Creating R code is just like rock climbing.
Rock climbing, according to www.dictionary.com, is “…the sport of climbing sheer rocky surfaces on the sides of mountains, often with the aid of special equipment.” An activity that allows you to summit and safely descend the most beautiful places in the world! Climbing gear and techniques are constantly evolving to create access to cliffs and peaks thought un-climbable a decade ago. With know-how and practice, your rock climbing options are endless.
R, according to www.r-project.org, “…is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics.” It’s a single place for analyzing and plotting data! R experts are constantly coming up with new packages to allow for cutting edge, sophisticated analyses and beautiful figures. The options for analyses in R are endless.
The elation of meeting a new challenge. The dejection of running up against an insurmountable obstacle. The problem solving component. It’s all there in both coding and climbing. And I love both of them. Nothing beats the satisfaction of successfully executing a beautiful, concise piece of code with no errors, except perhaps summiting a challenging climb whose difficulty matches my current skill. Few things are worse than being stuck hanging in your harness on a challenging route and facing retreat, except the frustration of receiving the same inscrutable R code error 50 times.
|I just can't even....|
R is amazing, rock climbing is amazing. With a properly arranged dataset and seven lines of code I can create 150 separate graphs plotting water level over time in under two seconds. Just like that. Ctrl + Enter. Boo yah. Learning how to create a loop changed my life. With the right climbing partner and a full rack of gear I’ve also stood on top of the Gossips formation in Arches, a tower that I’ve been intrigued with since I was 10 years old. Seriously, I was on top of it.
|And the angel's started singing....|
Both climbing and coding require extensive experimentation and tinkering. Even when the path forward seems obvious, like I’ve used that R package before or the line to the top of a climb is a single, clear crack in the rock, progress forward requires a lot of tinkering. Most of the climbing tinkering is with regard to hand and foot placement, body position, and gear placement, while R tinkering is remembering variable names, a lot of spelling mistakes, and proper use of symbols. In both cases it goes like this: nope, Nope, NOPE, YEAHHHH!
|Protecting 5 feet of a 100 foot climb|
|Adding a title to a graph|
|I don't even know where to go from here....|
Progress in either pursuit can only be achieved by understanding the tools at your disposal, misusing those tools is dangerous. The best and newest climbing gear in the world can’t replace know-how or protect crumbling, incompetent rock. Similarly, using the latest and greatest R packages to generate figures won’t fix flaws in bad data or misunderstanding of statistical assumptions (this is an area I’m still working through myself).
|The best tools are often the simplest...|