Musing: What Digital Pictures Mean for Us Psychologically

A quick look at my Dropbox Camera Upload directory reveals that I take about 3-5 photos a day on average. They range from awesome to mundane, moments to remember, and moments that after a task is done, should be forgettable. But I save them all, because it’s too much work to weed through them and I don’t want to miss any golden ones. Tonight I wonder how this will change society psychologically over the next 30 years.

A Screenshot of my Camera Upload Directory
A Screenshot of my Camera Upload Directory

My parents have photo albums that have 10-20 photos per year in them. They are generally key moments, or at least moments when a camera with film in it was handy. There are no pictures of receipts, white boards, lunch, or random people seen in Walmart. But today we take all those types of photos, and more. And in 30 years, I might have around 1,400 photos per year = 42,000 photos that span a giant chunk of my life. What will this mean? Continue reading “Musing: What Digital Pictures Mean for Us Psychologically”

Minimalistic Culture

The last 10 years have seen minimalism as a movement take hold. Tips, tricks, and thoughts galore are online. One could say that the amount of how-to articles about minimalism is anything but.

KeySmart’s Post Size Makes Me Sad

Last summer I ordered Keysmart – both a regular size and an EXT size, with extension posts, so that I could try them with my keys. I built something similar, and was interested to see how a commercial product based on the same design would look.

And they look great. Unfortunately the size posts they use don’t work with most of my keys. Here are 4 keys off my ring, 3 of which have “too small” holes. In their defense, they did provide 2 SC1 blanks with larger holes, however my Schlage key isn’t a standard SC1, so unfortunately, no dice.

Keysmart Non-Working KeysThe thing I find kinda amazing is that they market this as something a janitor could use. Most commercial janitors probably have Sargent, Primus, or Best keys to carry (I don’t have any Best keys around right now, so I can’t test those – but I don’t think they were much larger than the Sargent).

I really hope they offer smaller posts that could be swapped in, otherwise I’m going to have to find some novelty use for two tools that could have been really useful in daily life!


Which is More Difficult? Being a Student or a Professor?

With the new semester starting, I’ve had a lot of interactions with students as of late. Some are returning familiar faces, others are new faces that (in some situations) are new to college completely. They’re all undergraduates, taking 5 or so classes at one time, and many are trying to earn the highest possible grades in those classes.

The voice of the people - left for me on my office door from two students in Learning & Memory
The voice of the people – left for me on my office door from two students in Learning & Memory

It’s interesting to me to think about the roles and responsibilities in academia. The semester sees me shuffling from class to class, preparing lectures and activities, and of course grading. I spend several hours a week cruising around classrooms, telling jokes that my students mercifully laugh at, and making observations about my field and the material I’m presenting. In some cases I need to keep the conversation going for 75 minutes, or at the least direct attention toward an activity or video if I decide to rest my voice. I then retreat to my office, where I answer emails, respond to texts, post more bad jokes online (that my friends mercifully “like”), and grade assignments and exams. I also take time to work on research, follow-up with students and colleagues, and attend meetings.

Students have a similar routine – they move about classes, copiously write what professors like me say, download notes, skim textbooks (or even “read textbooks deeply” on occasion), and juggle requirements along with a myriad of campus activities, jobs, families, and friends.

In my mind it is debatable who has the more difficult job. For example, most of my effort is front-loaded into the semester. I can begin preparing classes months in advance if I like, where my students need to react as material is thrown at them – taking exams when I dictate, covering material that they’ve only had (in the best case scenario) 8 weeks to learn. I’ve learned the same material for over 10 years – so it’s no wonder I consider the exam questions “no brainers” – they came from my brain!

And at least when I do have to learn new material, I can fit it into my head’s schemas of information better than what my student’s face – they’re learning 5 new courses of content each semester with little to no overlap. What I learn from 3 journal articles may very easily overlap central concepts. How much overlap is there between, say, psychology and chemistry? Maybe 5%.

So I try to stay away from the easy way out – I don’t let myself think I have it harder just because I had to do 99% of the talking during the semester, or because I had to grade 50 exams whereas my students only had to take 1. It might be a long trek for me, but the path seems to be rockier for them.

Then again I may be wrong… wouldn’t be the first time! What do you think – is it harder to be a professor or a student?

Being a Kid is the Hardest Job You Ever Had

My friend Christine posted this morning that it was her little girl, Michelle’s, first sleepover last night. Her daughter refers to her sleepover friend as a “friend” or “sister” and, as Christine points out “Occasionally as ‘brother’, but we’re working on pronouns”. A cute moment for sure, and it reminded me of something I bring up to people semi-regularly both in and out of the classroom: Being a kid is the hardest job you ever had, or will ever have. Here’s 6 reasons why.

