Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I blame the metric system

As I may have mentioned previously, I share an office with seven other students. I shouldn't complain, because sharing an office implies that we have office space, which is not true for all PhD students in my school. Although many students in my department work from home, most of my work is done in the office, since the kids' daycare is just a couple of blocks away. All of my books, my notes, my articles, my old inspiring fortune cookie fortunes (cookie fortunes? just fortunes?) are in my office space. Working elsewhere is very difficult from a practical point of view.

While I do have an alarming number of officemates for a small space, they are all quite nice. They are also all international students. Most are Chinese, so our office is filled with conversation that is unintelligble to me. (As an aside, DT, who is American-born Chinese, says that Chinese is meant to be shouted across a restaurant. I now believe it is also meant to be shouted across grad student offices.) A typical eavesdropping endeavor for me produces gems such as: "(something something something) regression (something something) left-censoring (something something) bossy MDs don't know what a p-value is." (Not an exact quote.)

Besides being quite nice and quite loud, though, one of my officemates is also possessed of absolutely no body fat, and I have a hypothesis that this leads to temperature regulation issues. She won't say anything out loud about it, but whenever she's alone in the office, the thermostat magically goes up to 95 degrees. (I'm assuming that Farhenheit degrees are so unfamiliar that she just pushes the thermostat all the way and figures no matter how high it gets, it still won't meet whatever Celsius temperature she'd choose.)

We live in a very warm place, and still, the heater has been on in the office nearly all summer. Every morning when I come in, the office is 86 degrees, because the heater just can't get it any hotter than that. All of my other officemates are too nice to say anything or change the thermostat, although they look relieved and agree readily when I propose turning it down to an icy 80 degrees. I feel like the ugly American for not being able just to let her keep the office hot, since everyone else is dealing with it somehow, but I get so hot that I truly can't work. I have struggled to find a solution (turning the thermostat down a degree at a time to try to find a happy medium, subtly leaving a polar bear costume on her chair, stripping naked to work) but no dice.

Yesterday, I made a decision. I'm cutting and running. One of my friends just defended her dissertation, and I've requested a move to her office space. It's smaller, but with fewer people, and I'm hoping there's leftover good mojo since my friend was able to finish her degree while working there.

Most importantly, there's no thermostat.


bossymd said...

p-value: the probability that the difference observed between groups is due to chance alone (or alternately, that the observed sample came from the tested population given the assumption that the null hypothesis is true).

Celsius is of course way hotter than Farenheit. Swede vs. German? No contest. If the classmate is really going just by the numbers, it would be arctic, no?

DT said...

strip naked to work? don't do that to me, I'm trying to work.

Ruth said...

Hi, Bossymd! Wonder who you are?

You're pretty close on the p-value definition, close enough that I almost don't want to correct you... Oh, what the heck. To be rigorous, you should probably mention that it's the probability of seeing the observed data *or something more extreme* under the null. And I'm not sure what a "tested population" is...

I really hope you're who I think you are instead of some well-meaning stranger who I've just alienated. :)

bossymd said...

What if I'm some well-meaning friend who you've just alienated!

Perhaps I should have said testy population, instead, Jeesh.