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Todaze Work Blahg February 23, 2007

Posted by Mitchell in Science & Technology.

Mr. Weasel asks us what we did at work today.  He gets to do fun stuff in Milkworld.  For the entirety of today, and most of this week I was gridlocked in Excel-land, looking at stuff like this:

Numbers, numbers

While looking at this, I get to decide what numbers get to be bolded and which ones do not.   Red numbers are often bolded.  Sometimes pink ones get bolded too.  Black ones rarely do, unless they are doing something clever near red or pink ones.  You didn’t know looking at numbers could be so RACIST did you?  You probably thought that we lived in a country where numbers were judged by the content of their character, and not by the color of their font, didn’t you?  You would be wrong if you did.

Anyway, the spreadsheets I look at have some 30 columns and about 76 rows, and each one is on it’s own tab. I have about 280 Excel tabs of this stuff to look through.  It’s about a half-million cells I have to look at.  At least twice.

A good portion of the time it’s fairly easy to see which ones get bolded and which ones do not like the example above.  Then, there are sheets like this one:

More Numbers

Some of these red numbers should be bolded.  Some should not.  Some pink numbers probably should be bolded too.  In fact, it’s even a bigger mess than that – some pink numbers should be black, and some red numbers should be pink or black too!  GAH!

So, by now you’re wondering what the heck this is all about.  Take another look at the first example.  See the second column where there’s a 0, -1 or blank?  That’s mostly what it’s all about.  Those figures are dictated partially by the bolded numbers and partially by something else.   Eventually I get it all sorted out one way or another and I go on to the next step.

I then import all the sheets that don’t get rejected into a database where I mince, chop, grate, puree, etc. the numbers.  I then squirt out the results of that process into another Excel spreadsheet where I add a secret blend of herbs and spices.  I make a bunch of pretty graphs of the results that are then put into a Powerpoint presentation to give to my boss.  He shows this presentation to other people who in turn think about it and make recommendations to various wearers of the Wigness of Bigness.  I get to do this every few months with new numbers. 

I’m sorry for being so vague about some of this, but I really can’t get into the details of the project, nor reveal the ultimate ends of it.  But I can say that at some point the Powers That Be decided to pay an old lady to kick a guy in the crotch because of what was in my graphs.  As Dave Barry would say:  “I am not making this up.”


1. S. Weasel - February 24, 2007

Do you at least get to wear headphones? That’s how I classify jobs: Headphones Work (anything menial, tedious, repetitive or arty) and No Headphones Work (memo writing, coding).

2. Enas Yorl - February 24, 2007

Ha! I have my own office so I can listen to tunes or talk radio without headphones. I have to keep the volume at a reasonable level of course. When I really want to rock out or block out all distractions I put on the headphones.

3. S. Weasel - February 24, 2007

Oh, FINE, Fancy Pants OwnOfficePerson. I used to have one, but we moved and I lost it. Now I’m in a cubicle octangle. Which isn’t so bad…the Home Office is a giant prairie of cubes, and they only come up to your elbow. Brrrr. It’s like being in a deli window.

4. Elzbth - February 25, 2007

I then import all the sheets that don’t get rejected into a database where I mince, chop, grate, puree, etc. the numbers. I then squirt out the results of that process into another Excel spreadsheet where I add a secret blend of herbs and spices.
Sounds like your cooking the books.

5. Elzbth - February 25, 2007


6. Enas Yorl - February 26, 2007

Making sausage ma’am. I remember when I first started mucking around with data analysis I was somewhat appalled by how easy it is to make numbers spin and dance to your tune.

Oh, and we’re moving to new diggs soon too Mr. Weasel and I get kicked back out to the cubicle farm when we do. At first, my new cubbie was to be a bit bigger than my current office, but they changed cubicle makers and now they are going to be “smaller but with more workspace”. That statement raised a few eyebrows. “It’s more like a cockpit” was the clarification.

Oh, thanks. Strap me in I guess.

7. digitalbrownshirt - February 26, 2007

Headphones are a safety hazard at my shop. I’d have a hard time listening with earplugs in anyway. I spent the day building valves so we can further exploit the Earth’s resources and help heat Al Gore’s mansions. God bless oil and gas and all the good people addicted to it.

8. Enas Yorl - February 26, 2007

DBS, I worked in one of those places too – a recycling plant here in the Las Vegas area. Lots of noisy machinery and what not and we had earplugs too. One guy worked down on the floor and he was required to wear a hard hat. It was a type that fitted to provide ear protection as well. Yes, he modified it so that he had headphones incorporated into the thing and he got to stroll around listening to tunes all day.

9. Mr Minority - February 28, 2007

I agree, headphones for the repetitious tasks (I too work in excel, classifying, do look-ups and pivot tables). In the morning it’s mellow rock (Moody Blues, Styx, ELO…) and in the mid-mornings it’s hard rock (Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Queen..) and afternoons it’s acid rock or blues (Pink Floyd, FM, ELP, Rory Gallagher, Alvin Lee, Savoy Blown…). I use headphones even though I have my own 12×14′ office, ’cause I can blast the music as loud as I want without disturbing the rest of the office. Music set the rhythm and makes the work go faster.

10. Enas Yorl - February 28, 2007

I’ve been listening to Pandora on the ‘puter the last few weeks. Mostly Trance / Electronica stuff. I’ve gotten burned out on classic rock, frankly and have been craving something different. Pandora dredges up some pretty obscure stuff from time to time. Some of it pretty danged cool. Some of it, not so much.

11. kevlarchick - March 1, 2007

I like classical music and the drone of talk radio at work. Sometimes I’ll blast a little Zeppelin to lighten the mood around here. Especially after glancing at things like Enas’ spreadsheet, which is terrifying.

12. Sorry for the Blogligence « The Center of the Anomaly - May 14, 2007

[…] doing This Stuff again.  I get depressed when I’m in Excel Hell and I didn’t feel like […]

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