24 September 2010

Ora Time and Expense

I often bid projects by the project and not by time, but some clients pay for a certain number of hours for on-going projects, and for those clients, I need to keep track of time. Based on a recommendation from a friend, I started using a site called Tick (www.tickspot.com) to track time for clients. For free, they let you track time for one client, so I used the site to track time for my biggest per-hour client.

Recently I was downloading at update for my Adobe PDF Reader, and I discovered that there is a whole group of Adobe AIR programs available for free. One of the programs that had won some awards and had been downloaded often was a program called Ora Time and Expense (www.johnwu.com/ora). It was free to download and use, so I thought I would give it a try.

I've been using Ora Time now for almost a month, and I love it. I use it for all of my clients, even the ones that I've bid on the project, not the time. It helps me keep track of the time I spend on clients, and I also time the administrative tasks that I have to do, too. (I've been thinking that I might start timing the tasks to teach Calculus and Statistics for the girls.) With Tick, when I finished something for a client, I had to log into Tick (which sometimes meant turning on my wireless to get on the Internet), pick the client and the project, and enter in the time. With Ora, before I start on a project, I can select the client and the project and hit the timer, and as soon as I'm finished, I hit stop, and the time is recorded for the project. If I want to enter a project and a time, I can do that, too. The program keeps track of expenses, too, though I don't use that feature as much as I use the time tracker, though I like the expenses feature, too.

Well, I guess my time is up. Time to do some work on some contracts.

02 August 2010

Back after a holiday

I'm back from vacation, and the new web course is on-line. The beta testers found a couple of technical problems, but overall, the course was in pretty good shape. A big "THANK YOU" to J.O. for his questions on the content, too. I appreciate the effort.

While I work on getting the basic X-12 course on-line, work also continues for all my great clients!

And the house and the office are quiet because my kids are working on their course work for the 2010-2011 school year. This year they are all in high school and all taking classes through correspondence, except for the AP math classes.

Life is great!

20 July 2010

Math and Science Week 2010

This week is Math and Science week at the Hood House. If the kids want a three week Christmas break (which they do) and want to finish in mid-May to match the public schools here (which they do), then we have to start school in July. Some subjects are more intense than others, so we started with math and science. (Last week was Shakespeare Week, not because we needed to read Shakespeare for school, but just to get the kids used to school again, and to stop anyone from being bored.)

This year I am teaching both AP Statistics and AP Calculus. The good news is that my first AP Statistics student got her scores back last week, and she got a 4. That gives me some confidence as I sail into a new year.

Most parents are happy when school is back in session. It's entirely different when the parent is a teacher. Fortunately for me, my children go to a correspondence school, so the only classes that I have to teach are math. I'm having enough trouble keeping up with lesson plans for AP Calculus. I can't imagine having to take on anything more for the girls.

To celebrate Math and Science Week, we went to Office Depot today to spend some of my coupons. I got some office supplies, but we also bought pens, pencils, erasers, paper, and notebooks for the girls. I have learned, though, to put the office supplies on a different bank card than the school supplies. I'm learning to manage all my tasks much more efficiently.


02 July 2010

First Web Course completed!

The first of many (knock on wood) web courses is completely finished and on the web. I wanted it done by June 15, but had to settle for July 2 instead. Beta testing started on June 28 (because I had the first 2/3 completed), and so far, the comments have been really positive. I made a list earlier of what I needed to complete to get course #2 and course #3 on the web, and it's completely do-able. After that, I'm going to slow down a bit with the courses. I think that with an X-13 course on the web, most everyone who is interested in courses could find something they like in a nice price range.

Now it's time to relax and start to enjoy a long holiday weekend.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

29 June 2010

B2B sales calls and squiggly pens

I learned very quickly after getting a telephone line for Catherine Hood Consulting that the "Do Not Call" Registry is only for private lines. The first day I had my phone line, I had four phone calls just from companies trying to sell me credit card machines. I've had people trying to sell me magazine subscriptions for my waiting room (I don't have a waiting room). And people trying to convince me that I should have a web site (I already have a web site). But the strangest call I had was to try to sell me pens.

About a month ago, I answer my phone the usual way when I don't know who's calling: "Hello, Catherine Hood Consulting."

The voice on the other end of the phone says, "Hey! Want to come to San Diego and go bungie jumping with me?"

I think that his guy either has the wrong number or he knows absolutely nothing about me. So I say, "This is Catherine. I think you may have the wrong number."

