Archive for August, 2019

Math tweet splits internet mathematicians

Tuesday 20 August 2019 @ 12:10 pm

One of my colleagues sent me a New York Times article about a math tweet.  The tweet was of a deceptively simple math equation and asked people to calculate the result.  All of the internet mathematicians immediately divided into two camps based on their interpretation of the rules of precedence, which were intentionally ambiguous in the equation. The point of the article (and of my colleagues sharing) was the importance of using parentheses to clarify the order in which things should occur. I often add extra parens, even when the order of precedence wouldn’t require them, just to give myself a visual clue of what is supposed to happen when.

The funny thing about the original article, and an interesting follow-up article, is that experts can still be found on both sides of the divide. That is somewhat surprising given the apparent simplicity of the problem.

And thanks to Zvi Flanders of Huron Consulting for sending me the link.

Calculating the begin and end of Daylight Saving Time

Friday 16 August 2019 @ 11:32 pm

I am not a big fan of Daylight Saving Time (DST). I even hear some states and countries are talking about dropping it (yeah!). But in the meantime there are plenty of reports that need to adjust the time twice a year. This usually happens when the datetime values are stored in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and have to be converted to a local time. Then you need to know when DST begins and ends.

The first two formulas below calculate the beginning and ending dates of DST, based on the year of your transaction date. The third formula uses the first two formulas to make the one-hour adjustment. Substitute your GMT date fields into the first and third formula.

//DST Start
DateVar Start:= Date (Year ({@YourDateTimeGMT}) , 3, 15);
DateVar BOM:= Start - Day(Start)+7;
DateVar BOW:= BOM - DayOfWeek(BOM) + 8;
DateAdd('h', 2, BOW);

//DST End
{@DST Start} + 238 ;

//Adjusted DateTime
if {@YourDateTimeGMT} in {@DST Start} to {@DST End}
then DateAdd('h', 5, {@YourDateTimeGMT})
else DateAdd('h', 4, {@YourDateTimeGMT})

When that zero isn’t really a zero

Thursday 8 August 2019 @ 10:24 pm

Last week a customer was really befuddled. He had a formula that said:

if {@field} = 0 then ...

He could see lots of zero values but the formula didn’t work as expected.  He couldn’t figure it out so he sent it to me. The first thing I did was add a few more decimals to see if it was a rounding issue. That didn’t show anything, but the formula still insisted that the value was somehow NOT equal to zero.

So I went into the formula and multiplied the current value by one trillion. Then instead of zeros I started to see some small numbers.  I am not an expert on floating point values or database precision but I have seen this before in reports.  The solution is to round the value in the formula before comparing it to zero. In this case we rounded the value to two decimals like this:

if Round ({field}, 2) = 0 then ....

That made the formula behave as expected.  The odd part is that I have seen the same problem with two other customers in the past week. It could be just a coincidence, but I figured I would mention this and see if this is happening to more people.


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