Friday, August 11, 2017

Having Fun with Sentiment Analysis

Recently I have been playing around with sentiment analysis and thought I would have some fun. I decided to take my wife to lunch today and am hanging out in her law office waiting for her to finish her day so we can drive home together. She has put me in one of her unused conference rooms with my laptop which has allowed me to continue my playing.

If you want to play with sentiment analysis, you can do so with Python using the Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK). Here is a very simple program that is only 2 lines:

import nltk.sentiment.util as s
print(s.demo_vader_instance("Text to analyze here"))

The program uses the Valence Aware Dictionary for sEntiment Reasoning (VADER) created by C.J. Hutto and Eric Gilbert. It is a great little algorithm that is quite accurate.

I started by analyzing the sentence, "I love my wife" and got a score of .6369 (scores run between -1 and 1). This happens to be the same score I got for, "I love to ski." So according to VADER, I love my wife about the same as I love to ski. I showed that to my wife and got a laugh out of her. Next I added a smiley face ":-)" to the sentence and watched the sentiment increase to .7351. More laughter.

I now have a chat log with 2.3 million lines I will run through it and see what happens for each line. I will then only check a select few but time how long it takes. If you have Python and want to have some fun, load up the NLTK and give it a try.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Satellite Radio

I bought my wife a new car a few years ago and it came with satellite radio. We had the service free for a year and really liked it. We opted to continue the service. With the ubiquity of the Internet, I am beginning to wonder if the days of satellite radio are numbered. Why limit yourself to someone else's music tastes when you can customize your listening preferences with streaming music like Pandora or Spotify?

My wife's car is a bit special in that it is a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. That means it is meant for going off road and we do so often. We visit some places so far from civilization, there is no mobile phone service nor Internet. In those cases, satellite radio wins out over streaming music.

Recently I did a road trip from Utah to California and I took Interstate 80 the whole distance. Mobile phone service providers have ensured that Internet service is available the entire way. While I opted to listen to a book on CD, I also could have streamed music on one of my phones. In that case, streaming music wins over satellite radio.

It is also important to point out that the two services are not mutually exclusive. Both can co-exist nicely. However if you have a smartphone and unlimited streaming data, it might not make sense to pay extra for satellite radio. It is that case that has me worried about satellite radio's future. If anyone disagrees, feel free to let me know.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Night Rock Climbing

My youngest daughter had her birthday a week ago and so my wife joined me in the Uinta Mountains to spend time with her. This daughter is the director of climbing for a summer camp and spends her weekdays teaching Boy Scouts how to climb. On Friday nights they will do night climbs and last week's evening of fun happened to fall right on my daughter's birthday.

My daughter had explained night climbs before but I had no idea what a party the evenings turn out to be. My daughter's boss has a set of outdoor speakers that he sets up with the help of stored music on his smartphone. Then all of the boys show up headlamps ready to climb about 50 feet. When I first heard of the event, I thought there might be 10 or so boys. Nope, imagine the entire camp showing up. Throw in the loud music, bobbing headlamps, and excitement of 14 to 18 year old boys. The sight impressed me and seemed like a lot of fun.

Last week my wife and I really enjoyed our evening watching our daughter celebrate her birthday. Our daughter enjoyed herself as well. In a world where I imagine most teenage boys enjoy video games and technology, it pleased me to see such a large group outside having good clean fun.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Famous in Japan

I had a visitor from Japan at my office this week as we continue to wind down a project I have been working on for the past 5 years. We went to dinner the other night and started talking about all of the people we have worked with on the project. One of my good friends in Tokyo has made quite a name for himself. He moved his family to Nagano, Japan a little over a year ago. He commutes to Tokyo every Monday and then heads home on weekends. While in Tokyo, he stays with his parents. This allows his family to have a very comfortable lifestyle in the mountains.

The business press in Japan has found out about his commuting lifestyle and has written articles about him. All the press has made him a bit of a business celebrity. One of the questions he is constantly asked is how he came up with such a unique lifestyle. His response is that there is a manager in the United States that lives in Utah near a ski resort and commutes to San Francisco every week.

