Rage Quit: What Is Data — Why Compute It?

Located here:

Located here: Brain Box

The function of a computer is to store input data and process it for an output, which we call information. Input data itself is usually unrecognizable to the user, and so the job of the computer is to process this data (creates understandable information such as graphs and charts — used mostly for the “end user” or yourself) or compile it into basic language (used to create unreadable files that can be stored or read by the machine itself — used mostly in programming).

Then what is “data“? There’s more than one type of data. You have data, and then you have raw data. Raw data can be understood as anything unprocessed — so the results of a computerized test that hasn’t been collected and sorted would be raw data. Field data would be data you can observe in the wild environment but need to record. Experimental data is probably the data you’re most used to from science class. It is testable and measurable because that is how it is designed. Data can then be broken into a few groups, but the two biggest groups seem to be entities and their values. In this article, I’m going to focus on entity-relationship models. In this particular model, an entity isn’t something an English major may identify as a concrete noun, though that’s something we’d love to do. An entity is something that is opposed to a value of an entity (which makes


This is why we rage quit.

data structuring a pain sometimes). “Philosophy” is an entity, but if it is a “philosophical” “philosophy,” “philosophical” is the attribute of that which is “philosophy” like as to what Aristotle says: an entity is a thing that is in the state of being. Yet not in the literal sense. An entity can be many things, which is both in the abstract and concrete and even an event in time. The difference resides in the structural difference of the model. An entity is that which is not used to describe another entity.

In this model, we see that a Creep is an entity with the attributes: CreepName, HitPoints, Mana, and Attack. It holds two branching relationships: RanInto and IsType. RanInto is connected to Character. This identifies the event when a character runs into Creep. Character also has many attributes that are unique to itself. Character then is connected to Account, which has different attributes specific to an Account and not Character or Creep.

Further reading:
The Entity Relationship Model: Toward a Unified View of Data — Dr. Peter Pin-Shan Chen

Relational Algebra

Computer Science for the English Major (CS for us in Hum.)

credit to: Tri-County College.

Photo credit to: here and here.

“If books were the technological achievements of the past, computers are the technology of the present and Twitter its medium for intellectual banter. Instead of shunning the Kindle, we should embrace it.” ~ Anon.

Computer Science is a mystery to me — the passionate and romantic Humanities major. But then I look at my peers, those who plug in their Macintosh and play their video games on PC and wonder how should they gauge this topic. Is there a topic to gauge? And even so, how do we, as Humanities majors, grasp Computer Science? It’s a science on a machine. There must not be much to it. I can plug it in and use it. Rarely do I need to ask how it works, what does it do, and how can I make it do the things I want.Yet as a supposedly “well-rounded” type of person (because we’re suppose to be “critical thinkers” in our academic field) we rarely look at the ethics, the sciences, and the practical values of a computer.

For example, how does software work? How do you go from a solid piece of hardware to a graphical interface that calculates things and processes text (and if you couldn’t follow that perhaps you might need to touch up on your reading level)? Can these machines be the future of everything that exists today? Could they write novels like we do today? Should we find it humbling that we can write a book but can’t write a program that writes novels for us? Would it be worse or better if we could write a program that could write books? How do we gauge this question without knowing anything about Computer Science? How do we learn about Computer Science as English majors?

There are many ways of answering these questions. The obvious method would be to change our majors to CS or CIS or IS or whatever you want to call it. We can read many, many brilliant scientific journals and books on computing topics such my favorite: Relational Algebra. Or we can try to follow a particular reading list. In the following blog posts, I’m going to try to elevate your knowledge on Computer Science, give you some resources, and try to hold your hand in this scary, scary field of knowledge.

Computer Science like math is a gateway to critical thinking. If more Humanities majors learned it, we get more say in that field. To have more say in the CS field would be an absolute nightmare to the stereotypical scientist. Since we are Humanities majors (gadflies as Socrates said), we should dig deep into this material, so we can understand it, deconstruct it, and eventually create true art and question every bit of it. Computer Science is like math. It is a form, an art, and a science all in one. It is something we can learn and develop and question. Therefore if you are a Humanities major, you should try to learn a science because we need more of you in the realm of sciences. Polarizing yourself from the sciences does not generate intellect but divides it, limiting yourself and the field that is growing rapidly and quickly. To be part of this conversation, to debate ethics in robotics and computing, we must learn about it.

And thus my blog: in the next week I will be posting a “reading” and give you details about what I’ve learned from it. I’ll also give you resources to use to catch up with me and then maybe a few exercises. In the following week, I will first look at the history of computing, then at the hardware, the operating system, and the organization of the machine. Then we’ll look at specific examples and focus on open source — since I don’t want to step on the toes of propriety software (and as an ethical person, you and I should support open source software — for that reason, a lot of this blog will be focused on Debian).

A Book A Day: The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Absolutely phenomenal! I had no idea what I was getting into with this one. Reading this book in one sitting is the best way to do it.  Before too long I realized that I was reading a horror … at night. But I stuck through it, and at the end I realized what the entire book was ACTUALLY about. I’m still thinking about it days later! Gaiman fills this book to the max with both symbolism and the wonder of our actual real-life reality. Loved it!!

