Thursday, December 29, 2005

Holiday Reading For Nerds

I usually use winter break for research and for catching up on my reading. This one's no different, particularly since our van is in it's last gasps, which gave us a pass on driving 300 miles up the east coast to visit the Unknown Extended Family for the holidays. Instead, we'll do mid-January, and we get to have the Unknown In-Laws come down to visit us for a week between Christmas and New Years. This, of course, gives me more incentives to hole up in my subterranean office (known to the kids as The Batcave) and work on my research.

It works out well, since I'm putting a paper together that I'll hopefully present on a job talk in about three weeks . The talk will be at one of my dream schools - it has pretty much every data resource I need for my research, a small doctoral program (so I get grad assistant scut puppies), a grad-school classmate on the faculty, and best of all, it's only 70 miles from both sets of parents, so the kids can spend lots of time with the Grands and all the cousins.

In between running long SAS programs (SAS is a statistical programming language, for you non-nerds), I'm also doing a bit of reading. Just to show you why I'm known among my academic friends as the Alpha Nerd, here are the books I ordered for the break:

First, in the SAS/Programming Nerd category:
From time to time, I have to read data that's formatted in strange ways. This book came highly recommended, with lots of examples of code to read data from input files formatted in almost any way I could imagine: Reading External Data Files Using Sas: Examples Handbook by Michele M. Burlew.

Since my type of research involves a lot of custom programming to line the data up right, I end up writing a lot of macros (basically subroutines). To improve my skills in this area, I got Carpenter's Complete Guide to the SAS Macro Language, 2nd Edition, by Art Carpenter.
Next, in the Academic Nerd Category:
I ordered two books by Robert Boice, who's done a great deal of research on what makes faculty productive. Although I've been doing this professor gig for almost 10 years, I found the first book, Advice for New Faculty Members to be an eye opener. It's chock full of helpful advice on how to be more productive (i.e. do more research) with less stress. The second book (also by Boice) is similar, but focused just on the writing aspect of academia, and is called Professors As Writers. both books were highly recommended by Academic Coach, and for good reason.
Finally, for the general Word Nerd lurking deep in my soul, I got The Synonym Finder, by J. I. Rodale, et. al. -- probably the best thesaurus around. Given that I was a kid that read dictionaries for fun, this should be pretty cool. Like I said, I'm an unrepentant nerd.

Anyway, looks like my latest SAS program just finished running. Back to the torturing of data.

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