RPG Maker and Database Structure

So, I’ve embarked on creating a side project in RPG Maker – simply as a hobby. One aspect of RPG Maker is that it runs on a database (I’m not sure which one), so is essentially a kit for making database RPG games, similar to Final Fantasy VII or (more of a stretch) Crystalis. I’ve done a quick and dirty schema devolvement in order to make heads and tails of the character/weapon/armor portion of the database, which I’ve posted here. While this isn’t necessarily the same type of post that I generally make, it is still nominally within the realm of data – given a few more weeks, I’m going to devolve the core RPG system I’m adapting (which will be much messier, as it is a tabletop system).

schema for RPG Maker

Quick and dirty partial schema from RPG Maker’s database

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Association Rules and Data Mining With RapidMiner

A good association rule set never fails to impress me. I love the hypothetical made concrete, the hunch turned into fact – attributes become relationships, numbers become involvement between tuples, fields, and tables. All in all, we live in interesting times, and making sense of all of this allows us as people to continue achieving, pushing ahead. Up, up, and beyond.

Here is an Association Graph image made with RapidMiner that shows associations between various social groups in a community. While the data is/was (probably) fictitious, the connections are plausible and viable. These associations are the type of causal relationship that humans identify easily, but machines used to have a difficult time identifying. Given this, I would offer a maxim: The truth is in the algorithm.


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Data Mining for the Masses and Correlation Matrices

I’m working through Data Mining for the Masses (yes, at the same time as I’m working through Machine Learning for R.) I’ve found that hitting the same topic from multiple angles helps to embed the concepts and lessons much more firmly. Some people would say that approaching R and RapidMiner at the same time is foolhardy, but I actually think it is vital to learning in depth about data science in general. A critical facet of data science is that it is tool-heavy, with players such as SPSS, SAS, SAP, Oracle, and IBM all fighting over the same data real estate. I’ve always been prone to using long-term, supported software packages that are free (hence, R and RapidMiner), but feel that these skills translate well across playing fields – a part of data analytics is the foundation and skills involved, which evolves into the universal concepts of statistics, probability, and mathematics.

To elucidate my current lesson, there is a 1,400 item housing data set that I’ve generated a correlation matrix for (i.e. Data Mining for the Masses, Chapter 4.) I’m always impressed with the alacrity that RapidMiner generates these graphics and tables. the YALE project did well, all things considered.



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Data Analysis With R

I’ve been working my way through the Machine Learning for Hackers book from O’Reilly press (which really should be named R for Machine Learning), and just finished a small data analysis project in R. While the syntax is a little awkward, the power under the hood of R is fantastic. ’nuff said.

Anyways, I’d recommend the book, with the caveat that you’re going to need to reference the github server for both data and clarity regarding programming points: For example, Infochimps has a flawed security certificate (making downloading data sets dodgy), and there were enough coding errors in the book’s first chapter to cause me to develop 2-3 hours worth of workarounds (and headaches.) Not on par with the Head First HTML/CSS book, that’s for sure – Machine Learning seems hastily put together, but worthwhile for the knowledge core.

Anyways, here’s the project output, an analysis produced in R of roughly 45,000 UFO sightings from 1990-2010, by US state, month, and year.

UFO Sightings

45,000 UFO sightings by state, year, and month.

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The Penn Data Store and Medical Data Integration

Here is the second poster presentation from the NEDB 2013 conference at MIT. The conference was on Feb. 1, 2013, and was a boat-load of fun.


As a premier research institution, the University of Pennsylvania harbors numerous databases: these run the gamut from clinical, research, and financial, to genomic and neurological. Integrating all these disparate data sources has become a massive endeavor at the University’s Medical System. In order to accommodate the organization’s vast needs for data, and to assist accomplishing the objective of become a data-driven enterprise, Penn built the Penn Data Store clinical data warehouse, one of 12 CCHIT-certified Data Warehouses within the USA designated for clinical research use. This warehouse is an ongoing project: it currently incorporates inpatient and outpatient data from eleven distinctly different medical record systems, and is constantly in the process of assimilating even more content from Penn’s medical databases in order to directly contribute to medical research.

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The Future of Health Data

Here is the poster that I presented at the New England Database Conference 2013, held over at MIT‘s Stata Center in Cambridge, MA. I’ve also excised the abstract for ease of reading (and so that Google will zero in on this page.)

ABSTRACT: Medicine is already becoming more dependent on the medical data contained within the medical record systems mandated by the Recovery Act. Doctors and medical practitioners have begun to shift into a data-based decision-making paradigm. The next great leap that data-driven medicine will take will involve assimilation of proteomic- and genomic-level databases into the medical record system itself. This will enable three key functions: the foundation of data mining/predictive modeling, better patient care via greater depth of knowledge, and the ability to tailor gene-based or protein-specific treatments to the patient. All of this requires massive databases and data-driven enterprises: it can be argued that medicine is becoming a true data-focused field.

