Wednesday, 3 April 2019

At Home with Phil Baty

Chair Number 4
(Photo by Ryan Riggins on Unsplash)
Early evening in the Baty household. Phil is busy rooting through the kitchen cupboards. Mrs Baty comes in. 

Mrs Baty: Phil, what are you doing? And why are all these tins of soup all over the floor?
Phil: I'm ranking.
Mrs Baty: I beg your pardon?
Phil: I'm ranking. With an R. It was complete chaos in the soup cupboard. I couldn't tell which was the most popular soup flavour. I've done a serious, robust qualitative study of all respondents (n=1), and I'm delighted to announce the winner of the inaugural Times Higher Soup Rankings. Cream of Tomato is at number 1 with 100% of the allocated soup points.
Mrs Baty: Darling...
Phil: Wait. I haven't finished. I've not even begun on the Times Higher 'New' Soup Rankings (under five days old).
Mrs Baty: Phil, I think this is getting a little out of hand...
Phil: Nonsense! Life is better when you rank. I've been going through the house and it's frankly shocking how many things haven't been ranked. I've ranked all the books in terms of popularity amongst their readership (n=1), all the chairs in terms of comfort, all the pets in terms of strokeability, and all the children in terms of size,
Mrs Baty: Phil, could you sit down a moment?

Phil takes Chair Number 4 (on the comfort index). 

Phil: Yes?
Mrs Baty: Now I know how much you love ranking, and no one loves a good rank as much as me. But don't you think this is a little...much?
Phil: How are you quantifying 'much'?
Mrs Baty: By a qualitative measure of insanity, following an exhaustive survey of those in the house (n=1, excluding size-ranked children).
Phil: Nonsense! How are we to understand the world without rankings? How will we know what to think? I'm running out of things to rank in universities. I've done young universities, world universities, world universities by reputation, universities of the emerging economies, universities of Latin America, universities of Asia-Pacific, universities of Japan, universities of Europe (Teaching), education colleges, and Impact. Darling, I've nothing left universities-wise. Soup is the next big thing. But don't tell anyone about the Cream of Tomato triumph. I want that to be the big reveal at the gala dinner.
Mrs Baty: Gala dinner?
Phil: Yes, darling. Tomorrow night. Have you not received your invitation yet? Perhaps you've not paid your attendance fee. It was a snip at £1,000 per place. The graded children and strokeable pets don't seem to have replied yet either. But don't worry: I've invited various VCs along. The dining room should be full. 
Mrs Baty: I really think you need to...
Phil: Rank the pasta? Don't worry, darling: I'm on to it. We could double the size of the survey if we both respond to the questionnaire. It will be n=2, a brave new world in robust ranking. [holds up two packets of pasta] So darling, on a scale of 1 (not very good) to 5 (outstanding), how do you rank penne against rigatone?
Mrs Baty: I'm not doing this, Phil. I'm off to stroke Cat Number 2.
Phil: But darling we haven't finished! Don't you want to find out where papardelle finishes?

Dog Number 1 pads by nervously, and Phil is left alone. 

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