Post to Google+, Automate Your Shared Items, And Other Super Syndication Techniques

Before Google+, all was grand in Jon’s world of Super Syndication (Much to Jason Dunn’s chagrin). I posted things straight to ping.fm, and it sent it everywhere I wanted. I hadn’t found a really good way to archive my ping.fm statuses, but did have a pretty awesome way to share posts from Google Reader simply by pressing the share button.

Then Google changed everything, and while I like Google+, it just didn’t fit. It lacked some basic things – no RSS feeds out, no automated posting interface, no email posting, and in no hurry to add any of these things. But It did have instant photo upload, a pretty nice client, and a few other niceties.

So I had a problem: I wanted to keep things nicely automated and easy to use, but needed some features. Principally I needed to be able to post to 1 service and have it go to all 3 big social networks (FB, Twitter, G+), I needed it to be platform independent (So no browser plug-ins), I hoped it could be easily automated, and I needed an easy way to share things out. Along the way I hoped to pick up an easy way to automate storing things I shared with others. I’ve now accomplished all of this, and will reveal the magic to you! Continue reading “Post to Google+, Automate Your Shared Items, And Other Super Syndication Techniques”

Give Yourself A Present: Less Commercial E-mail

So how do you give yourself this present of less e-mail? You Unsubscribe to legitimate commercial e-mail! And this is the best time of the year to do it. Why? Well because everyone you have any sort of relationship is trying to sell you something this time of year. So you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take the 2 seconds per e-mail item to open it, scroll to the bottom, and hit “unsubscribe” or “manage my e-mail preferences”.

Now I’m sure some people think “Yea… they’ll just send me more!”. While this was true of illegitimate SPAM e-mail in the past, legit companies (the ones who are likely to make it to your inbox) should honor an unsubscribe request. I’ve been designating 2-3 weeks a year “unsubscribe” weeks where each commercial e-mail I see that I’d rather not in the future gets the unsubscribe ax. Over the last year I’ve noticed a marked decrease in e-mail traffic. Most weekend days I get only 5 or so e-mails a day, all legitimate and all directed just at me. On Weekdays, I’ve seen commercial traffic decrease from 3-4 pieces a day down to perhaps 1.

So for the next week go through and unsubscribe (and report illegitimate SPAM as usual to your provider or filtering software). You’ll enjoy the lower inbox counts all year long!

Using Mail Merge With Custom FROM: Addresses in Word/Outlook 2007 or Word/Entourage 2008

The following was written for my lab group at work, however it strikes me as something everyone may benefit from. Mail Merge is an awesome tool, and this makes it much more useful when a group shares an incoming e-mail address that replies should be directed to (e.g., sales@ or info@ etc.. instead of the individual who sent the mail). I’ve had to sanitize some of the screenshots to remove private information, however it shouldn’t detract from the overall message!

You’ll need:

  • A copy of a mailing list, in either excel format or CSV.
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Outlook or Entourage
  • An SMTP username & Password to send out through SMTP Servers that require encryption.

First-Time Setup

You’ll do these steps once per computer you use this on. I’ve broken them down by Outlook 2007 or Entourage 2008, with screen shots. The basic process is…
Outlook 2007:

  1. In Outlook, click on “Tools” then “Account Settings”
  2. Click New to set up a new e-mail account
    Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%208_35_53%20AM
  3. Choose “Microsoft Exchange, POP3, IMAP, or HTTP”, and click “Next”
  4. Click “Manually configure server settings or additional server types”, and click “Next”
  5. Choose “Internet E-mail” and click “Next”
  6. Fill out the information in the box as is appropriate using your group e-mail and a valid username and password that can authenticate to the SMTP server. Then click “More Settings”Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%208_40_29%20AM
  7. After hitting “More Settings”, choose the “Outgoing Server” tab and configure as follows (Assuming you need SMTP Auth):Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%208_41_45%20AM
  8. Then click the “Advanced” tab and configure as follows if you need to specify SSL or TLS:Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%208_46_06%20AM
  9. Click “OK”, click “Next”, then click “Finish”. On the accounts box, select the new POP3 account you just created and click “Set as Default” so that the box looks like this:Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%208_43_02%20AM
  10. Hit “close”. You should now be set to use Mail Merge. Be sure to change your default back when done (See below for this step under “cleanup”)

