thing you notice is the giant cluster of blue on the right. That’s my social media contacts. Now, remember that I don’t work in social media – those are strictly social contacts. And remember also that Linked In is supposed to be the social network for work contacts.  I also don’t work at UBC or in science outreach, yet they represent my other big clusters. Hell, there are even little clusters of my high school friends and my family members!  The orange cluster on the left is really the one closest to my work, but it’s a mix of contacts from my former workplace and the lab I worked in during my PhD (there was crossover between these two groups, hence the mishmash). The two places one would actually expect me to have clusters from on a supposed work-related social network – my actual workplace and my MBA program – are nowhere to be seen! I am totally failing at Linked In!

So I may have sent 85 invites to people to join my network. Granted, many of these are still not work-related, as I added my Gmail contact list and then checked “invite” to anyone whose name I actually recognized from said list, but it’s a start. Next up, actually searching for work and school contacts!


(no title)

So, as I’m sure I’ve never mentioned on here before, I love data. I used the Runkeeper app to track my running data, the Sleep Cycle app to track my sleeping data and (the now open source) wesabe to track my money data.  So, not surprisingly, one of the blogs I follow is Information is Beautiful.  This site takes data and makes it visually appealing and understandable.  A posting earlier this month caught my attention and I’ve been meaning to blog about it since forever!  As I’m too busy today1 to do my usual Sunday BC Premier posting, I’m finally getting around to blogging it today.  The posting was about “Wikipedia’s Lamest Edit Wars.” For the uninitiated, Wikipedia articles are written by whoever wants to write them and generally result from people writing stuff, then other people providing more information and/or critiques and often the co-editors come to consensus2. Sometimes, however, they do not.  The “infographic” for this Info is Beautiful posting represents the Wikipedia pages that have had the biggest edit wars (i.e., people changing the same things back and forth because they just cannot agree) as pieces of paper with the size of the paper representing the number of edits.  Things like: Is the name of the South American country spelled “Brazil” or “Brasil” (page edited 11,571 times)?  Or should The Beatles be listed in the “traditional” order or alphabetical order? And is it “the Beatles” or “The Beatles” (page edited 17,608 times)?

But the one edit war, though not nearly the biggest one on the list, that caught my eye was: Arachnophobia: Should a page about fear of spiders contain a photo of a huge tarantula on it?  And I just have to say: what kind of a sick mofo would want to put such a horrid thing *anywhere*, let alone on a page like that? GAH!

  1. working on the course I’ll be teaching at UBC starting in September, since said course doesn’t seem to want to plan itself, plus I have to run 16 km []
  2. or one of the sides gives up on the argument []