"No, Cathereen, I'm trying to reach you. I'm from ***** in San Diego, and we have tons of pens that we have to get rid of, so I am going to make you a fabulous offer on custom printed pens."

At that point, I realize that I had already talked to someone from his company the day before, a woman, and I told her that it didn't matter that she was calling from a very famous company (that I had never heard of) or that she really needed to get rid of pens, I didn't want to be on their calling list. Obviously, asking to be off the list didn't work.

"No, thank you," I say.

"You have no idea what a great deal we can make!"

"I have absolutely no cash right now. Nothing in my bank account at all."

"Oh. Well."

Silence. This seemed to be an argument he hadn't heard before.

"Good-bye," I said.

"Yeah. Good-bye."

They haven't called back.

I like pens. My very favorite day at University of Iowa Hospitals was the end of June, the end of the fiscal year. To use up the office supply budget, our boss let Lisa and I go down to the supply depot and buy as many different kinds and colors of pens as we could find. It was one of the best shopping trips ever, and with taxpayer money. At the Census Bureau, I loved to go to the supply cabinets and look for new kinds of pens. For me, the use of government pens while at work was a great fringe benefit of my good government job. Even now that I have to buy my own pens, I try to keep a lot of good pens handy. I like them for work and for grading the kids' homework.

The idea of custom-printed pens sounded pretty cool, but I didn't want to buy pens from the goofy guy in San Diego who didn't even pronounce my name correctly and thought I would like to bungie jump. I just kept thinking that you would have to be a really bad salesman to NOT be able to sell me a bunch of pens.

Last week, I got a free pen in the mail from a pen company in Tennessee. It's a "squiggle pen," and I love squiggly pens because they look like time series. And it was purple, and purple is my favorite color. And it says "Catherine Hood Consulting" on it, with my phone number. The point of the mailer is that everyone loves to get free pens, and to demonstrate this fact, they sent me a free pen. It was a very effective mailing --- and a lovely pen.

I am so ready to buy a bunch of purple squiggle pens, and give them away to anyone who might be able to send clients my way. As soon as I can fit it into my budget. Because who wouldn't want a free time series pen!

18 June 2010

Life in Shoes

I hate shoes. As long as I can remember, I've hated shoes.

I remember elementary school teachers fussing at me about keeping my shoes on, even on the coldest days of the winter. I had to keep my shoes on in junior high and high school --- it was part of the dress code --- though some teachers didn't pay much attention and you could slip off your shoes while you were sitting at your desk. One thing I loved about college was that I didn't have to wear shoes to class. In fact, it was common practice during the rainy season to put our shoes (and a towel) in our backpacks and wade to class barefoot.

At Yellowstone National Park in the summers of my college years, I found myself wearing shoes because I needed to in the hours when I wasn't working. Between the hot water and the boardwalks, there were very few places where I could go barefoot outside of my dorm room. In the hotel, I needed to wear shoes if I wanted to eat. But when I was working and sitting at the piano, it was easy to take off my shoes and convince the manager that I could feel the pedals better without my shoes on.

For graduate school, I moved to Iowa where I spent most of the winters wishing I could go barefoot, and most of the summers walking around campus barefoot. I got a lot of stares. Maybe it's the farming culture there, but there were not a lot of people going barefoot in Iowa City.

My first "real" job after grad school was in the Reproductive Testing Lab at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Shoes were required because I had to go in the labs sometimes, and it wasn't safe without shoes. I also sometimes had to interact with patients, and my boss thought if I was barefoot, I would look like an escapee from the Psych ward. However, after less than 2 months at that job, I broke all five metatarsals in my right foot. I was in a cast---a fate worse than shoes. After the cast was weeks wearing a board strapped to my foot. It would have been torture for me a few months earlier, but after weeks in a cast, it felt good to be able to wiggle my toes.

At the Census Bureau, I found out with pregnancy #3 that I was quite famous for being constantly "barefoot and pregnant." I wish I had heard about those comments earlier because I might have worn shoes more often. But then again, I was so uncomfortable when I was pregnant that I might not have changed my habits. After I became a manager, they made me take classes in topics like alcohol and substance abuse. The instructor told us that one of the signs of someone with an alcohol or drug problem was that the person would walk around barefoot. The people in the class that knew me all look in my direction and laughed. The instructor was not amused when he realized I had come to class barefoot.

