I have a fetish for statistics, numbers, formulae and technological manipulation.

What this means in practice is that I do online courses to master the intricacies of statistics and R and spend a significant part of my working day juggling (well, wrangling) Excel. Today, I assisted an extremely competent colleague in converting spreadsheet data into a format where Excel would eat it. Small wonder that it was not easy – it was a weird date sorting… *bug*, I would say, but I am sure some would call it an eccentric feature. So I had dates defined as, say, 50810 to represent 05-08-2010 – the result of an automated data set from one of our systems and the addition of a pinch of Excel magic insisting that 050810 made no sense as a figure, so – 50810.

Which would not be converted into a date.

I converted the dates by asking Excel to add a 0 if the number only had 5 digits, harvest the first two characters with =LEFT, a hyphen, then the middle two with =MID, then a hyphen and ’20’ and finally the last two with =RIGHT. So, 05-08-2010. After that, no challenge.

Not exactly graceful.

It was the equivalent of trying to do origami by cutting paper and sticking the parts together with duct tape.

I wonder why I get so frustrated with the heavy-handed approach. Is it just because of training teaching us patterns instead of manual approaches? Is it because I am from a small country where maximalist solutions are frowned upon? Or is it simply a case of personal aesthetics?

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