Normalized Data ISN’T for Sissies

Today, Jason Kottke, a highly popular blogger, posted an entry titled Normalized data is for sissies. He’s usually very on pointe, but this entry was way off base.

From his article:

Something that’s always confused me is the near-religion of data normalization among programmers and database admins. Every developer I’ve ever worked with has told me that when you’re building a database, you need to normalize your data — basically this means organizing your data in such a way that removes redundancy — and failure to do so would result in public ridicule and possible revocation of access to any computing device. But I’ve always wondered, given that hard drives are cheap and getting cheaper, what’s the problem with using more storage space in exchange for greater speed?

To me, he’s missing the point entirely. Normalization isn’t about saving hard drive space. It’s about ensuring the integrity of the data. It’s about using database capabilities to making applications easier to manage and maintain. Any small speed benefits derived from non-normalized data disappear quickly when an application has to start sorting through redundant data.

I don’t think Mr. Kottke has ever had to work with a database that wasn’t normalized. Or with a database in which an unnormalized table has 100+ columns of which most are empty — it’s hellish to maintain. Or had to clean up a large application with lots of redundant data.

On the surface, normalization may seem more complex. And, yes, fifth normal form is a little crazy. However, sensible normalization is absolutely essential to maintaining data integrity in an application.

Education reporting for duty

National Education Association (NEA) President Reg Weaver spoke at my place of employ tonight. I sent a staff reporter out on the beat to cover it and report back.

Give the reporter a day to gather her thoughts and expect her summary tomorrow.


Missing the Target Audience

I was checking out a story on Yahoo News today, when I noticed an interesting sidebar advertisement. It was an animated ad against Tom Daschle, Senate Minority Leader, from South Dakota. The senatorial race between Tom Daschle and Republican opponent, John Thune is quite the heated contest in South Dakota.

Yahoo News screenshot

I was intrigued by the sidebar ad. I refreshed the page about a zillion times trying to get screenshots of it. Of course, the ad rolled out, but intriguingly enough, I came across two more.

Daschle ad 1 thumbnailDaschle ad 2 thumbnailDaschle ad 3 thumbnail

The ads, aptly sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, are pretty run-of-the-mill attack ads. Except the third one. It was an animated ad, though I didn’t catch the first screenshot that said “Still undecided about the senatorial race?” Notice the outline of South Dakota. If this ad is getting at what I think it is, um, wow. I love the loose association. Did Cheney come up with this ad?

What is more disturbing is the choice of location for these ads. How many South Dakotans actually saw them? I would guess the number would be really, really low. Maybe 100? Did the NRSC do any market research? Anyone that’s taken Marketing 101 would tell you that a sidebar advertisement on Yahoo News is not the way to reach South Dakotans.

But then again, the South Dakotan Republican party still sends me propaganda. Yes, even though I live in Montana and am not a registered voter in South Dakota.


Because I Can

As much as I love to bake, I’ve never made bagels. I decided to try my hand at it this weekend. Of course, I decided to start this project at midnight last night (or today I suppose). I finished at 1:30pm this afternoon.

my weekend bagel project results

In case you’re curious, there’s a twelve hour refrigeration period in there.


For lack of better words

Reading material currently residing next to my bed:

  • The Second Time Around by Mary Higgins Clark
  • jemima j by Jane Green
  • The Lottery Winner by Mary Higgins Clark
  • The October 2004 issue of Communications of the ACM
  • All the Trouble in the World by PJ O’Rourke
  • Science Under Seige: The Politicians’ War on Nature and Truth by Todd Wilkinson
  • High Tide in Tucson: Essays From Now or Never by Barbara Kingsolver

“I don’t think the Patriot Act abridges your rights at all.” – From Bush to us with love

I found the debate tonight much more interesting than the last one. The audience members asked some tough questions most of which were not the usual crap that’s mulled and mashed through the media all the time.

The debate also brought into sharp focus why I’m not voting for Bush. I’ll admit that I would vote for Bush over Kerry if the only issues involved were economics and healthcare. But when Bush said “I don’t think the Patriot Act abridges your rights at all,” any goodwill he had garnered by saying he would never support government run healthcare was immediately sent awash.

This election is tough for me because, generally, economic policy is the make or break issue for me. However, I believe the Patriot Act to be absolutely wrong and a threat to my civil and constitutional rights. Additionally, I cannot in good conscience vote for anyone that would favor a constitutional amendment discriminating against an entire group of people.

My favorite Kerry quote of the night:

I can’t take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn’t share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can’t do that.