Bud Pautler told me that I should always dress for my next promotion. It was because of that advice that I did start wearing shoes more often, though it was still very difficult to keep them on all day long.

Then I start my own consulting business with an office in a corner of the house just a few steps from my bedroom. "Aaaah," I think to myself, "I never have to wear shoes again."

But running a business from home is difficult, especially with kids in the house. To help me get a handle on keeping the house running even when I had a lot of work to do for clients and the kids, I started visiting the web site of house-cleaning guru The Fly Lady. I liked her advice, and my house was staying cleaner. Then I read her article on "Getting Dressed to the Shoes," and it put me in a quandary.

She says that she used to work for a "direct sales cosmetics company." The sales staff were told that they couldn't make any phone calls to customers unless they were completely dressed, including dress shoes. The company claimed that everyone will act differently in dress clothes and shoes. "The customer can tell when you don't feel good about the way you look." After that, as much as I still hated shoes, I decided that I should dress for work, including shoes.

Not everyone agrees with The Fly Lady. One of the comments on mothering.com said that the advice about wearing shoes keeps her off The Fly Lady's web site. She said there was only one reason to wear shoes at home if you are a stay-at-home Mom: If you spend too much time cleaning, your babies might attack your toes when they want attention.

On the web site Productivity501.com, in the article "Stop Squandering Time At Home," the author says that taking off your shoes improves productivity because you spend less time cleaning floors and carpets. I'm sure that The Fly Lady would say that if this is a problem, then get some shoes for the outside in the mud and snow and other shoes to wear inside.

Gretchen Rubin says in her article on shoes that when she was in law school, her roommate told her about a study that said grad students "who put on their shoes each morning were markedly more efficient than those who padded around in their stocking feet." Unfortunately, she couldn't find the study. Neither could I when I tried to Google it back then or again today.

The Fly Lady says that we need to wear professional shoes or at least lace-up shoes. That is a no-go for me. After my second round of broken bones, my ankle is so swollen that there are very few lace up shoes that are comfortable for me. I wear crocs around the house and open-backed dress shoes to church, but my dress shoes look similar to my work shoes, and probably none of them would pass muster with The Fly Lady.

The danger in crocs or sandals or flip-flops is that they are easy to kick off. I get dressed in the morning in a simple dress or in pants and a nice shirt, and I put on my crocs. But there are so many times when I go to answer the phone and realize that somewhere along the way I've lost my shoes.

Today is one of those days when I have several clients, colleagues, and contacts who have said that they will be calling, so I'm making an effort to keep my shoes on today. Hopefully, the people I talk to will appreciate my professionalism. Maybe they'll say to themselves, "I'm not sure what it was exactly, but Catherine sounded different today. Maybe she's wearing her shoes."

31 May 2010

Seasonal adjustments for weekly series

I've been trying to learn the software from the Fed that does seasonal adjustment for weekly series. The software is not user-friendly, so it's been a difficult learning curve. Tom Evans at BLS is working on a SAS interface that will make the program easier to use, but the interface is still in development. Tom has been helping me learn the program, and he helps me fix my errors when I make a mistake because error messages are nonexistent in the program. I was also having trouble getting the program to run on my series, and I believe it's because my series are short, so the program has trouble estimating holiday effects.

In the short term, I have found that I can get something like looks like a seasonal adjustment from X-12 if I ask for a trend. I can get it almost as smooth or as rough as I would like by changing the trend filter length. With a limit on the Henderson filters of 101, and with a period of 52 (and sometimes 53), the very longest trend doesn't really look like a trend because you can still see the seasonality. But with a very short trend, it is very close to what I get from the Fed's program. So in the short term, I like what I get from X-12, and it's a lot easier to use.

19 May 2010

AP Statistics rain date

The AP Statistics rain date was today. My oldest went into the test site a bit apprehensive, but she found a seat with decent lighting, and when she left, she was smiling. My first foray into teaching AP Statistics, and so far it seems like a success.

08 May 2010

Flooding in Middle Tennessee

In seasonal adjustment, we are very often looking at series with unusual values, and often I'm looking for natural disasters that have caused problems in my series. This week, the natural disaster has been in my backyard.

If you live outside of Nashville, you may not have heard, but Middle Tennessee was hit by a huge flood last week. The national news coverage gave us 15 minutes, mostly due to a failed car bomb in Times Square. Though I understand that terrorism is a real problem, what is happening in Tennessee (and the Gulf of Mexico, I might add) seems to me to be more important.

