Monday, October 15, 2007

Monkeys and Super Computers

I thought I'd begun to get along with statistics. Things were going rosy. Two weeks ago, my statistical understanding took a nose-dive, and since then, I've come up with the perfect analogy to describe my statistical woes:

Let's say there a group of brilliant scientists who want to teach a monkey to use the NASA space station's super computer (and let's also say the monkey is potentially capable, completely ignoring all creation vs. evolution debates). So, the scientists put the monkey down in front of this super computer, and the monkey just stares at it. The scientists show the monkey how to run some programs and encourage the monkey to do the same. The monkey just sits there and picks lice off himself. They scientists are all like, "Hey, monkey, we know you can do this, just watch us and repeat what we do!" And the scientists keep showing the monkey crazy complicated NASA-like software.

In the meantime, one of the scientist's kid is sitting in the corner (because it is bring your kid to work day at NASA), and the kid is playing on a leapfrog-type-kids-computer toy. And the computer toy is making all sorts of cool noises, and it's colorful, and the monkey really wants to go play with the kid's computer. He tries to leave his seat, but the scientists are like, "No, monkey! Stay here, we know you can figure out our NASA super computer! In fact, even though you haven't done anything buy pick your own lice, we're going to make you take a midterm and you have to get a B or better or you flunk out of grad school! Besides, you don't want to learn how to use that silly toy, this computer is so much more powerful!"

Right, so, even though the monkey could probably learn the basic of using a computer from the scientist's kid's computer toy, the scientist are being stupid and making him sit in front of their NASA super computer and pick his own lice.

So, yes, I'm the monkey. Every week in class, I watch my prof run sophisticated statistical software and talk about how powerful it is. I drink my Starbucks pumpkin spice latte (come on, I don't have lice, you weirdos), and wish that I could go play with pretty picture statistical software with colorful graphs and point-and-click cross-tabulations and at least figure out the basics. But my prof says, "No, no, little grad student! You don't want to go play with kids' software! This software is so much more powerful! In fact, even though you've just been sitting here every week drinking your Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, I'm going to make you take a midterm, and you have to get a B or better or you flunk out of grad school!"

And so, I'm a monkey sitting in front of a powerful NASA computer when all I really want to do is go play on the fun computer toy. And the midterm's on Thursday.


  1. Hey, this guy is giving you real world education. That is how on the job training is only they don't watch you pick the lice, just say, "Here is the Nasa computer. (In the box so you have to set it up) We need a path to Venus with ETA by tomorrow, 8 am.

    I like my lice to be Dr. Pepper flavored. Can you find diet dp in that part of the country or would you have to import it?

  2. that doesn't sound very fun. I guess that's secretly why I'm avoiding the real world for as LOONG as possible.
    I haven't checked on the dp. I'll do some recon and report back.