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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Deep magic

The mysteries of R are unfolding before me as I work on my masters thesis. I knew when I started this project that what I wanted to do could be accomplished through some creative indexing schemes, and I am discovering them. The process of discovery is itself interesting; I'll encounter a problem and the little syntactical tricks (what few of them!) I know will start swirling around in my head suggesting possible approaches. The solutions that emerge are often very strange-seeming mixtures of ideas that are very far removed from what I would have expected. And as I experiment I encounter new methods and approaches, its wonderful.

They say R has a steep learning curve, but it seems to be the sort where it accelerates a lot after the initial investment. I'm sure that my having studied some other programming languages is helpful, and that the statistical concepts are familiar enough. Its exciting when you learn enough of a language to be able to express creativity though it! I'm finding myself highly motivated now, I'm sucked into the puzzles of the project. I suppose part of what makes it rewarding is that results can be tested continuously, and I can judge their value for myself.

I've hit a wall now though: my masters account doesn't allow SSH access to WRDS, and I'll probably have to wait until after break before I can get the proper permissions assigned. I could use the web interface to get around it, but its clunky and I want to develop the generalizable skill of using SSH and UNIX queries.

Added: I take that back! Apparently all the people needed to make it happen are still at work today, 'cause I've got my account! Now I just gotta figure out how to use it.