Nashville had its highest rainfall totals since records began. The Cumberland River and every other river in the area crested at their highest levels in over 80 years. People drowned, some of them stuck in their cars in Interstate-24. The cost of the damage is in the billions; it might be the costliest non-hurricane disaster in American history. It is the single largest disaster to hit Middle Tennessee since the War Between the States.

At our house, the flood waters reached almost to the barn, the highest we've ever seen the creek overflow its banks. Fortunately, we were all here on Saturday, and our house sits high on a hill and is quite waterproof, even when there is more than 15 inches of rain in a single day. My husband had to wade across the creek in the lightening to get to work early this week, but he made it through and back home again. My oldest daughter's AP test was postponed until May 19 (and she was really ready to have it finished), and my middlest daughter couldn't get her braces off because her orthodontist lost his car in the flood and couldn't get to the office.

Maybe the best part of the story is that Nashville isn't on the news. Maybe it's because there was no major looting, no major breakdown in rescue operations. The stories on the local news are about high school kids that are helping people clear the belongings from damaged houses and neighbors who were pulling their neighbors off rooftops using canoes or jet skis. We saw this same kind of cooperation after the big tornado in Murfreesboro just over a year ago. Maybe Nashville and the rest of Middle Tennessee isn't on the national news because in spite of the disaster, there isn't so much bad news in Middle Tennessee.

I'm so proud to be living in Tennessee. I'm so proud of how we all come together and take care of each other.

30 April 2010

Newsletters and other goals

I sent out a newsletter today. It feels great to have concrete goals for my business and to see them accomplished. Not only did I get the newsletter sent out, but I also put new content on the web including updates to the X-12 "Getting Started" papers.

I'm trying some new software to help me keep track of client projects. I'm putting my projects on the list, too, so that even when I am very busy working on projects for clients, I'm still working on my own projects, too --- projects like updates on papers on TRAMO/SEATS, the web courses, and the third quarter newsletter coming out in July.

21 April 2010

More research

I just finished reading a book about brands and intellectual property. I'm not sure I learned much, but it was good to review the material. Much easier to read than the books on tax laws.

I also finished researching textbooks to use for teaching AP Calculus BC and how to rent a bassoon (not every music store rents bassoons, and even oboes are hard to find, I have learned).

My mom was here for a couple of days, and she'll be back on Sunday for the big choir festival I'm singing in. I'm also having to rearrange my office a bit for some installation of extra phone lines next week.

In the middle of this, there is work to do for clients, and papers to write, and web pages to update, and audio files to record. Not to mention meals to cook and dishes to wash.

Sometimes I'm amazed at how crazy one person's life can be.

In order to try to hang on to a thread of sanity, I'm taking a break from my business books. I'm going to finish Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin that I borrowed from my mom. Hopefully in time to return it to her on Sunday. I'm really enjoying the book. The story is amazing, though sometimes the writer gets so dramatic about the situations that I have to remind myself that it's based on Greg's true story. I started it a while ago and got distracted by life. But now I have a goal, so now is the time to finish the book.

After that, I'm going to read The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman. It's an economics book, I suppose, but it's a little less intense than books about laws for small businesses.

This is interesting. Well, interesting to me . . .
Amazon classified The World Is Flat as Politics, but I've read enough of it to believe that it's more about the economics of globalization than about the politics of it. I enjoyed the few pages I've read, and I don't always like "political" books, so maybe I see the economic side of it because that's what I understand. To me, Three Cups of Tea is more of a political book, though it reads like an adventure story, since Mortenson is building schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Amazon has it classified as Women and Business? It's a story about a man who builds schools for girls, and some of the girls go on to be very successful, but that is a very odd category for this book. Who decides on the categories? The publisher or Amazon? Hmmmmmm.

Well, it's time to get some reading done.


09 April 2010

Book report: Working For Yourself

After doing some research on small businesses, I decided that I needed a book specifically on the legal aspects of consulting, including the issue of sole-proprietorship versus incorporating. I ordered Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers & Consultants (7th edition, 2008) by attorney Stephen Fishman. The book is not as boring as the title would imply, though it's not the kind of book that is easy to just sit down and read. The chapters are ordered quite logically, but it's also easy to skip chapters that don't apply to your situation or to only read the chapters related to the information you need right now.