Entourage 2008

  1. In Entourage, click on Tools, then Accounts.
  2. Click on New, then MailScreen%20shot%202009-10-26%20at%208
  3. Click on “Configure Account Manually”
  4. Choose “POP” then click “OK”
  5. Configure your account like the setup below, putting in your SMTP username and password:Screen%2520shot%25202009-10-26%2520at%25209_004
  6. Click on the button under SMTP Server that reads “Click here for advanced sending options”
  7. Configure as follows depending on your server, the following is for one that requires TLS encryption:Screen%2520shot%25202009-10-26%2520at%25208_002
  8. Click OK, and return to the Accounts window. Select your new account and choose “Make Default”. You’ll want to change this back later:Screen%2520shot%25202009-10-26%2520at%25208_003
  9. Close the Accounts window, you should now be ready to mail merge!

Running the Mail Merge (After Setup)

Word 2007/Outlook 2007

  1. Open Word, Choose “Mailings” tab from the Ribbon, and click “Start Mail Merge”, Then choose “Email Messages”Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_04_32%20AM
  2. Next choose “Select Recipients” and then “Use Existing List”. In the dialog that pops up, select the CSV file containing the mailing list:Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_05_12%20AMScreenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_06_40%20AM
  3. Clicking on “Edit Recipient List” should show you something like this:Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_07_41%20AM
  4. Click OK. Now you need to use “Match Fields” to make sure that title, firstname, lastname, and e-mail address are all matched up properly (The file in my example doesn’t have headings on the rows, so the first row values (my information) is what Word feels is the best identifier of each field):Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_09_54%20AMScreenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_09_31%20AM

    Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_09_43%20AM

  5. With everything all matched up, you can now type your letter including Merge fields as you’d like. Here’s my example:Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_12_51%20AM
  6. After you have everything written, click on “Preview Results” and you can see the “live version” that your readers will receive:Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_31_37%20AM
  7. Once you’re satisfied, hit “Finish and Merge”, then “Send e-mail messages”Screenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_32_18%20AM
  8. In the box that pops up, find the e-mail column in the the “to:” drop down. Enter a subject as well, and hit OKScreenshot%20-%2010_26_2009%20%209_33_17%20AM
  9. Mail Merge will rev up and spit a bunch of files into your Outbox in Outlook, and these will eventually go out to the masses
  10. Cleanup: Remember to go to tools -> Account Settings and change the default back to your usual email account instead of the account you created in the “First Time Setup” above!!

Word 2008 / Entourage 2008

  1. Open Word 2008 and choose “Tools” then “Mail Merge Manager”
  2. In the window that opens, choose “Form Letter” under “Select Document Type”, then under “Select Recipient List” choose “Open Data File”Screen%20shot%202009-10-26%20at%209
  3. Chose the CSV file that contains your mailing list.
  4. Drag and drop placeholders where you’d like them in your mailing. Here’s my example:Screen%2520shot%25202009-10-26%2520at%25209_005
  5. Under “Preview Results” click “View Merged Data” to see the resulting e-mailsScreen%2520shot%25202009-10-26%2520at%25209_003
  6. Click “Generate e-mail messages” on the “Compete Merge” tab. NOTE: If Entourage is not your default mail client, this button will be grayed out. To make Entourage your default mail client, go into Entourage preferences and click the button that says “Make Entourage my default mail client”.Screen%2520shot%25202009-10-26%2520at%25209_002
  7. Fill in the appropriate values in the Mail Recipient dialog, and click “Mail Merge to Outbox”:Screen%2520shot%25202009-10-26%2520at%252010_002
  8. Because the world is a scary place, Entourage pops up a warning message like this below. Go ahead and let it send your mail since you know what script sent it!Screen%20shot%202009-10-26%20at%2010
  9. Cleanup: After the mail merge is done, you’ll want to go to Tools -> Accounts and set your e-mail default back to your original account so that you send as yourself and not as the group e-mail address you used for mail merge.

So there you have it, mail merge to any particular list you have, with a custom FROM header.

LocateMe Locates Us a Contest!

http://www.appliedpda.com/

“Easily share your coordinates with others through Email or SMS. Simply select a recipient then press the ‘Send’ button. It is that quick! No extra typing required. The messages are automatically constructed for you by LocateMe.”

