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Claudia Imhoff

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About the author >

A thought leader, visionary, and practitioner, Claudia Imhoff, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized expert on analytics, business intelligence, and the architectures to support these initiatives. Dr. Imhoff has co-authored five books on these subjects and writes articles (totaling more than 150) for technical and business magazines.

She is also the Founder of the Boulder BI Brain Trust, a consortium of independent analysts and consultants (www.BBBT.us). You can follow them on Twitter at #BBBT

Editor's Note:
More articles and resources are available in Claudia's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

We decorated our Christmas tree last weekend -- and I realized that the decorations were snapshots of our family history -- basically our personal data warehouse. Certainly our tree will never make it into Good Housekeeping or win a prize for best decorations -- you could say it was "eclectic" to be kind -- but it is filled with many, many lovely memories...

I have many friends who have lovely, perfectly decorated trees at this time of the year. Our tree is probably the embarrassment of our neighborhood but to us, it is a microcosm of many Christmases past. Let me explain:

1. First there is the tree skirt -- Wen we were first married almost 22 years ago, we had very little money but more time. To hide the rather ugly tree stand, I sewed a red felt tree skirt -- complete with little bows and other decorations on it. In the intervening years, we continue to use the skirt even though our finances have improved and my free time is now non-existent. The skirt may be worn and rather sad-looking now but somehow it still makes it to cover up the tree stand. It makes us laugh every time we see it...

2. Then there are the lights -- every year we hold our breath to see if they will actually light up when we plug them in. They are about as old as the skirt and we have a few that are dark. One year, I will buy new bulbs and replace the burned out ones -- just not this year.

3. Finally there are the ornaments -- ah, these are the best part. Some are actually quite lovely and were handed down from our parents to us. They are quite fragile and we have lost a few over the years which is a shame. But then there are those that are not -- um -- so pretty. In fact, they are pretty hideous and probably why we would never win the neighborhood tree decorating prize -- if we dared to enter that is. However, they are the ones I truly treasure the most. Let's start with the ones given to us for our first Christmases as a married couple. Our relatives gave us ornaments with sayings on them like "Our first Christmas together", "Holy Moly -- our Second Christmas together", etc. Maybe they were betting that we wouldn't make it that long. Showed them!

Then along came Jess, our daughter, and a whole new set of precious ornaments. We have the usual ones that say "Baby's First, Second and Third Christmas". People stopped after three -- I guess they had made their point by that time or maybe Hallmark didn't make ones after three...

There is the snow man Jess made in kindergarten. It is made from a white tube sock, has a basket on its head instead of a top hat (no clue why...), buttons for eyes, yarn for a mouth, and these scrawny branches for arms. His cotton stuffing which made him quite jolly when new has become rather compacted so he now is somewhat skinny. Nonetheless, he gets a position of honor on the tree (much to my daughter's chagrin) and is packed in his own box to make sure he makes it to the next Christmas.

There are the paper ornaments we made one Christmas when I somehow misplaced the boxes of regular ornaments. I thought the construction paper ornaments and chains were a good substitute -- I had no idea they would live on after that Christmas. What was I thinking? Now they are somewhat faded and the glitter has worn off and yet, there they are on the tree again this year. I must admit that I do occasionally throw one of them away when no one is looking...

There are the strange ones that we made over the years from styrofoam balls, sequins, and feathers. It was our attempt at creating something "pretty" for the tree. They now resemble something that came down with bird flu and managed to survive. These are truly the ugliest things on the tree...

We have beads from God-knows-where hanging on the tree. I have no memory of where they came from and, somehow, can't bring myself to toss them... The gold is worn off and there are beads missing and cracked -- just lovely. And we have some given to us by dear friends -- like ornaments with hand-tied fishing flies in them (Scott, we almost have enough to decorate the tree with just them alone -- many thanks to you and Megan for these), hand-made sleds, Santas, cross-stitched reindeer, and crocheted snowflakes.

Then there are those I collected from my travels all over the world. Wooden snow flakes from Germany; straw figures from Scandinavia, filagreed baskets from London, truly heinous chili peppers from Texas (what WAS I thinking?), blown glass humming birds from Colorado, and so on.

I know -- you are wondering why I don't throw these things out and buy new, shiny, pretty ornaments. I guess the answer is that these represent our family's years of holidays. They are our data warehouse of memories, laughter, some tears, and a lot of love. How could we throw out such history? I guess we will just have to keep the curtains closed so we don't make our neighbors ill -- again. My apologies, neighbors.

So, at this time of best wishes, I guess mine are that you all have a holiday data warehouse filled with wonderful memories and love. And may 2009 be kinder to us than 2008 was!

See ya next year!

Claudia


Posted December 23, 2008 2:54 PM
Permalink | 6 Comments |

6 Comments

Your tree sounds a lot like mine -- never thought of that yellow plastic poodle that I hang on the tree every year as part of my personal data warehouse. It is nice to have a place to store all that history for reflection! Happy holidays.

I'm sure, contrary to what Claudia thinks, her tree is the envy of her neighbors because it is a tree filled with love and memories -- not just color-coordinated, meaningless ornaments. And, Claudia is not the only one with chili pepper ornaments. We have one that our daughter gave to us. It's not very attractive, but it's meaningful. Helps us remember how much we missed her when she lived in Austin! Thanks Claudia for reminding all of us what a Christmas tree really should look like!

Many thanks to Jean and Mary Jo for your comments. I greatly appreciate them!

Claudia

I could not tell whether the data was organized as ER or star. Also, your personal data warehouse is only descriptive of historical events. Wonder if you could do predicative analysis to determine the decorations that will be used next year.

HA! I believe our tree is an ER design. It supports all forms of unplanned, unstructured queries!

We could try predicting what will make it on the tree next year by determining how many broke (or made it to the trash) this year... :-)

Thanks for the comment.

Claudia

I got this comment from my good friend, Lee Blackstone, about my Christmas blog. It was very clever so I thought I would share it with you:

The model is a basic tree structure and it is imperative that it conform to the dimensions allowed. Whether this will allow those involved to guess "What If" I get, a new near real time of interpretative response to a predictive outcome, only Santa Kimball and Claudia Claus will know
for sure.


The variable lights are extracted from the box, transformed from a bundle to a linear form and incorporated into a visual impression of
encompassed tree structure.

Now for the stars and snowflakes than endow the tree structure. Being mindful that dangling entities may reflect authentic ownership.

But beauty abounds in the collective transformation. Merry Christmas to Claudia Claus and all her dominions and domains.

Lee

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