SAS and I


The reason I began to write this book is very simple: I lost my job. Once someone said, “Read when bored.” Likewise, my case could be described as, “Write when jobless.” There are differences between the United States and China with regard to what is expected of a college graduate. In China, when a graduate from Beijing University, a prestigious institution of higher learning, earns his living as a butcher, many people feel that the inequity is a shame. They think that this is a waste of talent. They blame this situation on the imperfection of society or on a glitch in the system. It is quite different in the United States. No one cares much when a Ph.D. loses his job. They think that he should do whatever it takes to earn his own bread. People may feel sorry for him because so many years of learning seem to lie idle, but no one questions the fairness of the society. When one is unable to find a job in this world of opportunities, one can blame only oneself.

Losing a job is not a big deal in the United States. Here, there is no guarantee of a lifetime position. If you lose a job here, you can just get a job there, but somehow, this didn’t work for me. To me, getting another job is like riding a bike to the moon. As a software developer for many years, a pretty good one by my own standards, I was dismayed to be so powerless and helpless in today’s job market. The bearish U.S. economy plus the overseas outsourcing sent a lot of people to the waiting rooms of the employment agencies. Nowadays, an employer has the luxury of looking for the best of the best. No agency would entertain you if your resume showed unemployment for more than a month. Their rationale is simple: the fact that you could not find a job within a month indicates your inadequacy in skills or implies many rejections from different employers. Who wants to run a charity? Looking into my resume, I saw no strength in myself. A Ph.D. degree looked like the last resort for my self-esteem. Taking this resume to today’s job market is like putting a skinny girl in the boxing ring. Facing so many heavy-weight competitors, how could I possibly win?

Many of my friends tried to help, but they didn’t know how. Others tried but hated my clumsiness.  How hard could it be to modify a resume? The rest of my acquaintances just looked away because offering help would mean a potential embarrassment with their own bosses. How could anyone recommend such a candidate? Now, I truly became a nuisance.

Looking back, I see that mostly I have been dealing with computer languages since undergraduate school, starting with ALGOL, then moving on to BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN, C, C++, UNIX, SQL, and JAVA. They are like beautiful girls, the younger, the prettier. In general, I was getting along with them quite well although there was no spark between them and me. On the job, my motto was, “You give me your requirements, and I will give you code.” This means that whatever a requirement was, I could always develop code for it. Now that I am jobless, things have changed. It seems that when my boat sank, none of the girls cared to offer me a hand.

I saw dead ends in every direction, but just as the ancient Chinese said, “There is always an escape in the sky.” I saw a door opening. Dr. Zhen-ning Yang used to say that Miss Wong was his gift from God. Then I would say that SAS is my gift from God. The first time I knew her (SAS) was several years ago when I was a TA for a statistics class.  I taught DATA and FREQ from a thin book, Introductory SAS. As I saw her that time, SAS was like a naïve little girl. Meeting her again after several years, she now appeared to be a flourishing young lady. As a matter of fact, SAS was born of renowned families. Her father is Statistics while her mother is Software, so you can see that her nomenclature is SAS, Statistics, and Software. She has a sister named SPSS, but SAS is much more popular. However, talking about SAS’s life, I would still say that a girl turns into a young lady, still lacking love even with so many uncles. 

        In my life, I had two episodes of lost loves (jobs) several months apart. The two episodes led me in very different directions. The first time filled me with depression, worry, and sadness. I was wondering if I was going to be loveless (jobless) for the rest of my life. The second time, I was full of new hope since I had met Miss SAS, and I knew I could win her heart. I made my move immediately after being laid off. Even though there were other caring go-betweens trying to help, I made up my mind. Some friends doubted my decision. Why not come back to IT since IT is a rich and famous family and has a good relationship with you? In fact, I am like a prince who sells himself as a slave with the sole purpose of seducing my boss’s princess-like daughter. People don’t understand why I am willing to sink into destitution, but I saw this as a good opportunity from God. I feel so joyful.

 I would say that SAS and I experienced love at first sight and engagement at the second encounter. SAS has offered me a new opportunity, a new way to live. To me, SAS is my savior. In return, I care for and cherish SAS. I regard her as my soul-mate, inseparable thereafter. Every night, we have endless yearnings; every day, we engage in non-stop lovers’ whisperings.  For many days, I got up early, diligently tapping the keyboard to express my yearning in front of the computer monitor. I didn’t take a shower or have breakfast. I took a short nap when I was tired, and I ate some fast food when I was hungry. Relying on the advantage of having been a CRO (Chief Research Officer), I provided my own opinion of Miss SAS’s frequently-occurring diseases, rare sicknesses, common illnesses, and hard-to-diagnose symptoms. On the other side of the picture, Miss SAS liked to lean in my arms and talk garrulously about funny stories that happened in her family. Sometimes, even now, Miss SAS acts like a spirit and likes to play hide-and-seek. Undoubtedly, I would see a data set there, but I would blink my eyes, and it would disappear. In her family, the things that I like the best are REPORT and ODS. REPORT is thin and weak and is always immaculately dressed, while ODS is warm, open, sexy, and charming. They are called the Golden Boy and the Jade Girl. There is a saying that when the Golden Boy and the Jade girl hold hands, the world is more beautiful. Recalling my dates with SAS, they were just like a secret love affair. I was obsessed every day, but I did not dare to tell anybody that I had been writing. If I confessed to anyone, I believed that I would have been labeled as crazy, and the reason behind the craziness was obvious: depression after losing my job. At those times, I began to miss my guiding professor, the co-author of my previous book, Linear Programming, Mr. Jianzhong Zhang. Maybe he would understand me. 

     Fortunately, this faithful love story did not go fruitless. This book is the fruit, witnessed by my true love. More than three years have passed since my second encounter with Miss SAS.  

Last, I would like to thank many of my friends. Special thanks go to Doctor Jianming Miao and Doctor Qiuhu Shi. Dr. Miao gave me some old pictures of Miss SAS: the version six SAS manual. Doctor Shi, an expert in biostatistics, provided chances for me to date Miss SAS. Later, it was in his company that I began to write SAS programs. It is fair to say that without their cordial help, my beloved book baby would not see the light of day so soon. I offer my deepest gratitude to all. 

      I would also like to thank people who work on SAS. Your work helps me a lot in my quest to understand Miss SAS. I would also say that SAS’s family is a very friendly family. Whenever I have questions about Miss SAS and go to her family members, they always provide quick answers.

The last words are for my child. My child, do you know how eagerly I looked forward to your birth?  Every day and every night, I measured how much weight you were gaining. Every minute and every second, I estimated how soon you would come to the world. Let me say something that may cause you to laugh at me: I have never been so afraid of dying as I was before I knew you were coming because my death would have meant that you would never see the world. Because of you, I didn't have a complete meal or a sound sleep. From the first moment that I learned that you were expected, I prepared a room for you. So many times I touched your bed, pinched your quilt, and imagined what it would be like when you came into the world. Now, here you are . . . Are you satisfied with everything?

  Good luck, my child.