LocateMe provides a novel way to let others know what’s going on when you’re running late, or simply want them to be able to find you. I can see myself wanting this for those moments I know I’m going to be a bit late and want others to know where I am so they can estimate when I’ll be there. And for those of us who are late and lucky, Applied PDA Software has offered to give away 5 copies of LocateMe to lucky Thoughts readers. All you need to do is tell us what you would use LocateMe for. When the contest closes, the publisher will pick their top answers and we’ll announce the winners! You have until 12 Noon MST on 1/29/2009 to enter in your answer. Good Luck Everyone!

Read More at Original Site
Continue reading “LocateMe Locates Us a Contest!”

Happy SysAdmin Day Everyone

Today is the last Friday in July, which means it’s SysAdmin day. The 9th annual SysAdmin day to be specific. Check out http://www.sysadminday.com/ for more information. The blurb on their frontpage pretty much says it all. Here it is, edited for length:
“A sysadmin unpacked the server for this website from its box, installed an operating system, patched it for security, made sure the power and air conditioning was working in the server room, monitored it for stability, set up the software, and kept backups in case anything went wrong. All to serve this webpage. A sysadmin installed the routers, laid the cables, configured the networks, set up the firewalls, and watched and guided the traffic for each hop of the network that runs over copper, fiber optic glass, and even the air itself to bring the Internet to your computer. All to make sure the webpage found its way from the server to your computer. When the email server goes down at 2 AM on a Sunday, your sysadmin is paged, wakes up, and goes to work.
A sysadmin is a professional, who plans, worries, hacks, fixes, pushes, advocates, protects and creates good computer
networks, to get you your data, to help you do work — to bring the potential of computing ever closer to reality. So if you can read this, thank your sysadmin — and know he or she is only one of dozens or possibly hundreds whose work brings you the email from your aunt on the West Coast, the instant message from your son at college, the free phone call from the friend in Australia, and this webpage. Friday, July 25th, 2008, is the 9th annual System Administrator Appreciation Day. On this special international day, give your System Administrator something that shows that you truly appreciate their hard work and dedication. Let’s face it, System Administrators get no respect 364 days a year. This is the day that all fellow System Administrators across the globe, will be showered with expensive sports cars and large piles of cash in appreciation of their diligent work. But seriously, we are asking for a nice token gift and some public acknowledgement. It’s the least you could do. ”
That being said, anyone want to know every SysAdmin’s favorite sight? The following, kudos if you know what generated it:
image001.jpg

Device Change!

OK, I do this often enough that I figured I’d start blogging about it more so I can see just HOW often I do it, and my reasoning.

Since I received it in early September (The 7th I believe), I’ve been using the awesome HTC TyTN II. Tonight I decided to put it to rest for a bit and switch to the T-Mobile Dash! The TyTN II therefore logs 42 days & 7 hours or so of work.

Why the switch, well for a few reasons

  • The TyTN II’s initial ROM is a bit buggy, and no patches have been released yet. Once one is released, the TyTN II will most likely come back out for a bit.
  • In my daily life, The Dash is actually a bit easier to carry (lighter) and use if I’m not doing anything too complex. I’m pretty sure before I head off to Long Beach next month for JDM that I’ll switch back to a touchscreen device!
  • I am a gadget Junkie and own several Windows Mobile devices for a reason – so I can switch!!! So switching doesn’t always need a big reason.

So Dashy gets back in business for at least a few weeks probably, or maybe a few months, or maybe a few days – who knows. It was a tough call between the Dash and the Treo 750v. Perhaps the Treo will get some love before the end of the year. Oh, and for sure the JasJAR will make an appearance when JDM rolls around for gaming on the plane and composing emails on the go.

Jesus Would Not Be Pleased

For the past few weeks, I’ve been receiving a few faxes here and there that are intended for a mortgage company. Best I can figure, someone gave out the wrong number or transposed something and boom – my fax line got put on a bunch of things it probably shouldn’t have. Today was the real kicker – a 36 page fax message! Thankfully the sender put their cell phone number and email on the top of their cover sheet (Most have been cover-sheet-less… ugh…), and I was able to call them and alert them that they sent me the wrong 36 page $101,000 loan application. I’m sure Jesus Martinez, the loan applicant whose social security number, address, and other vital information was accidentally faxed to me, will be happy to know that I’m not an identity thief.

