Monday, June 05, 2006

My Job

Some of you may wonder what I do all day. Well, when I'm very lucky, I get to do this:

Acreage Map

This is a map of some acreage recently acquired by my company. (I've removed the labels that would identify where the acreage is - the grid shown is the standard township/section grid used for land survey in most of the United States.) I worked on this for about 4 hours on Saturday, and all day today so far, and I'm about 40% done with this phase of the project.

What makes it take time is that many of the descriptions use metes and bounds - that is, detailed descriptions of the distances and angles that describe the tracts. You can tell these tracts because they are the squiggly and irregular ones.

Here is an example from one of the leases I mapped today, chosen because it's one of the shortest:

That part of the SW/4SE/4 being described as beginning as the SE corner of said subdivision and run North 3.30 chains; thence North 75 deg. West 7.00 chains to a stone; thence South 16 deg. West 5.50 chains to a stone on the South boundary line of said subdivision and thence East 8.00 chains, more or less, to the point of beginning, containing 3.40 acres, more or less.

See! I have a fun job!


Debbie said...

Oh, man. I think I care less about land boundaries than I do about which course counts toward a degree requirement.

Tam said...

As with most jobs (aside from being an astronaut or a brain surgeon, perhaps), it's not the facts or the results that are interesting, or fun, or boring, or horrible - I don't care what parcels Bob Smith owns in Suchandsuch County either - it's the process of whatever the work is that you actually do. And this kind of work - detailed but tricky, and coming in huge clumps - I enjoy.

The next phase of the thing is a bunch of data entry, which will be satisfying too.

sally said...

I think that a lot of us who work in the general field of "data manipulation" (either as the main focus of our job or as a part of the job) are much more concerned that the project present an interesting and satisfying to carry out set of problems and procedures than with what domain the data is from.

I recently finished up a very satisfying project that involved downloading several million purchase records and manipulating them in various ways to supply a mailing list for my agency to market a product to these people. Later, I will download the records of purchases of that product and manipulate them to provide my agency with results of how the various sub-groups of the target audience responded to this offer and ROI overall and amongst various sub-classes. In this particular instance, I am not responsible for making any decisions about the product itself, only how we can improve our profitability based on how different groups of people responded and the costs of the project. It is mostly irrelevant to my task and the enjoyment I get from it what the product is. I mean, if you think I inherently care deeply about Texas bird hunting opportunities, for example, you would be quite wrong. (The only time anyone cares about Texas bird hunting who isn't a bird hunter is when Dick Cheney shoots somebody on a quail hunt, you know?) In my previous job, I didn't care strongly about notebook computers either, but figuring out which brands were stealing share from which other brands in a particular geographical market or determining which product attributes were most strongly related to people's satisfaction with their computer was an interesting exercise in data analysis.

My dad is an accountant working on a special project of reconciling the accounts of a large organization; his satisfaction comes from figuring out why this set of accounts are all out of whack and why these transactions are not being made to the general ledger though they hit the asset account and so forth. Except for needing to know that a given item belongs to a particular class of assets so it can be put on an appropriate depreciation schedule, etc., he doesn't really care for purposes of his work that it's a MoneyMaker 2000 slot machine rather than its rival model.

I'm guessing that Tam's momm hasn't enjoyed cataloging e.g. a 1906 book on color perception more than the latest Harry Potter story because she finds the history of scientific knowledge of the human eye so much more inherently fascinating than popular fantasy fiction - the old, obscure book presents a more interesting challenge than the 100th copy of Harry Potter.

(See Tam, I don't need my own blog; I have hijacked yours with my ridiculously lengthy commentary on your posts.)

I view it as basically a good thing that one can enjoy the process of doing the work rather than relying on being inherently interested in the data you're working with. It seems clear that there's a lot more boring data, like what course counts toward a degree requirement or who owns what land or which people have bought which kind of hunting license, than there is exciting, fascinating data.

I mean, wouldn't about 89.2% of men prefer to work with sports data? I'm sure all the people who work for ESPN, etc., designing and managing the databases that spit out stats like "Joe Blow has hit .199 against left-handed pitchers at home this season" are the envy of their friends who were working on something like drugstore inventory systems. Most guys I know are very "wow, that's so cool!" when I tell them that my sister worked on programming the systems at Giants stadium, but my sister doesn't give a rats ass about baseball and probably hasn't actually watched an entire game in her life.

There is pleasure to be had in the results, but for most of us who do this kind of work, I think that much of it comes in the form of "Look at what an accurate and elegant and useful map of lease holdings / pricing model for business electricity / analysis of 5 year hunting license purchase patterns / reconciliation of asset accounts / catalog description of these books I came up with."

Tam's momm said...

I agree Sally and Tam. It is the process. That's what I love about cataloging and that's why cataloging at Rice is a little nicer than cataloging at HCPL. Fortunately, everything else at HCPL is nicer than Rice. Luckily (?) I get to work at both places now.
I love the blog. It's like having my own without doing any of the work.

sally said...

"I love the blog. It's like having my own without doing any of the work."

I'm hoping to feel this way about Tam's kids someday. :)

Tam's momm said...

That's pretty funny Sally.