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The Boggan’s Market: Adventure Paths, Vol. I


Come find your way to adventure in this fun book – choose your own path through the mysterious market at the edge of the forest. Explore another world with this interactive book of fantasy and magic. Fight ogres, meet gypsies, and achieve your dreams!

For something completely different, check out the choose your own adventure book I wrote. Good fun!Image

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Don’t Get Lazy, and Learn for Life

I am enrolled in Drexel‘s MSIS, and have only a few classes to go. Currently, I’m finishing up my pre-req courses to finish the Masters of Science in Information Systems (MSIS). Before this, I completed my MSLIS (MS Library and Information Science), also at Drexel.

Both programs I completed online; part of my work’s benefits includes a hearty stipend for education. Working full-time doesn’t leave a lot of time for attending courses at the actual campus, even though theoretically I’m about 3 blocks from the iSchool‘s building. There isn’t anything more or less challenging about online graduate school, except that the coursework needs to be attended to on a different schedule, and the connections that I’ve made in the online programs are perhaps a little less solid. There’s something to be said for face to face contact with your professional and academic colleagues.

Drexel’s iSchool is highly rated (#3 in IS, #9 in LIS), for what it’s worth. The school is in the Top 100 for national universities, and it is also a major research institution. Compared to the University of Pennsylvania, there’s a distinct lack of that Ivy League absolute passion – I work with Penn grads, and am married to a Penn grad. I can tell you that Penn deserves it’s #5 ranking. Drexel graduate students are excellent, but I’m unsure of the undergrads; within both of the MSIS and MSLIS programs, students have pushed and been pushed to succeed.

Drexel’s reputation is definitely oriented towards IT, IS, and Comp. Sci. When I applied to graduate school the first time, I looked at six programs – Wisconsin, Drexel, and a few others. Part of my goal was to find a quality distance program. The hard part isn’t getting into a program, but finishing it. If you’re applying to graduate school, find out the matriculation rates for the program you’re thinking about entering into – that’s a helpful piece of advice. Drexel accepts about 20% of the MSIS applicants for their Master’s program, and (as of a few years ago), had about 400 applicants a year. Thus, they have an annual class of 80 for the MSIS. Within most PhD programs, things are much more selective – I know that the University of Washington put their numbers out there for the entering classes for both UW’s MSLIS and PhD programs a few years back. I’m always vaguely curious about the snapshots of scholastic competitiveness.

What can you do with a MSIS? Well, Drexel’s program includes a chunk of management courses (budgeting, software analysis, etc.) I’m looking into developing my career more towards data modeling and application architecture, for which the MSIS is well suited – and since my work will continue to pay for education, I’m also going to explore Syracuse University and Boston University’s certificate programs.

“Don’t get lazy” is a good motto to live by. Syracuse has a Data Mining certificate, and Boston has an Advanced Databases certificate – both are just for intellectual advancement: “Learn for life” is another good mental dictum. I get immensely frustrated with professors and their academic gibberish, but any good university still retains faculty with a breadth of knowledge about their domain(s). Wading through the academic muck is annoying, but the opportunity to learn and achieve is paramount.

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What Does an IT Manager Do?

I had a chance to catch up with my high school friend, who now works it IT. He’s been in tech for over 10 years, but originally has a BS in Economics, with a minor in CIS – this was back when state colleges offered things like CIS degrees in Oregon. The University of Oregon flip-flops on what it offers any given year, with funding allocated kind of sporadically; thus, the UO doesn’t offer a social work degree, even though it is a social service hub, and doesn’t have a CIS program, even with the tech field booming…

Chris serves to highlight that people in IT often have it ‘in the blood’, or like a ‘fire in the head’ In his words:”I first started getting into computers back when I was in middle school.  My brother had a couple of friends who had Commodore 64s and I was fascinated by them.  I tried to program in BASIC on an Apple, but wasn’t too successful.  I dove into programming when I started as a CIS major at the UO in ’94”. This is a classic evolution of an IT professional, but with CS programs nationwide only graduating 15,000 graduates last year, and an expected need of 150,000 professionals (each year, mind you!) then there is going to be a serious tech-crunch soon. We may have even passed that event horizon.

Regarding the professional evolution into management (Chris, again): “I’ve been managing the IT Dept for about 7 years now.  I started working for this company as a user-support staff member and worked my way up in the company.” Everybody starts somewhere, and I think that technical jobs have a kind of “promote from within” framework often built into the job itself – if you know how to do everything the business needs, then it makes a lot of sense to keep/elevate you.

As an IT manager, there are a few huge domains that fall under his baileywick: policy writing, researching and implementing Federal, state, and local technical guidelines, maintaining network security,  phone system/server (data/communications, moreso) management, and the departmental budget. I’ll let you read his words, because his passion for security is evident.