I appreciate the fact that this book is for consultants and others in the service sector, not for retailers or manufacturers. He starts with the very basics, so if there is a chapter that I already knew something about, like copyrights and intellectual property, then the early material in the chapter was just a review for me. However, even in the chapter on copyrights, I still learned something. Therefore, in the chapters about tax laws for small businesses (something I knew almost nothing about), everything I read was something new to me.

Mr. Fishman also gives very practical advice. For example, he gives several tips on how to find the right financial adviser for your small business. For some, this may seem simple, but for me, this was extremely welcome advice. I think that one reason I've been putting off talking to a financial adviser is that I didn't know where to start or exactly what I needed. Now I know.

I like this book, and I think it's going to be a good reference in the next few years. Though I don't have any hard evidence yet, I think this book will save me hundreds of dollars in legal fees and accountant fees (now that I know what I'm looking for and asking for, their billable hours will be fewer) and probably thousands of dollars in taxes over the years.

Book report (Updated): Million Dollar Consulting (Third edition, 2003)

Update, 10 April 2010: I wrote a review of this book on 9 April 2010. I retract my original review. I felt like I had given the book a fairly good review. I mentioned several times that Alan Weiss's book gives new consultants lots of encouragement. I now feel not quite so encouraged.

The author of this book left a comment on this blog (I left the full comment there, so you can see it if you wish), saying, in part:
Maybe if you followed my advice, which is free on my blog and elsewhere, you wouldn't have to resort to $4 used books. And you could have taken the time at least to visit my site, which puts most others to shame.

To that piece of advice I ask, "How can I know if I'm following Alan Weiss's advice without the book?" I'm supposed to Google Alan Weiss? I'd never heard of him before. Or Google the phrase "Million Dollar Consultant"? It's not something that pops into my head as something to Google.

I did visit the site mentioned in the 2003 edition of the book, and it isn't the same as the picture in the book. The new version is much too busy for my taste, but that's OK. Not all of us have the same style when it comes to web design.

I guess some of us don't have the same taste when it comes to consulting either, for that matter.

Again, as a disclaimer, I did read the third edition (2003) which I bought at a used bookstore for $4. There is a new edition, and I haven't read it. Would I shell out the money to buy the latest edition new from my favorite bookstore? Not after reading Alan's comment. Maybe I don't understand how to run a consulting business (which is why I'm buying books), but maybe, too, Alan's books are not as encouraging as I had originally thought.

Growing up

I talked with a colleague today who said she still didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up. I laughed because I sympathized with her dilemma.

As long as I can remember, Daddy had told me I should be a statistician, that I was good at it, and I believed him without reservations when I was young. However, there were times in grad school and early in my career when I had my doubts.

During the summers of 1985 and 1986, I played the piano in the lobby of Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. It was the best summer job in the world. The work hardly seemed like work, the pay and tips were great, I met lots of fun people, and there was always so much to do and so many places to go. My second year there, my brother worked there, too, and we had a great time on some amazing backbacking trips. I also dated a cowboy that summer, and through him, I met some bar and ski resort owners, several of whom offered me jobs for the ski season or for the summer.

When things would get tough in my life, I would dream about being back out in Wyoming or Idaho, married to Greg and playing the piano for a living. It seemed ideal, perfect. Of course, it's simple to think it's perfect when it's just a dream. Real life has a way of making things less than perfect.

I still love playing the piano and singing, but I'm so happy working on seasonal adjustment projects for clients. There is nowhere else I'd like to be and nothing else I'd like to be doing. It doesn't mean that I won't go back to school someday, or that I won't start piano lessons again, but even if that happens, I don't want to give up my work on time series.

So today, talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up, I realized that I'm finally there. I do want to be a statistician, with no reservations.

Being grown up feels pretty good after all.

26 March 2010

Business research

I'm always working to keep up with what's going on with seasonal adjustment, but I've been seeing that I need to learn more about running a consulting business. I bought some books at the used bookstore in Knoxville last week. Though I realize that a couple of the books are out of date (one of the books doesn't mention the internet at all as a way to attract new clients), they have me thinking about this consulting business in new ways. (And they were cheap.) It's pretty exciting.

Even before I bought the books, I knew I needed to spend more time with an accountant. I spend so much time at this time of the year working on taxes, and I always promise to do better in the next year, but then I get busy on projects for clients and my own research, and all my receipts just pile up in the file cabinet. But at least I have receipts!

