## Monday, October 6, 2014

### I’m Not Hiram, But I'm Confused. Academic Charlotte Anne Needs Help Dealing with an Asshat.

I have a colleague, let’s call her Proffie PITA, PhD. She may have some bigger letters after her name than I do, but she is not bright. She has no academic rigor. She has no common sense.

Proffie PITA is teaching a class in Hamster Statistics (this is a class I have taught for, well, let’s call it a long ass time) and now it is her turn to learn the ropes. Today she asked me how one removes the numbers from the Y-axis for a graph (using our statistical analysis software). To which I asked why (the hell) would you want to do that? She said “The pictures of the graphs in the textbook don’t have any numbers on the Y-axis.” Yes, PITA, that is true, but those are figures to demonstrate generic graph shapes (you know, normal curve, skewed, bimodal). Real graphs need actual tea-partying numbers, otherwise they are meaningless. “But...” She says as SHE WALKS OVER TO MY DESK WITH THE BOOK OPEN (a book I have used for ten years) “...it shows here in the book...look.”

Yes, PITA, but tell me, sweetheart (and by sweetheart, I mean Asshat), if you need to make a graph where your X-value was, let’s say, 6 and your Y-value was, let’s say, 100. Where would you put to fucking dot on the fucking graph if you don’t have any NUMBERS on the Y-AXIS?????

Another question, sweet (I mean stupid) PITA, in the answer key for the homework questions where students have to make a fucking grap, are there numbers on the Y-axis? Those squiggly things next to the Y-axis sure look like numbers to me, but what the fuck do I know.

So here is my Hiram-esque confusion: How does someone get a PhD with so little understanding of a fundamental aspect of our field? How can someone live with so little common sense? And how on earth can we expect our snowflakes to ever get less flakey if some idiot tells them to leave the numbers off the graph???

1. That graph graphic is brilliant. I almost snorted apple juice out my nose.

1. Fucking Cal did it. I could have, but I'm on sabbatical, so I'm extra busy.

2. I also love the graphic!

2. I can answer the 1st question - I was shocked when I 1st learned that several of my colleagues have a "supervisory style" whereby their grad students didn't actually produce the various seminar or poster presentations of their research, nor write the vast majority of the content in the published scholarly articles arising from said research. "But why would you do this?" I asked. "Why not let them generate their own oral presentations?" Answer: "No way in hell I'm going to be embarrassed by my students' ineptitude in front of my colleagues. I do all the analysis and make all the graphs, and they'll say what I instruct them to say." "But, what about their articles?" I asked. Answer: "They don't know what the hell is going on. But they did all the grunt work to generate the data."
If, as is the style at our uni, most/all of a submitted PhD thesis is a series of already-published, in-press, or accepted journal articles, then, voila, you've got little basis to fail them (yes, they'll be abysmal at their defense, but they'll have this wonderful CV of published works to back them up as being "deserving" of a Pass), and said asshats are unleashed upon the world with a PhD in their possession.

1. That explains a lot. I never understood how people with PhDs somehow managed not to know the first thing about writing.

2. That's scary (and makes the not-so-benign neglect of my own supervisors look downright benign. My dissertation is pretty bad, but at least I wrote it.)

3. Do you think that's discipline specific? Since my discipline does papers, I'd never trust a student to write a paper for me. In grad school a professor stole one of MY papers, though, so there's always that happening.

3. I'm sitting here trying to remember which is the x axis and which is the y axis without looking it up (x is vertical, y is horizontal, I think?). In my defense, I'm an English Ph.D., with pretty much no statistical training (though I did graph stuff in math one upon a time, and learned some very basic stats to pass a "quantitative reasoning" test so I didn't have to take stats. I wish I'd taken stats instead; it would come in handy sometimes). Also, even I know (from hazy high school memories) that you need numbers on both axes (also, I can tell that the graphic -- which is, indeed, brilliant -- is meant to be funny).

I don't know what you do, except maybe hint that her questions are too complicated for you, and she should ask your chair.

1. I love the evil suggestion!

You can remember that the y axis is vertical because, unlike the letter x, y has a vertical descender.

2. Well, properly speaking, you should be using the terms abscissa and the ordinate. X and Y are just slang terms. Bugger me if I can remember which is which though.

3. I should have done that last year! The former chair also taught these research courses and she would have probably thrown a desk or something.

4. CC: as always, you are brilliant! I am going to send all such questions from flaky peers to my dean!

4. Best chart ever. And my experience with people like this is that they got someone to help them do their work all through life and are seeking that from you. Run away now.

5. And purely by coincidence, I came across this today:

http://xkcd.com/833/

Seems apropos, no?

1. Hahahahah. That's perfect!

2. perfect indeed!