Monday, March 24, 2008

Raising the bar on dorkdom

I'm discovering new and varied ways to enjoy being a nerd, now that I'm in library school. Because I know you all revel in dorkiness, in the way I do, I thought I'd share some of my latest, greatest achievements with you.

Exhibit A:
I'm in this class about databases. We had to get together in a group and build a database, developing ways to describe things one might not usually think to spend time "classifying." My group decided our database would be about produce, and we spent weeks deciding things like whether "potatoes" and "sweet potatoes" were different enough to merit separate records, and if so, how could we quantify that which made them different enough so that we could apply the same standards to other produce. When we had created our produce data storing masterpiece, we traded empty databases with another team, the idea being that we'd each try and sort some data into the other's structure to see how well it held up.

When it came time to trade, I was really looking forward to seeing what our trade group had decided to classify. The rules of the assignment said we could do anything that wasn't "overly bibliographic in nature." In other words, you silly librarians to be, don't reinvent the wheel and organize your book collections. They'd made their database about--squeal!--TSHIRTS!! So Friday night, after a week of working, I "treated" myself to, yes, you are understanding me correctly, **entering data about my tshirts into a database!** I had fun doing it!! Organizing and T-shirts combined? What could be better? Except maybe getting graded for thinking of ways the experience of organizing t-shirts into a database could be improved!

Exhibit B:
I'm spending the day working on a midterm for my database class. (I do have another class, but it's not really expanding the horizons of my nerdiness in the same fashion.) Here is an *actual answer* I'm going to turn in on my midterm. (It's worth noting that my teacher a) seems to have a good sense of humor and b) seems to appreciate a "real world analogy.")

I'm writing about three ways one can evaluate the "closeness" between a search term and some search results. There is a fiendish amount of math involved in this process, but I treat the math the way I sometimes (oh, my nerd street cred is going to drop if I write this) treat the songs in LOTR. I see them and I skip right over them:
The second model is the Probabilistic Model. In this model, each term in the search query is weighted. The IRS returns documents that have the highest score, given the prevalence of each of the weighted terms in the document. (It's not an exact metaphor, but I think of this like the points for each letter on Scrabble tiles. Words with lots of vowels—like low weighted search terms—will clear your tray but not get you a big score. Pull off “quixotic” however, and you'll get a higher “status value.” The equations in the book make my head spin and my eyes water, but Scrabble I can wrap my head around.)
That's right. I busted out a Scrabble metaphor on the LAST question of my midterm. Who else has been this nerdy today. Come on, fess up. Let's hear the story.


jean said...

You win. Hands down.

My day has been mildly productive at best. I am consoling myself by knitting myself a sunhat out of cotton. I suppose I could just go out and buy one, but I wanted to see if I could do it diy. Does that count for any level of nerdiness?

I'd be curious to take a peek at your t-shirt database. I remember you accepting that t-shirts and jeans were basically your daily uniform, but it seemed more like a grudging acceptance than a triumphant declaration. Though to be fair (and to clue in those who read this who might not be aware) you do have a nice t-shirt collection. There was one I remember with little puffy sleeves? And a little gathered motif maybe around the yoke? So cute!

Okay, maybe you didn't want so much of your wardrobe revealed in such detail here. Sorry. Feel free to delete this with your override powers. Or erase it from readers' memories with your jedi knight powers.

Shazam. Seems I can keep up with the nerdiness after all.

Jim Tschen Emmons said...

Though charting myself on this topic might seem to be easy, I just can't bring myself to do it--my so-called database class (where one had to assume databases still used punchcards...) had us do all this "sematic factoring," etc., but honestly, it just felt like an overly complicated, sixteen week attempt to make what we were doing look like science, which, frankly, it ain't. Why do we librarians make everything harder than it has to be? My answer is that many of us, not me obviously or you Jenn, feel professionally inadequate if all we really do is use the alphabet well. Case in point: the stink the library community made about the public library (in Texas?) that decided to organize their library along bookstore lines, that is, alpha within subjects. Brilliant! If I am ever in charge of a library (fat chance) we are so doing that! Fight the good fight Jenn and remember our motto given us by the great Teamleader: "Aim for the door."