Your Tax Money Supports Socialistic Football

Gary Gutting from Notre Dame speaks on NPR about his article concerning the state of Humanities in America. His argument is that because of our society doesn’t value the Humanities as it could, we put that value into different things and then argue that the Humanities hold no economic value. But it could. If more people would realize that the Humanities can produce personal achievement in labor or entertainment, the Humanities can be invested into.

It shouldn’t surprise you he believes there isn’t enough support for the Humanities in America. He also says a lot of support our universities used to have is now being taken away, but instead of going into the general economy, instead, it is put into different programs such as the “socialistic” system of sports; which is a clever retort:

“Despite our general preference for capitalism, our support for sports is essentially socialist, with local and state governments providing enormous support for professional teams.”

“To cite just one striking example, the Minnesota State Legislature recently appropriated over $500 million to help build the Vikings a new stadium. At the same time, the Minnesota Orchestra is close to financial disaster because it can’t erase a $6 million deficit. Over all, taxpayer money provides more than a billion dollars annually in tax exemptions and stadium subsidies for N.F.L. teams.”

Webs We Weave as Editors

Besides setting my alarm clock an hour or two before I’m ready to wake up, I have a strange habit that I repeat over and over again. This particular habit is often triggered by such things as free time, sudden inspiration, and contentedness. What I’m speaking about precisely is the creation of personal projects or the joining of organization. Recently, I’ve joined three separate editorial staffs. One group deals with children literature. The second focuses on technical writing. My third group is a local news magazine for my campus. I have the habit of getting myself involved in all types of literary stuff. Not intentionally. I don’t try to become a literary person, which may be hard for me to defend after proving that I am indeed literarily involved.

I’ve felt the grooves of editing. It’s something I feel competent in and have little patience for. When I worked on a staff as an intern, I was shocked how babied my writers were and often was uncompromising with their work giving them horrible scores and reviews and demanding of rewrites. But I was horrified by the writing. It shocked me: “How on earth could someone give this to me as a final draft?” I’d ask. “This certainly is a good journal entry, but it’s an awful final draft.” But of course, I worked on the least favored position with the least favored writers, and so I had that much more work to do along with my general education classes, which landed me working many late evenings in the office alone. I ended up quiting once the head editor was released, and the paper suffered due to this shuffling of editors. Too much miscommunication. Too little information concerning my responsibilities. And too much time spent working! Perhaps a colleague of mine is reading this. And if he (she) is, please be assured that I was never directly frustrated with you but rather the whole thing and would’ve rather been in Chicago. At least there I didn’t feel so direction-less.

In Chicago I didn’t manage to edit anything. I was invited to work on a few papers and magazines, but I turned them down hoping to do it again later. This never came about. Instead, I wrote quite a bit. Let me remind myself as I tell you: I am not primarily a writer.  My writing is flawed. It goes all over. And yet I love it. I love that journalistic style, but I would never love it as an editor. And so I understand if this goes unread.

Yet with editing, I feel like I have direction when I have the power to grab hold of a few well-written sentences and smooth them out into magical literature that they deserve to be. I also like filling in the blanks, reviewing the information, correcting political bias, and then having a staff of peer-reviewers to go through. A peer-review has saved me many times. And I never go without appreciating an article, giving someone a chance to meet someone famous, or finding that one little bit of prose that just makes everything worth it. I love assigning projects and themes and topics and interviews. I love getting a pile of papers on the deadline and then preparing them for the next day. Why? I don’t know. I can hardly prepare everything for the deadline. Why would I love it so much?

I suppose it’s part of this web I have weaved for myself at a very young and impressionable age when the Dead Poets Society still meant something emotionally significant for me. I had this very romantic idea about literature simply because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t care about it, and so I read all of it, soaking it up with sheer arrogance and delight. This might be the best way to suck up information — with a large dose of arrogance, but I can’t say that I did this all very romantically. I put a lot of hard work into my craft, which I owe to the few teachers who’d pound on me: “Once you learn the craft, you can destroy the art.” I didn’t understand that, but I’m grateful that I took the time to read classics, Greek poetry, contemporary novels, modernists, Edgar Allen Poe, and a horde of bad literature. It gave me the teeth to devour literature with and gave me the thirst for more.

And I suppose I am suspending in this awful state of never having enough literature to read, never having enough literature to work on, and never having enough literature to review. I’m just fortunate to have been in love with the petty romanticisms of this  process early on so that the magic somehow sticks today yet not quite the same but only better than it was before. At the age of 14, I thought I was at the prime of my literary excellence, but this is certainly untrue. So I can only look forward to days where I will perhaps have the patience to write a novel or actually be paid for this type of work in one medium or another. Because I promise you that today is not the prime of my literary excellence but only a stepping stone towards something more grandiose than even I expect.

A Book A Day 7, 8, 9: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

NOOOOO why did I finish it!! when is the next one going to be written?!??? *puppy eyes* it was so. good.
why was it good? a hero who is a flawless shy hottie. a robot side kick. good morals about the worth of rural living and relationships. an endless adventure. the only “bad guy” wasnt even bad, just misunderstood. talk about a true feel good book. :) just what I needed this weekend.

(update: the next book HAS been written. it is called  “The Long War” …. meh not going to take my chances with something that has “war” in the title)