For what it’s worth, when I called the person and told them, I said “You just faxed me a 36 page fax awhile ago by accident”. Their response? “Oh God…”

Getting Into A Psychology Graduate Program

I wrote the following How-To in order to help my fellow undergraduates understand the process of applying to Graduate School (specifically in psychology).  It’s good information to have, considering that a concise (under 40 pages) How-To doesn’t really exist (as far as I could find).  Hopefully this can help you or someone you know.  And if you don’t plan on going to graduate school, now you can know a bit more about the process.  For some detailed ranting of mine on it, you can read that entry in the “My Stories” section later in the book.

Getting into a graduate program in psychology is a time-intensive task.  Most of my friends were unaware of when they should be doing things, when to expect to hear from organizations, and when to begin to panic (err… I mean think seriously about working a bit faster on the application process).  Because of this, I’ve put together this section to allow you some piece of mind (or to prevent your mind from falling to pieces).

Your Last Summer as An Undergraduate

During your last summer as an undergraduate, you want to begin rolling around the idea of graduate school.  Sure, you just finished your junior year (or 4th year… or 5th year…) but you can’t begin to start thinking about graduate school early enough.  Here are some good time frames:
•    May: Take a look at your previous grades in psych courses and decide what you’ve done well in.  If you’re deciding on what area of psych you want to pursue graduate study in, this will help you narrow the field down to what you’re good in.
•    June: Start preparing for the dreaded GRE.  The GRE is, in my opinion, one long excruciating trick question.  A trick question that many graduate schools place HUGE amounts of emphasis on.  Buying books or taking a GRE prep class is a great idea.  Studying with friends (When done properly and without giggling over the word bacchanalia  can also be extremely helpful.
•    July: Plan on taking the GRE for the first time in late July or early August.  Visit www.gre.org or call 1-800-GRE-CALL (DO NOT CALL 1-800-CALL-GRE…).  You may schedule at any test center for pretty much any time of the day you’d like. I recommend calling at least 3 weeks in advance.  The cost for the General test is $130, and the subject test (which you’ll take later) is around $115.
•    August: Plan to fall flat for a week or so after you first take the GRE (If you’re one of the lucky ones who only take it once and gets a great score, congratulations!).  Then get back on your feet and schedule your second attempt for mid-September.  You want to be done with this GRE crap by September 30 at the latest.

Fall of your Senior Year

gradschoolarticle-1Fall of your senior year will be your busiest time as far as the application process goes.  It can be VERY intimidating and stressful.  Planning early is the KEY to success!
September: Finish up all the GRE junk this month and make sure you register early for the Psychology Subject test. If you would want to take GRE again, schedule it for Mid October or Mid November.  Remember – you’ll have a psych GRE to take as well, and you don’t want to neglect your classes this semester with GRE studying.  Some graduate programs do not require the subject test, but most do.  To be on the safe side, plan on taking in November, so that you’ll have your results by mid-December.  In September, you should be looking at schools and deciding which ones you want to apply to.  Most students apply to 6 – 10 schools.  I played it conservative and only applied to 5.  It kept me sweating throughout the spring as I only had 5 rolls of the roulette wheel of life!

Also, remember to be diligent about due dates for applications.  Most are Jan. 1, some are Dec 1 however!

October: Download or acquire all the admissions materials you’ll need for your schools.  I suggest getting a file folder for each school to keep everything organized.

o    Make a list of each school and what applications materials they want.

o    Prepare and distribute packets of materials to your recommendation letter writers.

o    Acquire envelopes / postage for your applications.
o    Tailor personal statements to the individual program.  DO NOT use a blanket personal statement.  Keeping the same statement and changing it is fine, just not sending the exact same thing.
o    Study for that Psychology GRE in November!

November: Take the Psych GRE and then take a sigh of relief.  If you needed to take the GRE another time, this is also the month to do it.  Then buckle down and study for your classes this fall semester (remember those?).  Finish the semester with a good set of grades and proceed to December.

December: Put your final touches on your applications and mail them out.  If you haven’t requested score reports from ETS (your GRE scores) then do that early in the month. Shoot to have everything out by Dec. 10 as most programs have a Jan. 1 deadline.

