In 2017 and 2018, I worked in a forestry research laboratory in Washington State. While I worked primarily with R and specialty software like CDendro, the managers I worked with had little-to-no familiarity with my methods. I wrote this report for them as a means to explain my methods in R and create a pipeline that can be reused across every dendrochronological dataset. I’m sharing this here as a means to preserve that pipeline for future analyses.
I started this as a simple data-exploration exercise, and as a giddy excuse to explore a dataset relevant to my life — not about trees, climate, insects or fire: but a personal story. In doing so, I felt it necessary to provide an introduction, which got a bit out of hand:
I graduated with a BSc. in Physical Geography from Texas State University in 2012. It took me 5 ½ years to get that degree — partly a mix of generational malaise, partly depression, partly uncertainty about my future.
10. Stephen King’s the Dark Tower I : IV (1982 : 1997)
A somewhat difficult one to include, Stephen King’s writing, while always entertaining, is similarly always bothersome. The King-isms build and bug me. The Dark Tower series has been no different so far, with the Drawing of the Three and the Waste Lands, in particular, being hampered by bloated writing and awkward pacing. Wizard and Glass, the fourth of an eight-part series (including #4.5), and the last I read this year, was an absolutely engrossing and addictive fantasy yarn. The horror and post-apocalyptic settings were mostly removed in favor of straight fantasy in an extended flashback story — which was worrisome — but Roland’s tale was so focused and wonderfully-told that it alone puts this series on the list. I hope 2017 lets me finish the the final four books.
I feel obligated to like the Difference Engine a whole lot less than I did. People really dislike it, and the usual round of complaints makes a long, valid list. It’s a dense 450 pages — most of it spends time on world-building chit-chat and important ideas rather than a coherent plot.
While the reader questions if the story’s going anywhere, the world itself is fascinating, so complete in its details and sense of accuracy that it’s difficult to leave the polluted, industrial-analytical world. The Difference Engine is cut into three sections following the lives of Gerard, Mallory, and Oliphant on the trail of Gibson’s usual macguffin — a collection of programming punch cards: The explanation and importance of which is buried so deeply that many readers never understand why they’re important. All three heroes only spend a fraction of their pages worrying about punch cards and social turmoil — mostly we follow paleontologist Edward Mallory in his day-to-day business as he bumbles into characters and conspiracies that are vaguely associated with the plot.
Game Write is a recurring series dedicated to the fiction of game industry veterans. From the best-selling titles of Drew Karpyshyn and Austin Grossman, to the obscure classics of Jane Jensen and Sheldon Pacotti, this series hopes to unearth both the gems and the trash we tend to leave buried in the credits. In this entry, we look at Sheldon Pacotti’s newest novel, Gamma — the first new piece of fiction from Pacotti since he entered the game industry with Ion Storm’s Deus Ex in 2000 — and a fascinating look at a near future ruled by biotechnology and growing social unrest.
Part philosophical treatise, part peer-reviewed literature review, Sam Harris dispels the illusion of free will in a mere 13,000 words. The determinism proposed by the New Atheist movement has been in and out of vogue for centuries, depending, in the moment, on the reigning scientific and philosophical paradigms. Harris’ writing adds to the discussion (and perhaps not-so-gently placing the penultimate nail in the coffin) by citing recent neuroscience research to support his philosophical argument. It turns out our brains are unsurprisingly predictable — our decisions even measurable.
The Flight of the Iguana is a fantastic collection of 29 essays, written by David Quammen for Outside magazine between 1984 and 1987. Some of them are, at this point, dated by modern research, but Quammen is a fantastic natural science writer, whose skill at presenting complex ecological concepts to layreaders is perhaps paralleled by only John McPhee, Rachel Carson, or Robert Sapolsky.
If you’re ever fumbling around with data in R, you’re probably familiar with the built-in, unattractive graphics. ggplot2’s been increasingly recognized as a necessity for getting the most out of your imagery. It offers nearly complete control over your graphics output, building them layer by layer.
I spent a solid year learning and exploring R as a graduate student before I cracked open Winston Chang’s R Graphics Cookbook and started learning ggplot2’s little oddities. ggplot2 is itself almost like another language within R, but it’s thankfully a very simple language — far more simple and far more flexible, I feel, than the built-in graphics options.