Make Your Own Ending: Reflections on the role of Deus Ex in the gaming world

I consider myself to be an avid PC gamer. Not in the sense of having played some PC games, but in the sense of being a hobbyist – following gaming news, checking in on games in development, reading PC Gamer magazine regularly, and so on. Accordingly, I spend a lot of time thinking about how PC gaming (and video gaming as a whole) has developed over the past 20 years, and where it is heading now.

Right now, on my lap, I’m holding a shrink-wrapped copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game that I thought I would never see. Before I played it, even a bit, I thought it’d be nice to get my thoughts down, knowing that once I booted it up, I’d be likely to get sucked in for quite awhile.

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The Paradox of Information Support: How more data can mean less clarity, and how we might fix it

I think that we can all agree that proper information support is a useful thing for managers and leaders, no matter the organization. Each organization is positively awash in data, but effective organizations take that data and transform it into information – useful, cohesive nuggets that help leaders and managers to make better decisions.

Still, proper information support, with a formal process and a team that helps to take care of it, is usually not the first thing on the mind of a non-profit organization, or a small business. Why not? Because it has considerable costs. You need specialized training and a certain way of looking at the world to set up and maintain an information support system. If you’re leading a small business, or a non-profit, you probably don’t have that talent in-house (unless you’re lucky). You end up having to hire for it, and it’s just not as high of a priority as other necessities. Formalized information support becomes the purview of larger organizations, who have enough resources to dedicate people to turning data into information.

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Helping out American troops overseas

This is a break from my normal public posts dealing with nerdy science stuff, but it’s a cause I think is worth supporting.

I have a colleague who is currently deployed in Afghanistan, and as a side project, he is soliciting donations of specific items that would help out the combat hospital. He’s also taking donations of coffee beans for the troops.

My Civil Air Patrol unit will be supporting him by collecting donations for the next few weeks. If you are in the greater Cleveland area and would like to contribute, you can drop off donations every Thursday between now and August 11th.

For more information on the project, including what my colleague is seeking, please click the link. I’d appreciate any help you can give in sharing this post to anyone you think would be interested in helping.

Thanks in advance for your generosity in supporting this program. Every little bit helps.

Optical Mark Recognition – On The Cheap

At my job about a year ago, my coordinator asked me to look into using some kind of optical mark recognition (OMR) program to read surveys that we were administering, to cut down on the burden of data entry. There are a lot of commercial programs for OMR, but we wanted to avoid spending any money, so I did a little research and stumbled across this gem, the Udai OMR tool. It was developed as a free alternative to commercial projects, for use by non-profits.

It definitely has some issues, no doubt, so if you’re looking for a packaged, out of the box solution, you would want to keep on clicking (and head for some of those paid solutions instead). But, if you want to use it, it can be done. We ended up not using it, so my half-finished version has languished for awhile, and I thought I’d share. Here’s some notes from my experiences for anyone who’s trying to get this system working.

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R Tip – Directly Access the REDCap API from R

Note: As will be obvious, this example comes from a Windows XP platform.

I stumbled across this earlier and thought it would be a useful statistics tip to share with the world. Those of you working in health care research may already know about REDCap, which stands for Research Electronic Data Capture. It’s a project out of Vanderbilt University that’s designed to improve research by allowing easy creation of “databases”. I say that loosely because each project is basically a single table, with little in the way of relational structures. For more on REDCap, check out

REDcap is free, but it’s not available at every institution. You might want to see if you can find it at your location. It’s a nice option for when you need a simple, reliable, and non-relational option to store data. It’s not a magic bullet by any means, but it’s definitely a nice tool to have in your “statistical / data management toolbox”.

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