Professors Take Note: VLC Is Back on iOS

Why should professors care that VLC is back? Because it’s awesome for playing back video files on an iOS device – making it invaluable if you teach by projecting your device using a cable or by AirPlay to an Apple TV or AirPlay server. The best part? Simply connect your device to your computer, go into iTunes and choose the device, and then navigate to VLC in the apps list. You can then add/remove video files directly, making it a breeze to load up several clips for one lecture, then remove them and load up several more for another lecture. I prefer this over the built-in tools (i.e. Videos, Music, Podcasts app) since I’ve found all of those to have sync issues at times. Plus it’s nice to isloate your teaching content from your personal content.

FiftyThree’s Pencil Stylus

Thinking of picking up one of these this weekend, to add to the stylus collection I have. It’s funny how pencil and paper work so well for what they do, we’re still trying to find a good replacement in the electronic age. It’s very surreal when you consider that we spend upwards of $500 to replicate an experience that costs about $0.50 to create on it’s own. Yet I do, and millions of others are as well. Paper may be versitile, but it is messy, unfriendly to trees, and easy to lose. However, we’ve yet to find something quite as easy as a good old pencil and piece of paper. Just last night I grabbed a scrap piece of paper to make a note rather than enter it into my phone. Then I went home… and entered it into my phone when I had more time!

8 Amazing Rules You Can Apply Now To Make Your Posts Blow Up on Social Media!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Thanks to the always enlightening Judie Stanford for posting this pic – I couldn’t resist making a post just to try out the headline formula.

Out of Their Element

It’s been cold the last few weeks in Mississippi, a contrast to the summer heat that seems more memorable and typical of not only the Delta, but the south in general. Southerners seem confused by cold – it’s not their native environment. The town seems to go into a low-energy hibernation when the temperature drops below 35. Oddly enough, 35 in Northern Ohio is considered uncharistically warm for January, thus skewing my perspective (although by no means am I happy with the cold weather!). So on a night after the first 50 degree day in a few weeks, and the ensuing activity it has brought, I bring you a poem. Stay warm!

Cold in air, slumbering restless south
Infused with confusion, the thaw brings certainty
Moving back into motion, the soul returns

A passing event, the air expected to chill once more
But for a few passing days, life returns to normal
Hoping for the permanence of spring

Never Been Said

I did a Google search today for the phrase “my relationship with my wife is the easiest thing in my life”, and this is what I got:


Google is a full text search engine, which means that, apparently, according to Google, no one has ever said that phrase before. In my experience, when you are with the right person, your relationship is not marred by regular conflict, and I’d choose spending time with my wife over dozens of mundane things because it’s easier (I.e. Spend time with her or solve a Sudoku puzzle: I like Sudoku, but I’m not in love with it.)

So I’m writing this post to rectify the situation. Yes Google, someone out there does say:

my relationship with my wife is the easiest thing in my life.

Academia Public Service Announcement (APSA): How Graduate Admissions Work!

As someone who knew nothing about college before stepping on a college campus, day 1, I sometimes find that things I take for granted now were completely unknown way back then. This mostly occurs when I see people on social media make comments that I shake my head at and say “Uh, that’s not how it works”. So I’ve decided to write up a few of these “Academia Public Service Announcements”. 

The first one, below, talks about how one gets into graduate school. I see a lot of comments to my seniors that go something like this:

“Oh, you met the requirements – you’ll be able to get into any program you want!”


“I’m glad you chose where you want to go, they’ll take you for sure”

Both of these statements slyly imply something that isn’t true: Graduate admission is NOT like applying to college. It’s way more traumatic ;)

Here’s what I mean: The typical undergraduate admission process goes like this:

  1. Student finds college he or she is interested in, and checks admission requirements.
  2. If student meets requirements, and school is not ultra-selective (and unless you’re in the Ivys, not many are), student applies. If school is ultra selective, student must decide if the admission liklihood is worth the application hassle!
  3. Student may have a few hoops to jump through, but in the end they are offered admission.

In this scenario, the school is admitting hundreds (or thousands) of students, and unless they’re very selective, they will take anyone who meets their requirements. Schools want to take as many as possible, that’s how they get tuition dollars!

Graduate admissions tends to run like this:

  1. Student finds program he or she is interested in. Programs exist within departments – the goal here is not to find a school you want, as much as the program you need to go into a career you want to enter. So don’t tell your friend or child “Why would you want to go THERE?!?” – they didn’t pick the school, they picked the program!
  2. Student does a lot of research on that program, reading all those web pages that most glance by (i.e. faculty profiles, degree requirements, etc…). Student hopefully identifies 1-2 faculty members in that program they would want to work with. 
  3. Student applies and must meet minimum qualifications for that college or university’s graduate admissions. Assuming that they meet those, the graduate admissions group forwards their application on to the program.

This is where people often get confused: They hear that their’s (or someone they know, a son’s, daughter’s, friend’s) application has been forwarded on and assume they have some small level of acceptance – but in graduate admissions, the graduate admission group has very little power over who gets in! They simply check qualifications, gather the paperwork together, and forward it on.

It’s all about the actual program’s graduate committee and faculty – if they think the student would be a good fit (Most important), and they’re taking graduate students (Some professors skip years taking new students), then they may offer an interview to the prospective student. Remember, each program is only going to take 5-10 students a year across all faculty members in it. Their goal is NOT to take as many students as possible – especially if they have funding available – most PhD programs do not want to take people they cannot fund (i.e. give a tuition waiver / award an assistantship to)

So in reality, meeting the minimum requirements only means that they could offer you admission. But to gain admission, you must…

  • Have a strong background in specifically the areas they’re interested in. A good major and overall GPA is nice, but if you did poorly in the specific class that aligns with the research you’d be doing, there is little chance you’ll get in.
  • Have good recommendations from faculty at your current school. Typically 3 letters of recommendation are required.
  • Have good interviewing skills so that when you talk with your prospective mentor (i.e. the man or woman who will control your life in graduate school) you sound somewhat eloquent and vaguely insightful (I phrase this as such because few undergrads are super-super strong – faculty look for the potential to be excellent, but understand you’re not excellent yet!)
  • Be willing to relocate to a school that you may never have heard of if they have a good program.
  • Be lucky: It comes down to a numbers game as well. I’ve seen excellent students turned away because the assistantship lines have been reduced and the faculty member can’t fund them, and thus doesn’t want to work with an unfunded student.

So next time a friend of yours tells you they’ve been looking at grad school, wish them good luck, but hold off on any congratulations until they tell you they’ve been offered admission!

Adonit Customer Service Rocks

Over a year ago I bought an Evernote Jot Script stylus by Adonit, and while it had excellent build quality, I could never quite get it to work right. I chalked it up to the fact that I must be holding it wrong or some other issue, and it slowly fell into disuse. Prompted by a friend I recently pulled it out and found evidence online that a very small number of users actually had the same problems that I did, and that there may have been a manufacturing defect in a small number of first-run units. I had pre-ordered my Jot Script the day it was announced, so I figured I’d look into it.

Long story short, after an email of troubleshooting and a video I made with my phone to show the problems I was having, Adonit’s customer service sent me a new stylus that works PERFECTLY AS ADVERTISED. I’m pretty psyched! Thanks Adonit for covering something even after the warranty period had technically expired. I’ll be a repeat buyer now for sure!

Researcher, Educator, Author, And More

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