Along similar lines, I have this feeling that I should be more serious about finding an attorney here in Tennessee. I love getting legal help from my friend who specializes in intellectual property law, but he's not in the state. I guess it's cool to have more than one attorney, and probably a better idea than not having one accountant.

And along the lines of research, while I watch basketball this weekend, I'm going to learn Bill Cleveland's latest weekly seasonal adjustment program. If I have some time, I hope to get some work done on my current TRAMO/SEATS project, too. And who knows? Maybe I'll have some time to work on the web courses, too.


04 March 2010

New pages are up!

I posted the updated pages today---new design and updated content.

I also posted the demonstration course, 16 slides from the introductory course. I wanted to put up a bit of a trailer/teaser for the courses, and I also wanted to make sure that people could navigate the courses properly before the spent money for a full course.

The full introductory course has about 320 slides. My web site designer made it very easy for me to load the slides and the audio into the course pages, but recording the audio for 320 slides will take some time. I feel like on some of the 16 audio files I already recorded, I sound like I have a cold, and I don't. I think that my mouth gets dry from all the talking. With more audio files to record, I will need to find a better way to stay hydrated.

If you'd like to test out the format for the web courses, please do. The link is here at

Any questions or comments you have are also appreciated.

27 February 2010

Updates on FAQ (and the need for some motivation)

I've finished updating the FAQ. I incorporated some answers to some questions from readers of the FAQ, particularly about the spectral diagnostics. I also needed to update some answers in regards to Windows Vista and Windows 7, and make sure the information was correct about Census's new interface to X-12.

I need to finish testing all the links and check through the spelling again. With some luck (and hopefully some spelling skills over the past few days), I should have the new pages posted by March 4 or 5.

I need to download TSW again and make sure it hasn't changed too much. I have so many papers started about TSW that aren't finished. I need to treat this project like it's a project for clients and set some firm deadlines. That's an idea I will need to think about . . .

26 February 2010

New web pages

David (at Exit 42 Design) sent me the code for the new web pages today. Very exciting! I have known David since he was born, so it was really fun to work with him and to get to know him better now that he is "all grown up."

Between the time I talked to David and when he sent the code, however, I had changed my mind about the color scheme for the site. It's been gray, green, and blue, with some purple for some links. I decided that to make the site really look like my site, I needed more purple. Purple has been my favorite color for years, though it is also my school color (Go Paladins!), and one of my sorority colors.

To try different colors, I used the site http://colorschemedesigner.com/. I had been there before, and I like it. Besides having great tools to find colors that go together, they have a place where you can test your colors against different kinds of color blindness.

David added some black, and I've replaced the green with purple, though there is still green in my logo. I like the new pages and the new colors. However, the best part is the page for the web courses. I can't wait to finish the audio files so I can show off the pages.

While updating the web pages, I realized that my business plan is also woefully out of date, so it is time to update the plan and reassess my short- and long-term goals.

I also realized that if I was changing the colors for my pages, I should change them on the blog, too. I also finally updated my Blogger template.

Time to get back to work.


19 February 2010

Mentors and anniversaries

Today would have been my grandmother's birthday. I loved being with her because she was so much fun. As I got older, she became more and more of a mentor to me. My grandma didn't know statistics, but she knew people, and she always gave me great advice about how to get along with difficult people. When people would tell me that my children were too close in age, she was the person I would turn to for comfort. (And what are you supposed to do about it anyway after you already have the kids?) Grandma would tell me over and over that having the girls be so close in age would be better for them in the long run. "Just get through the diaper days," she would say. Grandma was right. The kids are such good friends now, and teaching them at home has be easier because they are so close in age. I only wish that Grandma were still alive to see how right she was and how beautiful my girls are. Grandma has been gone for some time now, but I still miss her every day.

My dad's birthday would have been next week. I loved being with Daddy because he was so much fun. Daddy was a great mentor to me, too. He understood about the pressures of grad school and difficult supervisors, and he understood the frustration of not being able to get the data you needed for a big regression project. He was a great person to talk to, and it wasn't until he was gone that I realized how much I depended on him. It's been almost three years since Daddy died, and I still miss him every day.

Next week also marks the five year anniversary of my last day at the Census Bureau. Some days I can't believe that it has been five years because it seems like yesterday when I was there. On other days it seems like an entire lifetime ago that I was there. At Census I had some incredible mentors, some formal and some informal: Bud, Nash, David, Al, John, to name a few. At Census I also had wonderful friends: Kathy, Amy, Joe, Brian, Roxanne, Ayonda, to name a few. These last few years have been a lot of fun in many ways, but they have also been very lonely years.

