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Staying Cool with R

Before returning to the control industry in 2008, I was employed in business systems development. My employer was hot to get in on the off-shore gambling business, but was kind enough to ask me what I was interested in. I offered my concern that people were overwhelmed with the demands imposed by 24/7 communications, to the point that their ability to actually immerse themselves in the experience of the moment was degrading. I thought that a system that guided them through reflection and looked for correlations between mood and experience might be the basis for helping them find people and places that would allow them to express their talents and find joy.

His reaction was to try to stake me at the gambling tables in Reno.

But he did recognize that I was motivated by a deep caring for people. That’s lead me into other directions in the interim. I’ve been trying to moderate the harsh tone in the dialog between scientists and mystics. I’ve accomplished about as much as I can – the resolution I have to offer is laid out in several places. I just need to let the target audience find the message.

So I’ve turned back to that vision. A lot has changed in the interim, most importantly being the unification of the Windows platform. This means that I can try to demonstrate the ideas in a single technology space. There’s only so many minutes in the day, after all.

I began with a review of statistical analysis. I’ve got a pair of books, bought back when I was a member of the Science Book of the Month club, on analysis of messy data. That provided me with the mathematical background to make sense of Robert Kabacoff’s R in Action. However it’s one thing to do analysis on the toy data sets that come with the R libraries. Real data always has its own character, and requires a great deal of curation. It would be nice to have some to play with.

One approach would be to begin digging into Bayesian language net theory and researching psychological assessment engines in preparation for building a prototype that I could use on my own. But I already have a pretty evolved sense of myself – I don’t think that I’d really push the engine. And I would really like to play with the Universal applications framework that Microsoft has developed. On top of that, the availability of an IoT (internet of things) build of Windows 10 for Raspberry Pi means that I can build a sensor network without having to learn another development environment.

So that plan is to deploy temperature and humidity sensors in my apartment. It’s a three-floor layout with a loft on the top floor. The middle floor contains a combination living/dining area and the kitchen. Both the loft and the kitchen have large sliders facing west, which means that they bake in the afternoon. On the bottom floor, the landing opens on one side to the garage and one the other side to my bedroom. The bedroom faces east behind two large canopies, although the willow tree allows a fair amount of light through. There’s a single thermostat on the middle floor. So it’s an interesting environment, with complicated characteristics.

While thermal balance also involves the state of windows, doors and appliances, I think that I can get a pretty good sense of those other elements by monitoring the air that flows around them. Being a hot yoga masochist, I’m also curious regarding the effect of humidity.

So I’ve got a Raspberry Pi on the way, and have installed Microsoft’s Visual Studio Community on my Surface Pro. Combination temperature and humidity sensors cost about ten dollars. While real-time data would be nice, I don’t think that for the purposes of my study I’ll need to link to the Wi-Fi to push the data out to a cloud server. I can use my laptop to upload it when I get home each day. And there’s some work to do in R: the time series analysis includes seasonal variations on annual trends, and I certainly expect my measurements to show that, but there will also be important diurnal variations. Finally, the activation of temperature control appliances (air conditioner and furnace) needs to be correlated with the data. I don’t want to invest in a Nest thermostat, or figure out how to get access to the data, so I’m going to see if I can use Cortana to post notes to my calendar (“Cortana – I just set the air conditioning to 74 degrees”).

Obviously there’s a lot to learn here. But no single piece is overwhelming until I get to the data analysis. Just cobbling together of small pieces. Should be fun! And if I can figure out how to manage my windows and doors and appliances to reduce my energy expenditures – well, that would be an interesting accomplishment.

4 thoughts on “Staying Cool with R

    • Well, it had nothing to do with exorcisms or vampires. He just wanted to give me $20 to play with.

      My boss was a trader on the NYSE when he started out in business, and thought that if I had the experience of getting high on money I’d understand why he wanted to run a gambling site. Something about the energy that arises when people are all trying to get rich.

    • LOL, that energy is something I simply do not understand! I am more likely to throw up in a casino than to get bit by the gambling bug. Some older women tell me I act like a child of the depression and I think that may be true. I wish I could get high on money, it would probably be more inclined to come my way 😉

    • Well, to get all Biblical on you: you’re certainly better off. When I was struggling financially, I told my sons: “Money is just a way of storing power. I’m using all of my power trying to solve a very difficult problem, and there’s just nothing left to save.”

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