The spring of your Senior Year
gradschoolarticle-2Ah, the last semester of your undergraduate life (hopefully).  Here are some date ranges to look forward to:
•    Jan 20 – Feb 10: Most schools that like to get programs started early will be contacting you for interviews or (  ) sending out rejection letters
•    Feb 20: Later schools usually get in the game around now.
•    March: Look to hear from those early schools around mid-month.  It’s a funny thing.  For early February, you don’t want to hear anything because it’s mostly rejections as first-round elimination.  Then you want to hear things, and then as you approach the end of March, second-round elimination occurs and you again are reluctant to open your mailbox.
•    April 15: This seems to be a magic number for graduate programs.  This is usually the deadline that they’ll want a response back from you so they can offer to their second choice candidates.  This means they’ll have to get you some word by mid to late march.

May of your Senior Year
So you have your B.A. in hand and should know what your future holds.  Kick back and relax.  Throw a party for yourself.  If you didn’t get into graduate school this year, start planning again and know that with the practice you had last year, you’ll surly get in this time! (Still throw yourself a party)

The Inside Story: GRE
Don’t get me started on the GRE.  I hate it.  I loath it.  I find ABOMINATE it.  To put it succinctly… it’s annoying.

The GRE, or Graduate Record Exam, is administered through Prometric test centers around the country.  Developed and maintained by ETS (Educational Testing Service), it is supposed to be a good indicator of how a person will do in graduate study by measuring their verbal, analytic, and quantitative skills.  In my opinion, for what it’s worth, it doesn’t.

The Test
gradschoolarticle-3The GRE is made up of 3 parts: an analytic writing portion, a verbal portion, and a quantitative portion.  In practice, you’ll also find your test to have one additional section of verbal or quantitative.  This additional section is where ETS uses you as a guinea pig, testing out new questions and seeing how you do.  The kicker? You don’t usually know what section is the test section, and which are the real deals.  Some books teach you how to supposedly find the test section, but you don’t want to take a chance and blow it do you?  The first time I took the test, it didn’t tell me which section was the experimental test section, the second time it did.  What did I do the second time on the experimental section? Blew it off! Who wants to give ETS more of their time when there is a test score anxiously waiting to be seen?  Speaking of which…

Scoring
What’s a “good” score on the GRE?  This is probably the question that most eluded me when I was studying for it.  In this world, no one wants to commit to exact figures, but I’ll try to give you a good estimate.

Each portion of the test is rated on a scale of 200 – 900, just like the SAT, with the exception of the analytic writing.  Writing is scored in half-steps from 1 to 6 (i.e. 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6).

So what’s good? 550 is usually the agreed MINIMAL score on the verbal and quant.  You want scores above 600.  Schools take the best scores normally out of all the times you take the exam. So if you take it twice and score higher on verbal the second time but lower on quant, they’ll take your highest verbal and highest quant.

So Jon – what was your scores?  I will admit my scores for the sake of your continued knowledge.  The first time I took the GRE, I scored 550 on quant, 570 on verbal, and 4.5 on analytical writing.  The second time I took it, I scored 550 on verbal, 610 on quant, and 5.0 on analytical writing.  The latter scores just got me by, and I really should have taken it again.  Consider my last scores your bare minimum.

That being said, I have friends who scored lower and have been interviewed.  It all depends on the program you’re applying to and how much weight they put on the GRE.  There are graduate program directories out there (see your local book store) that give each program’s ranking of qualifications.  Ones that place GRE scores below letters of recommendation and GPA generally are more accepting of lower scores.

One caveat to bring to your attention: Schools know which other programs you’ve applied to by looking at where your GRE scores were sent to (They get this information when they get your scores).  If you are applying to different kinds of programs, especially ones at different ends of the spectrum in psych (i.e. experimental and clinical) they may have some questions to ask or be very critical of your application as they may view you as undecided.  I don’t know if requesting score reports individually for each school (instead of using the 4 blanks on the GRE score request form) would avoid this problem or not.

The Subject Test
The Psychology subject test is given in a paper and pencil format, not like the computer based general test.  While this may be easier on some, it means it’s only offered 3 – 4 times a year.  If you register too late, you don’t get a seat.  See my timeline for more advice on this.

