Sunday, March 8, 2009


I decided to ride my bike to the gym the other day; it wasn't locked up outside. 'Oh,' I thought, 'it must have been stolen.' It was only at this point that I realised how much I had always disliked it, and what a relief it was to have it taken off my hands.

Walked to the gym. Half an hour or so later I suddenly seemed to remember riding the bike to Cafe Kleisther days? weeks? earlier and locking it up outside Kleistpark U-Bahn. Went down to Kleistpark after the gym. Sure enough the bike was there, with an empty Burger King bag in its basket. Went to Kleisther for a coffee and forgot the bike again. Now that I've remembered it again I might go and pick it up.

It's not really safe to ride it if I have books in my head and am also dealing with a lot of Cheshire cats (normal publishing people). If I have to think through a book, and if people make nice noises and I am suddenly left with a lot of grins hanging in the air, there isn't enough mental capacity left to stay out of traffic accidents. So then I just end up walking the bike for miles, or leaving it at home.

I woke up this morning and thought how good it would be to stay in bed; how many bad things could have been avoided if I had taken the simple precaution of staying in bed. How many e-mails had better remained unwritten, unsent; &c. I had spent much of yesterday, though, installing MS Office 2007 , R 2.8 and a couple of packages on my netbook, as well as activating my one year's free subscription to Inference for R; I had also downloaded all the documentation onto my Mac so I could read it on a separate screen while manoeuvring around the tiny screen of the netbook. So if I got out of bed I could try out Inference for R.

Got up. The netbook is, needless to say, not my weapon of choice for playing around with a plug-in for Word and Excel that lets the happy user incorporate R code into Office documents, but the old Sony Vaio would not install Office 2007 without some extra Windows Service Packs that I had no way of downloading, 2C2E. I set up an array of laptops on the desk and start working through the QuickStart documentation.

Well, what can I say? I worked through various examples in the uniformly excellent documentation; sure enough, various Word and Excel files obligingly did nice things with R. I then reached a point at which an example incorporated a plot in Lattice: one followed instructions, and there it was, a beautiful Lattice plot right in the middle of a Word document! Exactly what I had always wanted!

Exactly what I needed for my Guggenheim project!

I shall probably have more to say about this when I've had time to work through some of my own examples; can only comment at this point that it is really not very common to start out on new software with the feeling that one can get straight to work on a project whose problems it solves, without putting in who knows how many hours getting the thing to work.


Tyler said...


I was reading your post about R - and I would agree that using R with MS Office on a netbook is probably going to be frustrating.

You might try using Sweave (which comes with R - just type ?Sweave at the command line). It integrates with latex, and I think is much faster to use on a netbook. The only downside is that if you don't know latex - the learning curve for it is pretty steep. But you're brilliant - so that should not be too hard. On windows - I use Miktex+Winedt to compile my latex documents (both of which are free to download). Well - winedt is shareware and after 30 days a pop-up screen shows up - so it's mostly free.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly why I don't own a bike.