Along with the obit for Dr. Lehmann, this month's Amstat News also had a letter from Dr. Pantula encouraging us to be a mentor to young statisticians. That is not a problem for me since I happen to live with a high school student who wants to be a statistician and follow in the footsteps of her mother and grandfather. Though I don't feel like a "young statistician" at this point, I don't feel like an old statistician either. I think that maybe this middle-aged statistician needs to find more mentors in her life. I think it would help me be less isolated. At the Census Bureau, you could sign up to be a mentor or to get a mentor. I wish there was a way for isolated statisticians to find other statisticians for mentors.

In the meantime, I thank God for the mentors that I have had in my life.

Just some thoughts for today. Happy birthday, Grandma!

Erich Lehmann (1917-2009)

I just read in the February issue of Amstat News that Erich Lehmann passed away on Sept. 12, 2009, at the age of 91. I was just telling my AP Statistics student about taking a class on point estimation. (She couldn't believe that you could teach nothing but that for an entire semester. Sometimes I have trouble believing it, and I was there.) The textbook: Lehmann's Point Estimation.

The book was difficult, but that wasn't why the class was so hard. I took this class in the fall of 2001. I had gone back to grad school in 1999 after several years of working and kids. The kids were so great about leaving me alone when I had homework, but after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, I had trouble doing homework. I wanted so much just to play with the kids, or just to sit and hold them. I talked to Dr. Gentle about it, and he was nice about it, but I knew that I didn't have enough of a grasp on the material to continue with the next class. So Lehmann's Point Estimation was my last textbook in my schooling in Statistical Computing at George Mason University.

Lehmann had a very interesting life. He was born in France, raised in Germany, and had to flee from the Nazis in 1933. He went to graduate school at Berkeley in 1940 and never left. The list of honors he had won is incredible.

Modern statistics was founded just before World War II by men like Jerzey Neyman and R.A. Fisher. Lehmann was, for me, the most famous of the second-generation statisticians. Even though I didn't really enjoy my point estimation class, I would see his work in lots of different things that I would read.

May God bless his family.

09 February 2010

DreamHost versus Seanic

As I work on web pages for my courses, I thought that maybe I would need a web hosting company that offers more bandwidth and disk space. I have been with Seanic since I started my web pages, but I went with Seanic without doing any research, so I thought maybe it was time to do some research on web hosting companies.

I signed up for DreamHost with a 97-day money back guarantee. Today was day 89, and I cancelled my account. There were some billing problems, and they didn't seem willing to fix the problem. It seemed kind of crazy to me that they wouldn't work harder to keep my business when they knew I was in the first 97 days.

In the meantime, I had some problems on catherinechhood.net which is hosted by Seanic. The fault was completely mine, and yet when I contacted customer support, they were extremely helpful and polite. He sent me instructions to fix my problem to my email address and told me to contact him again if they were unclear. The instructions were clear, my problem fixed, and I'm staying with Seanic. I may have to buy a more expensive plan with more bandwidth, etc., but it will still be very reasonably priced, and with great customer service.

It's been a bit frustrating, but now in hindsight, I'm glad I tried another hosting company, and I'm happy that I got lucky back in 2006 and found Seanic. It was good that I saw the true customer service at DreamHost, even in my first 97 days.

If you are looking for a new web hosting company, I can say now that I've done some research, and I can recommend Seanic.Net (http://www.seanic.net/).


New Version of X-12 and the Window Interface

The Census Bureau released a new version of the Windows Interface to X-12 and a new version of X-12-ARIMA in December. I've been so swamped with work that I downloaded the new X-12-ARIMA without downloading the new interface. However, I found myself recommending the new interface to someone based only on the word of friends at Census, so I decided I should try it out myself.

Generally, I like the diagnostics output now, and I think it's great that there are Java graphs available. But I'm not crazy about the graphs. Maybe I'm too sensitive about graphs, and maybe I'm jealous that I wasn't the person to program the graphs. I still need to read the documentation. Maybe I can do what I want with the graphs if I read the instructions.

Whatever the case, I still need to redo my web pages to reflect the changes in the programs available from Census. I should download TRAMO/SEATS again, too, just to see if there are changes there. I realized today that I've been so focused on work for my clients that I haven't been keeping up with my reading and research. That will change starting today.