Friday, October 5, 2012

Halifax SAS User Group Wrap-Up

Well, it's taken me a week to sit down and recap the great SAS User Group meeting we had last Friday in Halifax... blame it on the travel, a crazy work week, or blame it on the boogie.  I prefer the boogie, myself, but that's just me.

I was fortunate enough to be joined on my journey by Toronto Area SAS Society President Art Tabachneck.  How and why, you might ask?  Or, you might not... but I think some of you were pondering those great questions, feeling the weight of the world upon you due to not knowing the answer.  Well, allow me to share.  Art won a contest in the SAS Canada Community we at SAS Canada sponsored about a year ago. Simply put, we wanted to hear interesting stories and uses of SAS... something a bit off the beaten path, if you will.  The lucky winner would travel with me to any user group of their choice across the country. Well, I suppose 'lucky' is being a bit subjective... but I'd like to think I'm a pretty good travel buddy (we'll have to ask Art for his thoughts).  Art was the clear winner of this contest and his choice was to head to Halifax.  Being a gentleman and a scholar, he even graciously offered to reprise his SAS Global Forum talk 'Copy and Paste Almost Anything'  for the group.  It was also the first time Art and I were able to travel together. We've worked closely together for many years and shared a few fleeting drinks at large conferences, but that was it.  I wasn't to be disappointed.

Halifax is a great place to eat, socialize and converse.  We met up with the other guest speakers and user group executives for dinner and had an absolutely fantastic time. Over out-of-this-world seafood, a few bottles of wine and some great east coast hospitality, I had a great conversation about SAS' use in academia, the presentations which were to come the following day, and more.  I had just enough time to introduce Art to the wonderful experience that is The Old Triangle before we tip-toed off to bed to rest up for the meeting.

The morning saw about 25 SAS users gathered for a nice breakfast and a chance to socialize before we got down to the business of the day.  I have to say, the camaraderie and cheerfulness are a few of my favourite things about Halifax. Familiar faces made a point of saying hello and inquiring about my health and my life (both fine, thank you).  I always feel like I'm at home in Halifax.

The meeting itself was punctuated by a great range of talks, all of which can be found posted on the SHRUG website.  In addition to Art's talk, we heard from the wonderful Martha Cox who shared some tips around making journal-ready graphs using SAS. I had no idea the parameters were so specific, but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised!  We also experienced a team talk which was very near and dear to my heart as it focused around a marketing problem. Patrick Vandermeulen and his co-authors walked us through a business challenge of Lawton's Drugs and explained how they were using data mining and regression modeling to extrapolate a solution which could be applied to their entire chain.  It certainly sparked some interesting discussion!  I myself was very impressed with Faye Xu, a recent student of Dalhousie who was really driving a lot of the model creation through Enterprise Miner. The future of data mining looks to be in good hands, at least in Halifax!

Following the meeting it was time for Art and I to relax over lunch while overlooking the Halifax Harbour on a picture-perfect day.  Those moments will stay with me as we head into a typical Canadian winter... the blue skies, warm winds and sunny dispositions of the Haligonians we spent time with will certainly give me cause to smile in the cold months to come.

Next up for me: I'm headed to Alberta for the Calgary and Edmonton user group meetings. There are always interesting stories which come out of the Canadian prairies and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you.

Until then...

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