I had to laugh when my associate told me this story. My friend from Nagano has always thanked me for showing that technology allows us to live where we want even though it may be far from our place of work. He seems to be doing a good job capitalizing on my example as now there are a lot of companies that admire him and want him to work for them. So if he is famous and credits me for the idea that made him a celebrity, does that mean I am famous too?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My 2017 Vacation From Technology

I spent last week high in the mountains while the rest of the country celebrated Independence Day. One benefit of my trip is that I didn't have mobile phone service at all. I thought I would have technology withdrawls but surprisingly did not. I actually enjoyed not having to carry a phone around with me.

I had a number of different activities to choose from last week and didn't know what to do until the last minute. Finally I decided to spend a week with my youngest daughter in the Uinta mountains of Utah. She is the director of rock climbing at a summer camp and I figured it would be fun to spend more time with her. I packed up some clothes along with my guitar and headed to the camp.

One advantage of the holiday during the week is that most of the camp staff went on vacation. While my daughter normally shares her cabin with 4 other young women staff, she had it to herself. That meant that I could join her and didn't have to worry about sleeping in a tent all week. I also took the opportunity to join a session of leadership training known as Wood Badge that is put on by the Boy Scouts of America. I highly recommend the course as it is worth the cost and teaches skills useful in most careers as well as when dealing with young men or boys.

The week provided me with a lot of fun. I didn't even notice the lack of Internet connection. This allowed me to practice my guitar in the evenings and form lasting friendships with those around me. I miss some of those friends now and found it very difficult to go back to work. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and I found myself catching my usual Monday morning flight at 6:25am earlier this week. This was not my first vacation from technology and definitely won't be my last. I kind of enjoy getting away and hopefully you do as well.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

TSA Precheck

Monday I sat in line for 11 hours so I could get my in-person interview for Global Entry. This allows me to easily pass through customs and immigration on any of my many international trips. It also comes with the TSA Precheck benefit. That allows me a special line at the airport security that is generally faster than even the frequent flyer line. One thing that makes it fast is that you don't have to take off your shoes, pull out your laptop, nor pull out your liquids. It is like going through airport security before 9/11.

At the time, I really hated waiting all day long to get my interview. Once in, the interview only took 10 minutes. The reason waiting took so long is that I didn't have an appointment. My scheduled appointment isn't until November and this is a service I can use long before then. I didn't have a busy schedule at the office and so I worked from the comfort of an airport chair. Yes, the word "comfort" in the last sentence is dripping with sarcasm.

Today I got to the San Francisco airport and got through security in a matter of minutes. There was nobody in front of me and even though I got randomly flagged for extra screening, I passed through 20 to 30 minutes faster than if I had stood in my regular line.

So now I have to ask myself if that 30 minutes is worth the 11 hours I spent on Monday. One may argue that the time just doesn't add up. I would disagree. All it takes is standing in line a bit too long to miss a flight and then 30 minutes easily turns into 24 hours. Yes, I would have to say that this one episode more than makes up for all the time I spent on Monday.

If you travel more than 4 times per year, I highly recommend spending the $85 for TSA Precheck. If you also travel internationally, I suggest spending an extra $15 for a total of $100 and getting Global Entry. If you are planning a single international trip sometime in the future: don't waste your time nor your money. You don't need it. Furthermore you might be taking up a badly needed interview slot for someone that does travel a lot.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Grandpa Time

This morning at 12:11am PDT I became a grandpa. My oldest son's wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I tried to stay up late as I knew labor had started and it was only a matter of hours before the baby came. Of course my son made sure to take a few pictures and send them to the family. At 4am the birds that like to hang out on my boat started making noise and woke me up. I checked my phone and saw the pictures sent by text message. My first thought is how much my new grandson looks like my oldest son at that age.

Fortunately I have Do Not Disturb set up on my phone. Otherwise I would have been bombarded by a constant stream of text messages as family members awoke to the good news. My phone patiently waited until 7:30 and then alerted me to all of the congratulatory messages.

This evening I had a meeting with coworkers in Japan and knew I wouldn't be able to drive down to San Jose to see my new grandson and so I went at lunch. Yes I took a long lunch but more than made up for it by staying late at the office. My son took a picture of me holding the baby and once again sent it out to the family by text message. Naturally that elicited a number of new text messages being sent by everyone.

Technology is great as it allows us to share life's miracles much easier. I look at all of the messages being sent and the participation allowed even though great distances exist between everyone. I think it is great.