We can't run from who we are. Our destiny chooses us.
—Martin Landau, Rounders
In a way, this book represents the sum total of many of my life's experiences. Let me explain.
I began building my data chops early, long before I ever heard or used the term data. As a kid, I enjoyed sports and looking at stats, especially on the back of baseball and football cards. I played poker on a regular basis, and I loved calculating odds on the fly. My dad has always been great with numbers, and the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Math just made sense to me, as did gadgets. I first started using a computer at the ripe old age of 11. (Yes, I was the very definition of an early adopter.) My parents bought my sister and me a then-amazing Commodore 64 in 1986. In high school, I did very well in accounting, typing (yes, they taught that back then), algebra, and pre-calculus.
At age 18, I attended Carnegie Mellon University, a school known for its strengths in computer programming, technology, engineering, and robotics. Even the poets there knew how to code. I enrolled in CMU's College of Social and Decision Sciences. In my sophomore year, I took a class called Empirical Research Methods. Among the books assigned by pony-tailed Professor Miller was The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, the classic by Edward Tufte. The book really opened my eyes. I remember being amazed at the power of scale—that is, how relatively small changes in the x- and y-axes could ...