Monday, January 21, 2008

I Hate STATA and I Hate You Too

STATA is the worst program in the history of the world, and if I didn't need to know how to read/do statistics better, I'd want to drop the class. If I wasn't concurrently enrolled in an awesome Empirical Analysis of Gender Discrimination course, I would definitely drop it, except that I actually want to get an article out on sexual harassment by the summer, and I sort of argue for the use of empirical analysis of discrimination by courts and the EEOC.

Also, while the professors and the TA are awesome, I do not really understand the pedagogy of belaboring the basic DOS commands (granted, I suck at those, but dude, just give a handout) and rushing through, in the last half hour of class, the section on how to tell Stata to calculate the fraction of observations that are one standard deviation away from the mean for the two variables it took me three hours to figure out how to generate and code as dummy variables. I cannot, for the life of me, recall learning how to do this in class. Nor how to properly do a histogram and specify heights and widths and crap. I think I can calculate this stuff with a calculator and draw boxes on graph paper faster, but I have to send in log files. Which also took me a half hour to figure out how to do.

Thus, I do not get the point of making people muddle through basic DOS-like commands without instructive guides. Isn't the point to teach the statistics, not "learn how to be frustrated at a fucking irritating program"?! Tell people what stupid monkey commands to enter, but ask them to analyze the significance, which is the important part, right?

My personal affection and respect for the TA and the professors aside, it is stuff like this that makes me want to break shit. It makes me actually angry. It probably is more anger at myself and my inability to do stupid monkey tasks, but I'd be lying if I said a lot of this anger isn't outwardly directed at the world that makes STATA, genocide, and hunger possible. So yes, Mr. TA, I am mad at you too.

I am not computer-ignorant, and am generally a good end user. WTF, and why are STATA tutorials on the web so incomplete? I want something that starts with "double click on the icon, enter "cd" to change directory, and "do" to open a file, and ...". I'm going to borrow STATA from a friend, because the idea of paying for this crap makes me even more mad. I miss SPSS.

It took me about 4 hours to do three questions of a problem set, and I am stuck on question 4, the above-mentioned bolded one. The professor predicted that we would take 5-7 hours to finish this problem set. Actually once I figured out the DOS-like commands, the first questions were finished in 10 minutes. Again, the struggle is with the program, not the math. WTF, and in what universe is that the appropriate struggle to foist on young eager-for-empirics legal scholars? Why can't I find the answer in all of the STATA guides I am reading? Why is this problem set taught to frustrate rather than promote learning?!

Help me. Help me before I break stuff.