1. Network security: “This area covers network analysis, responding to incidents, reviewing attempted breaches, penetration testing, and network hardening.  I don’t get to do as much of this (on the clock) as I’d like to, but I do play around with tools in my free time.  In order to retain a secure network, you have to keep aware of security issues in software as well as monitor access points and implement multiple levels of end-point security (antivirus, anti-malware, spam/phishing, etc.)”

2. Server/network management: “My department is rather small for the size of our organization and we all wear various hats.  I haven’t been a part of most server implementations, but I now help with managing all servers (Windows, Linux, and OpenBSD) as well as our network switches.  I manage all server functions (firewalls, email, printers, file shares, collaboration software, Hyper-V servers, VMware servers, security system, etc.)”

3. Phone system management: “We implemented a VoIP system last year and since I helped build the system, I’ve been managing users and troubleshooting issues with it.  We do have a company that performed the main installation, but since I’m fairly familiar with the system I’ll handle most issues that pop up.

When it comes to the department budget, a huge element is project management, which didn’t even get mentioned in his job scope. Trust me, though: as an IT professional, his job scope definitely includes project management for the business: “I’ve recently given that task to one of my employees, but I still retain the management of the department’s budget. Besides just managing the numbers, you have to pay attention to what projects WILL cost to implement and what the long-term hit on the budget will be.  For me, this means finding a balance between open-source solutions and ones with calculable costs (e.g. Microsoft licenses.)” I thought it was great that he’s looking into open-source, because that’s where the future of affordable technology is, and often where the cutting-edge computer science can be found -well, that and DARPA.

When we got into goals, certifications and more education came up as topics. Possibly a law degree, which would be an interesting take on things – tech and law make a solid, if unusual, combination. Also security certifications, which are probably a good bet as well.

When I asked him what advice he would have given himself in the past, as a student, he had some pretty spot-on words for his previous self: “I wish I would have found an area of focus (IT Security) earlier in my career.  I’ve always been attracted to that area, but never knew how to get there.  I think that part of my issue was bad timing: main-stream companies are only now taking IT security more seriously.”

Also: “Although it’s good to see a situation from both sides, be quick at making the right decision even if it’s going to ruffle some feathers.  You can try and please as many people as possible, but decisions are always going to rub someone the wrong way.”

Lastly: “Be more proactive with what you want to focus on.  Jobs aren’t going to fall into your lap.”

There you have it: a view from the trenches of a system administrator and IT department. manager.

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Epic Systems, Epic Certification, and the future of EMRs

Well, I just finished my second round of classes in the Epic EMR system. The first time, I trained in MyEpic/Radar and Reporting Workbench – and I successfully passed the certification exams for these two modules (for lack of a better term). I’m unaware of the official terminology for individual Epic system applications.

Next, I will be taking the Resolute Professional Billing test. While I’m not going to go into specifics about the exams themselves (except to say that they are open-book, open-notes, and open-system), I would like to comment about the certification process. A popular question online is ‘how do I become Epic certified?’ The short-hand answer is that you must work for an Epic-enabled health care system. Forbes magazine has a collection of articles about the Epic CEO, Judy Faulkner, and how selective she is with her system – the gist is that she picks health systems to use Epic, and has denied hospitals the right to use her software.

Epic itself is a great place to visit – a sprawling rural campus in the heartland of Verona, Wisconsin. It is a treasure-trove of curious artifacts and quirky, geeky humor. The training rooms are named such titles as ‘Mordor‘ and ‘Cyclops’. There is also a large slide in a building aptly named ‘Heaven’, and a replica of the temple in the initial scene of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom‘ (think: ‘Throw me the idol and I’ll throw you the whip!’ – that scene). I guess Epic is kind of like Geek Paradise.

The Epic system itself is a highly customizable, fully certified, cutting-edge EMR software application. It is still a database application, and will require highly skilled operators to keep it tuned and running smoothly. My company has an Epic team dedicated to the system – probably about 40 staff all together. Our IT/IS department is much larger than that, and Epic reaches into our analytics, financial, and clinical workflows. Essentially, Epic is inseparable from Penn Medicine.

Our healthcare system is blended into Epic to the degree that we (data/analytics/clinical care) are indistinguishable from the EMR. This is the dawning of a type of personalized medicine – while people don’t recognize EMR systems as artificial intelligence and knowledge capture/engineering systems, Epic and other EMRs are uniquely situated to store all types of data, even genomic and phenotypic.

Ultimately, the EMR systems of 2013 will give rise to the virtualized medicine of 2043 – it is only a matter of time until the merging of medical record systems and technology will leap the Singularity gap and become an instrumental part of everyday medical care.

Already, I see data stores and genomic/biotechnological research combining into a meta-engine of genetic research. Science and the genome are going to become rapidly intertwined within each other’s helix of functionality. I doubt we will recognize the science of 2043, only two generations after the advent of personalized healthcare – and this movement will be pushed ahead by the medical record systems developed by corporations such as Epic.

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