Tuesday, July 12, 2011

cat pictures (after a month together)

The two pictures below are from the first day we let her roam the house all day long. Rusty didn't exactly like that she was in his window...

So I opened a second window.

Below is favorite picture yet (I'm sad that I was only able to get it with my cell phone before Rusty sensed a camera and went elsewhere...):

Cleo and Rusty are doing really well together now. We were worried about Rusty (he was always growling and hissing at her at first), but he seems to be pretty much back to his old self. They play together and occasionally even sit together, though usually they are a few feet apart.

Monday, July 11, 2011

moan, statistics

I am awful at statistics. Specifically, statistics using a program called SPSS.

When I try to do them, I feel like I'm hitting a brick wall, over and over again. It frustrates me, sometimes to tears. I feel like I've accomplished nothing. I feel like whatever analyses I DO complete, I will simply have to redo because I surely did not do it right. (So, why do it at all?) I poke repeatedly through my stats books and SPSS guides, which somehow offer me nothing but more confusion. (I have taken 5 stats classes, guys. FIVE. Three of which focused on stats using SPSS. I got A's in all of them. And in my undergrad I was only 4 credits short of a math minor: it's not the numbers that scare me. So why can't I do this?!)

I get excited when I actually enter all the parameters correctly, but then I receive a chart I cannot ever seem to decipher. I remember learning p-values and chi-squares and confidence intervals but I have no idea how to place them meaningfully into a research paper. My silly over-thinking brain can weave a web in which any independent variable maybe possibly probably *could* be a dependent one. A factor? Well that could be a group if one thought about it *this* way. And how continuous *is* that continuous variable, REALLY?

I know how to ask a research question, but I cannot seem to translate that question into an answer I can find through data analysis. (I can't look at my question and say "oh, to find that, I need to run X, Y, and Z analysis, while checking for this and that type of correlation." I just have no clue.)

Then I bombard my advisor (who is great at stats and SPSS) with a pile of questions and he patiently (for probably the hundredth time) gives me answers and advice. I feverishly take notes, confidently leave the meeting, and the cycle starts over again. I can't understand my notes. I ram my head into the wall. Some result or error message or window is produced that he did not mention to me when we spoke. Or I don't know what to do next. I am again, frustrated to tears, and the only usable results I have are whatever ones he produced while giving me examples of how it works, during the meeting. And then I need another meeting, which makes me feel like a complete ass because I worry he'll think he wasted his time trying to teach me the first time. I'm like the Amazing Girl Who Cannot Learn (stats in SPSS, that is). But I'm not a bad listener. I so badly want to learn. I just can't get it to *click.*

Of course I am fully aware that most of my problem is likely intrinsic. That means it's an internal barrier--something I have no confidence in, and thus am probably setting myself up to fail. But oh, how I try to power through it.

There are--and have historically been--very very few situations in my life where a homework assignment could bring me to tears. Independent research involving SPSS and statistics can.

I'm worried that this will doom me to being the kind of researcher who only does 'soft' publication. Lit reviews, rehashing the work of others, lighthearted little articles for academically-oriented magazines. I feel like I'll never be able to do it without my advisor's constant [figurative of course] hand-holding, because I just don't understand.

The only thing saving me from believing that stuff in the last paragraph? Well, two things. One is my husband, who I know can do it (he just doesn't use SPSS, which I have to use for my dissertation). He can't help me with my dissertation stuff though. Well, he probably CAN (in fact, I'm sure he can), but I'm so frustrated already, I can't give him a break. I pretty much just bark at him every time he tries. He asks me some simple SPSS-related question, I can't answer it, and I'm so embarrassed at my silly stupidity towards it that I don't even want help. Homework help shouldn't make me irrationally yell at my spouse, so I would rather just leave him out of it! But in the future maybe he can run my stats for me. I think I'll just give him that job. He won't mind, right? ;-)

The other saving grace is that you can pay statisticians to run your numbers for you. It might be a cop-out, but it's something. Again though, not for my dissertation.

And I would really rather just get over this and learn how to confidently do it myself. (You can't prepare yourself to answer the questions others may have if you don't do your own work, after all.)

The number one reason I am so frustrated? It's ME that is holding me up. If I understood statistics--and if I could wrap my head around the SPSS stuff--I could have the analysis done. Just a few days. Or one long one. A few hours a day for a few weeks. Whatever. I could set my schedule, run some analysis, look at the results, use them to run more analysis, draw conclusions, and write it up. I hate being the one holding myself back. It sucks, majorly.