Transforming and visualising data using Power BI

The past two weeks I was introduced to the ins and outs of Power BI. Four full training days I’ve been practising doing transformations on columns, making calculated measures and dragging columns and measures into visualisations. For those who are not into data analyses, Power BI is a piece of software developed by Microsoft to handle data sets. When spreadsheets are no longer sufficient to handle your data, you can step up the game by using Power BI.

Before this training I practised with SQL and Python to create scatter plots and calculate summations, and I have to admit that after using Power BI I finally understand what kind of actions I was doing to data sets when using Python. Power BI is a visual tool, so you click on the transformations you need to do to prepare your data and the results are immediately visible. And you can easily undo a step with one click.

I wouldn’t say Power BI is data analysis for dummies, because you still need to know conceptually understand what you’re doing to the data, but I totally see why many people prefer using Power BI over messing about with Python. It is visual, quicker and can create interactive reports and dashboards. The reporting part is (for now) least interesting to me, as I don’t work in a big company with lots of (sales) data that needs to flow through the organisation. However, I do feel more confident after the past weeks that I’m capable to get meaningful information from data sets. And that was the whole point of investing in this course.

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Moving to France

The past year the Man told me and Daughter on a regular basis how happy he was with our current home. Even after a long period spending mostly within our home, the home still feels spacious. Daughter always agreed with him. She would never want to leave this house, she repeatedly said. Until today.

At some point during lunch today our home came up as a conversational topic. I told that I sometimes think about living elsewhere, but that I knew she and the Man wouldn’t want to leave this house. Or does she, I asked. Rather unexpectedly she explained she’d rather live in France. More questions from my side followed. Do you mean for a short period? Or for a holiday? Do you want to leave this house? Like, forever? And why France, and not Italy? Or Switzerland? Daughter’s response was that she’d really want to move France. Permanently. She’d seen enough of The Netherlands. Time to see something else. And she already knows some French words (bonjour, au revoir, non).

She explained it in a way that she was willing to pack all our things right at the spot and leave tomorrow. The only issue she saw was not to forget to tell her teacher that we’d moved. Of course the Man and I told her it wasn’t that easy to just move to another country. Yet, I feel her. We’ve been talking about travelling to other places in the past months. Later. When the virus no longer makes so many people ill. If you make me an offer to pack my bags for a few weeks, months, a year even, to any place but here, I’d take it.

Patience my dear, I told Daughter. We’ll be able to travel again soon. Moving to France is not my dreamed future, but spending holidays there in the coming years is definitely an option. Visiting other countries as well. And by the time she becomes an adult, she can decide for herself to move to anywhere. Even France.

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Covid Confessions

Another month passed. More people got sick. More people died. More people got vaccinated.

And in my own life nothing much changed. Except perhaps for today. This is the first day since mid-December that both the Man and I can work a full day. After school care reopened this week. To celebrate this new step Daughter fell ill. She had a fever on Monday and slept most of the day. Yesterday she was back on her feet, fit enough for yet another corona test (number four), and this morning (it’s Wednesday when writing this) she was declared free of covid-19 and fit enough to go to school. And after school care afterwards. For the first time in four months I feel a little less guilty about taking 1,5 hours off during the middle of the day.

Writing that, I realize that the past year I constantly felt the need to be very time efficient. There’s only so much work you can do half-time. When Daughter finally got back to school, the Man and I still had to negotiate who would take care of her between 2PM, the time school ends, and 7PM, bedtime. Every hour not taking care of Daughter therefore had to be spent productively. I guess that is taking its toll, especially considering I normally reload through month long Summer holidays. We didn’t spent a month abroad last year and this year travel abroad during Summer is still very uncertain. It makes me long for Swiss mountains, or Copenhagen shopping sprees more than ever.

I currently go through the daily motions of work, learn, play, eat, sleep, repeat. I can’t say I feel excited about much right now. Next week cafes and restaurants are allowed to reopen their outdoor seating areas, but only between noon and 6PM. The idea of grabbing a beer and being surrounded by other people is very attractive. The reality is that the number of people getting infected every day is still high. Especially in the age group under 30. Guess who is most likely to serve me a beer at the cafe. That thought killed my enthusiasm rather quickly.