The caveat on the subject test that they hesitate to tell you is how it’s scored.  It is still on the 200 – 900 score range, but skipped questions hurt you less than wrong questions.  Here is how they compute your score:

Number of Questions you got Right – ¼ of the questions you got wrong.  Notice that skipped questions don’t get in the raw score equation at all.  This means if you can’t eliminate any choices from the 5 given, skip it – it’s not worth the wrong question.  However, if you can eliminate 1 or more, try to get it right!  If you’re confused on this, ask the proctor to talk about it before she gives out the exam.

You can find more about the subject test at http://ftp.ets.org/pub/gre/Psychology.pdf

Letters of Recommendation
gradschoolarticle-4_183x240When I took Professional & Career Issues in Psychology, Dr. Subich mentioned that we’d be wise to get to know faculty because during the application process for grad school, we’d need three letter-writers to recommend us.  I was sure glad I heeded her advice in the next two years, forming friendships with a few professors that were more than happy to write me a letter.  If you haven’t done this, it’s not too late, but it certainly does help.

There are three basic steps to getting a professor to write you a letter of recommendation:

1.    Selection and Request
While it may be tempting to ask your boss or friendly co-worker to write you a letter, most programs want letters from people in the field, namely psychology professors or practicing psychologists.  Selecting good letter-writers is important.  You want to find people that know you well enough to write a well-informed and thoughtful letter.  A letter that states “Bob was a great student, always did well on tests, and didn’t smell bad” may be complimentary, but it doesn’t give the admissions committee much to go on.  Once you’ve found the three people you’d like to vouch for you, be tactful in how you approach.  Drop by their office or set up an appointment. Tell them that you really appreciate all they’ve done for you in the past, and that you’d be honored if they would write you a letter.  Most professors, assuming they feel they know you well enough, will oblige you.
2.    The Materials
The Most important step is the materials you need to get to your letter writers.  It is considered good form to get those materials to them by early October so they have ample time to write.  Here is what should be inside your packet of materials:

o   Envelopes, stamped and addressed, to each program you are applying to.
o    Any forms that schools may require are sent with letters of recommendation.  Each school usually has its own form, or doesn’t require one.  Unfortunately, there is no blanket form.
o    Your personal statement, to give your letter writers something to write about.  Of course our professors never forget who we are or all the deep dark secrets we’ve confided in them… they just need a bit of a reminder to jog their memory.
o    Your GPA and GRE scores (if available) are also of great help.  If you’re working on research, it’s not a bad idea to put your advisor’s name and email in the packet so each letter writer can contact them if they’d like.

3.    The Follow-up
Now most of my letter-writers are saintly people who took the time to put a lot of effort into their letters, I’m sure.  However, they are just people, and we’re on a deadline here!  Around early December, check in with your letter writers and mention to them that you’re sending in your application.  They’ll get the hint to make sure there’s has gotten in too.  Many professors get bogged down with letter requests near the end of the semester and rush through them.  Make sure they have already had time to work on yours well in advance.
{mospagebreak title=Your Personal Statement & The Importance of Research & Senior Honors Projects}
Many programs require the applicant to submit a personal statement of some sort.  This statement can be very important to the overall impression you send to schools.  Here are some general tips:
•    Tailor each personal statement to the individual institution you are applying to.  Trying to use a blanket statement can cause problems you’d never expect.

o    Example: When I applied to The University of Toledo, a behavioral sciences / cognitive program, my personal statement had 1 line in it that read:
“In addition to research in cognitive processing, I also have an interest in workplace productivity and organizational structures.”
This line proved to be problematic.  Preceding this line was a lot of Cognitive information ; however Toledo’s admissions committee called me to ask if I specifically had my heart set on I/O psych.  I assured them that I did not, however when later looking back on it, I’m really glad that I didn’t miss that call!  They may have just as easily assumed I was only interested in I/O and dropped me like a rock.

•    Be mindful of space limits each school imposes on the statements.  Some schools want 2 pages, some want a half a page.  Create one ‘base’ personal statement that you’ll customize and look for things you could cut out if you needed to save space.
•    Have your personal statement read over by a faculty member.  My faculty member was quite fond of using a red pen to bring to light any possible problem he saw.  This was a bit discouraging to see, but in the end, a great asset.  This further underscores the importance of making connections with faculty.
•    Read other’s personal statements to get ideas, search online for tips, and above all, present yourself professionally.  In many ways, this is where a perspective school will get their fuel for interview questions.