By: fairuz othman

Continue reading “Being a Kid is the Hardest Job You Ever Had”

Key Bracelet

Last Christmas I made Paracord Bracelets for my friends, in my first and to date only attempt at any sort of jewelry making. I’ve worn mine ever since, pretty much daily. I’m a big believer in only wearing jewelry that means something to me, so with an absence of other bracelets, the paracord was the only accessory I would wear. Recently I’ve thought of branching out – for instance, I’ve got a student who makes paracord bracelets making me one of her signature pieces, and the other day I stumbled upon something in my closet that reminded me of times past – and gave me an idea for a new bracelet.

So back about 15 years ago, if you bought a computer case, you’d find something that today would baffle most: A tubular key lock on the front (And usually 2 keys that fit it). These key locks could be plugged into a special set of pins on the motherboard that, when the key was in the locked position, would lock out the keyboard. A cheap and effective way to disable a computer so that unauthorized individuals couldn’t access it (Have you tried to use a computer without a keyboard? Today you can sorta get away with it – in 1995 it was impossible!). I had a bunch of the keys for these locks, as did many of my friends, because they were mostly universal. Everyone carried one on their key ring in case they came upon a locked keyboard (Which could happen in computer labs – ask me about my 8th grade computer class final sometime for a story), and it was (at least to me) somewhat a badge of geekdom to have one.

The other day I found a few in my closet and thought “Gee, anyone who sees one of these will instantly recognize it… and anyone who doesn’t recognize it hasn’t been a geek too long!”. What better thing to make a geek bracelet out of?

A leather bracelet with a keyboard lock key.
A leather bracelet with a keyboard lock key.

Intriguing Spam

This speaks for itself – it’s one of the best form letter / Wikipedia consulted / broken English SPAM messages I’ve seen in awhile.

By: epSos .de

You know it’s legit because the dude’s name is in quotations. That’s so official I don’t even do it.

U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.
Date: 06/17/2013

Dear Sir,

My name is “Jacob Jack Lew”. I am the New Secretary of the Treasury under the U.S Department of the Treasury. The executive agency responsible for promoting economic prosperity and ensuring the financial security of the United States. I was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 27, 2013, to serve as the 76th Secretary of the Treasury. Prior to my appointment as the 76th Secretary of the Treasury, I have previously served as White House Chief of Staff.

However, the Good news here is that following the resolution of the meeting held with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United Nations, an agreement was reached that the sum of $500,000.00 USD must be paid out to you in the form of a compensation. This compensation funds according the World Bank Instruction will be paid to those that have been Scammed, such as beneficiaries Lottery winners/lotto, Contract/inheritance fund, Retired Civil Servants. Hence, by virtue of my position as the 76th Secretary of the Treasury, I have irrevocably instructed the Federal Reserve Board to approve your compensation fund release via issuance of a CERTIFIED CHECK drawn on the Federal Reserve bank, which is the authorized bank for your fund release.

Therefore, as a former White House Chief of Staff under the Obama Administration, I wish to state categorically that a CERTIFIED CHECK of $500,000.00 USD drawn on the Federal Reserve bank will be issued and sent to you via the US Postal Service at no cost to you. Every and all cost associated with the delivery of the CHECK has been pre-paid by the U.S Government. The only cost associated with your fund release is the cost of processing a “Fund Clearance Certificate”, which is estimated to the value of $150.00 USD. The “Fund Clearance Certificate” is required in accordance with the U.S Monetary Policy; and it is the ONLY expenses you will incur before the CHECK will be sent to your mailing address.

You can get more facts about the U.S. Department of the Treasury on this link

Yours truly,

Jacob Jack Lew
Secretary of the Treasury

Horrific Stats Homework

When I was an undergrad, due to an advising mistake, I took a harder stats class before taking the easier stats course (At UA the psych department offered stats, as did the statistics department – we had to take both Intro Stats and Psych Stats. I took Psych stats first). Because of this, by the time I got around to taking basic stats, I was pretty annoyed that I had to take material I already knew well. So I decided to have some fun with the class. I skipped class pretty often, and made up some truly horrific homework examples (as well as added a pretty good amount of snark to my homework). You know the type of problem you get to be creative with – they start “Give an example of a data set where one could calculate a Mean and Median”, invariably preceded by a bunch of benign examples having to do with the price of fruit, exam grades, etc…

My examples got bad enough that the graduate student teaching the course explicitly asked me to tone them down. What can I say – as a 19 year old, I could be pretty flippant, snarky, and other less-than-stellar adjectives. Today I probably wouldn’t have been as… detailed… in my examples.

Tonight, as I was thinking about our own undergrads at Centenary taking psych stats this summer, I dug up one of my old homework assignments, and found these choice quotes:

3.4 The Mean and the Median can only be calculated for quantitative measures (Because they relies on the values of its measures to have numerical significance).  The Mode can be Qualitative and quantitative.  For instance, if we asked bus drivers to run over little children, then rated the bus drivers on the job they did (I.e. how flat the corpse was, how loud the screams were, etc..) by grades (A,B,C,D,E) we would be using a qualitative scale. If 4 bus drivers got C’s, 1 A, and 1 E, our Mode would be C, our mode would be C.  On the surface, it appears that the median may be applied also, but this would require us to split C.  Since C wasn’t on a ratio scale (only an interval) it would be impossible.