So far I’ve been able to keep covid-19 at bay and I’m doing my best to keep it that way. I’m not scared of dying, I’m scared of getting long-covid. In September I want to move at full speed again, not rehabilitate to be able to walk up the stairs in my home. Therefore I’ll just keep going through the unexciting motions. I’ve managed to do it so far. I’ll manage some months more until I get vaccinated.

Speaking of vaccinations, my father (79) received his second shot on April 16th, my mother (76) received her first shot on April 7th. Today’s guesstimate is 4,7 million jabs given to people (on 17,5 million inhabitants). Indeed, we’re still slow, though speed of vaccination is finally ramping up in this country. I can’t wait to get mine.

A family member of mine got reinfected two weeks ago (after first catching it last fall). Luckily his body took care of the virus just like any other virus, but it’s a good reminder to never assume you can’t carry the virus.

For now I keep calm and study on.

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New parenting phase

I cycled to school this afternoon to pick up Daughter, found out she wanted to play with two of her classmates, and cycled back home without her.

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I passed an exam

If my memory is correct the last exam I took was in 2004, when handing in my master thesis (on blogging and Habermas, when blogging was still new and shiny). That was an oral exam, for two of my professors. I really can’t remember the last paper-based exam I took before being allowed to hand in my master thesis. It probably was not a memorable subject or one of those mandatory statistical analysis exams. Since 2004, I never needed to sit an exam for anything. Not even for an assessment for hiring purposes, as I’ve been self-employed since finishing university.

Today I broke that examless streak.

The program at Techionista is thoroughly sponsored by Microsoft and therefore I’m learning all about Microsoft Azure. And to be able to learn that you don’t just read documentation, you increase your knowledge by practicing for an exam. Today I took my first exam, on the Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900 for insiders) and passed it with a proper score of 820 (700 needed to pass).

To avoid installing proctoring software on my computer I reserved a slot at the nearest test center. That happens to be in my home town and I learned later that it’s run by an institute that teaches IT skills to (young) people who are either on the autistic spectrum or highly gifted (many of whom can’t manage to fit into the standard school system and drop out without a degree). I noticed that the person who took me through the sign-in procedure made sure every rule in the procedure was followed in a kind manner, he properly guarded the silence in the hall next to the exam room, and as a bonus earplugs were available for all examinees. I’ll schedule my next two exams here as well.

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The dilemma of hosting a mailing list inside WordPress

For this site’s automatic e-mail service I use Mailpoet. I love this plug-in. It’s a plug-in that focuses on it’s core service: sending a well designed e-mail in bulk. Before switching to Mailpoet I used Mailchimp. Mailchimp has increased its possibilities up to a point where you would now need to follow a course to understand how to use it. I still have other mailing lists running in Mailchimp and would love to move those lists into Mailpoet as well. There is one big thing that bothers me about using Mailpoet, though. The data is stored in the WordPress database.

As someone whose WP sites have been hacked in the past, I feel uncomfortable that personal data of readers being stored in a place that is known to be hackable. Especially when that data is collected for business purposes. Of course I take precautions to keep plug-ins and WP up to date and I use a solid password for login. My hosting company has proper firewalls in place as well, but is that enough protection when storing personal data inside the WP database? I can rely on a service like Mailchimp to protect their servers, since it’s key to their existence. A breach into their servers means they lose business. On my own website I would never be able to replicate such a level of data security.

On the other hand I feel uncomfortable that Mailchimp, or any other mail service, hosts a list containing personal data of my readers. They, a third party, store my data. With Mailpoet I at least fully own the data that I collect, but that comes with more responsibilities.

Mailchimp proved to store data about my readers that I didn’t ask for. Therefore I will move all my mailing lists out of their service. The dilemma is where to move the data to. I’m thinking along two lines.

Option 1

Use Mailpoet for all my mailing lists. This requires extra security safe guards to be implemented on my WP sites, but I’m not sure what should be good enough. What plug-ins and adjustments are really necessary to increase security on a WP website?

Option 2

Choose a different service, similar to Mailchimp, where I store subscribers and that handles the sign-up and sending part. I’m looking at NewsletterGlue for WP integration.

I would really like option 1, but have this nagging feeling that option 2 is the safer and simpler option.

What would you choose? Am I worrying too much about my website getting hacked? Can you point me to solutions I’m overlooking? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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