Yea, I guess that was probably unnecessarily gory. At least I apologized with it right afterward:

(I apologize for the previous example, but as statistics is pretty dry stuff, I have to spice it up a bit)

I toned it down a little to just snark after that one.

b. Well Gee, the question asks if there are any outliers, and since it then says 2 sentences later “Which… changes by … when you DROP THE OUTLIER”.. I think (and this is just a hunch), they put an outlier in there….


(Sorry, more spice)




Yes, the outlier is probably 17,487.  I’ll drop that and get this for Median & Mean:

Toward the end of the homework assignment I apparently got tired of doing the same sorts of “plug and chug” problems over and over. So I wrote this.

3.24 (Ugh… not another one of these problems)… b. (See sarcastic remarks for previous problem) Yes, there is an outlier of 37,154.

There are more examples of punk homework examples as well, but you get the idea.

Now that I’m on the other side of the podium all the time (I was teaching part-time in 2002 at UA when I took this class), I look back on this and hope that it was received in the same way I would receive it (I’d be pretty amused).

However if it wasn’t, I’d like to apologize to the graduate student who was just trying to get her masters’ degree, and didn’t really deserve the school bus example!

(Funny story: This class was also one where the instructor decided to put stickers on the exams of students who got an A. Being that my last name starts with a W, the choice of stickers wasn’t as good when she got to my paper. One day, as she passed back exams, she got to mine, looked at it, looked at me and an expression of “Oh no, it’s that guy’s paper” came across her face. As she handed me the exam she said “I’m sorry, but I ran out of the good stickers and still wanted you to have one”. There sat a sticker reading “Good Try”, right above a score of 95 out of 100. Being snarky me, I just looked at her and said “That’s OK, I’ll try to get a 98 next time”. Oh to be 19 and a ***** again!)

(Nostalgic Addendum: The “good try” sticker on that paper was promptly peeled off and placed on the inside cover of my graphing calculator, where it is to this day in my desk drawer at Centenary!)

How Long Should a Fitbit One Sleep Wristband Last?

I’ve been a fan of the Fitbit since the first tracker was introduced two years ago. I upgraded to the Ultra when it came out, and upgraded to the One when it was released last year (My fat wrist means I probably won’t be going to the Flex anytime soon though!). Recently the sleep wristband that I’ve used every night since I got the One started to look a little shabby, and after multiple repairs, I finally just broke down and ordered a new one. This got me thinking: How long should a Fitbit One Sleep Wristband last?

Here’s the comparison between the original One Wristband, that I got around November 15, 2012, and the brand new one that I received today (Replacement cost: 9.99 + s/h):

Wristband after 200 days compared to new, with repairs noted.
Wristband after 200 days compared to new, with repairs noted.

As I noted in the picture, the original wristband started to show wear and tear at about day 120. About 20 days later the end was so frayed that the material wasn’t staying together, instead I could see all layers of the wristband. While this was cool, it wasn’t very easy to work with when putting the wristband on at night, so I asked Karey to sew it. When she did it became impossible to re-align the material perfectly, since the thin material needed to also accommodate thread, so the wrinkle in the lower part of the picture (on the back of the wristband) formed.

About day 175 a new fray became pretty serious on the other side, which Karey sewed again. Today on Day 200 I also noted that the opening where the Fitbit is placed has become warped and the edging is starting to unravel. Finally over time you’ll notice that the wristband stretches, which is not a bad thing (I have large wrists), but it does mean that the opening becomes less secure. I’ve had my Fitbit fall out in bed 3-4 times in the 200 days.

According to Fitbit, the wristband is made of neoprene, and beyond that there isn’t much in the way of a ‘lifespan’ mentioned on their website. This makes sense, since everything but the wristband is made of more durable materials. Obviously they anticipated that the wristband might get worn, and allowed for the purchase of just a wristband for a small fee. So the question becomes: How long should the wristband last given the price paid for the Fitbit One? Is 200 days acceptable before requiring another $13.90 (band + s/h) after the initial investment of $100? I’m personally on the fence. I understand products like this won’t last forever, but would have been pleasantly surprised if Fitbit offered a “trade-in” service, or cut the price of the wristband to $5 or so (I should note that in the past, with the Ultra, I’ve lost a wristband and Fitbit support replaced it for free – so this isn’t a knock on their customer care or support in anyway – they’ve been top notch in my (and others, that I’ve read) experience). As of now I’m of the non-surprised “that’s what I was expecting” sentiment. What I’m curious about, though, is if others find this acceptable?