The Importance of Research & Senior Honors Projects

gradschoolarticle-5_320x240When I was accepted to UA as an undergraduate, I immediately applied to the honors program.  This program allowed me many benefits (priority registration, a faculty mentor) and required (comparatively) very little commitment from me to remain in it.  I needed to keep above a 3.4 GPA and take 3 colloquium classes over 4 years.  The big requirement was a senior honors project.  This project, while deceptively appearing to be just another requirement, has actually been one of the best experiences I’ve had at UA.  It’s also allowed me a great way to get my ‘foot in the door’ with graduate programs.

Throughout my undergrad years, I participated and assisted in research with graduate students.  This gave me some good real-world research experience; however it did not give me much to talk about during an interview for graduate school.  My senior honors project, however, did.  Because I had to research for the project, write proposals and collect data, I knew a lot about the subject of the project.  In every interview I was in, the question always came up: “So tell me about your research interests”.  There was no better way to show that I had actual research interests than to talk about my senior honors project.  My interviewers enjoyed hearing about it and asking questions.  For the programs I was applying to, this real-world research was a big key to getting in.
Appendix A
Jon Westfall’s Personal Statement

Personal Statement of Goals and Purpose

During an early week in September, I sat in a vacant classroom and waited for class to begin.  Because I’m chronically early, I was there about 30 minutes before class and was in search of something to pass the time.  On a desk next to mine, I saw a bulletin from the Continuing Education department, listing the current offering of classes.  As I browsed through the bulletin, I noticed the wide variety of computer classes.  Suddenly, I had an idea – it was bold, and a bit intimidating for an 18 year old, but it just might work.
In the previous summer, I had spent time fulfilling a personal goal.  Having completed high school, I set my mind to the goal of completing the requirements to become a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE).  After completing the seven computer-based tests that I needed, I achieved my goal just under 2 months after I started – a feat normally accomplished in 6 – 8 months.  Fresh from this accomplishment, I noticed quite a few computer courses in the bulletin that focused on the material I had just finished.  The university had been subcontracting the courses’ instruction out to a company, and I knew that if the program was offered in-house, it would provide a lower total cost of ownership.  With that in mind, I emailed the director of Continuing Education and pitched my idea to him: Let me bring the courses in house, as the instructor, and lower the total cost.  A month later, I found myself a part-time faculty member at The University of Akron, and at age 18, I was instructing people up to three times my own age – all because of a bold idea that most people would have thought ludicrous.
In many ways, the story above is an example of my life.  In the past 20 years, I have set many goals that others would have thought inaccessible for someone my age.  As I seek admission into graduate study in psychology, I am ready to pursue new goals.
Principally, my goal in graduate study is to further my knowledge and ability to contribute to the field of psychology, and ultimately the quality of life for all people.  I recognize I must do this by earning the respect of my peers by striving for excellence in my studies and research.  I am currently conducting University Honors Program thesis research on training content variability and the effectiveness of skill learning, a research interest that may well extend into my graduate school years and beyond.  This area is of interest to me because it is at the intersection of basic (i.e., the functional distinction between implicit and explicit learning/memory systems) and applied research (i.e., how to design training environments that best promote effective learning in the workplace). Because my interests include learning and memory, I hope to develop research that studies systems of memory and seeks out ways to increase memory accuracy and retrieval time.  In addition to research in cognitive processing, I also have an interest in workplace productivity and organizational structures. Because of research I am currently completing, on memory and content-variability, I hope to enter graduate study with some research interests established, and to pursue those interests in my years at the graduate level.
I believe that my work in graduate school will meet my goals, and I would be honored to have the chance to do so at your institution.
Appendix B: Graduate School Application Checklist

Instructions: For each school, fill out the following form.  Mark an X in the “Required” field if that program requires that item (i.e. not all programs require psych GRE scores, etc..).  Then fill in any details specific to that program.  The date that portion is due, and finally once you’ve sent it in, check the “completed” box.

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Using Mail Merge To Email Your Class or Group

I ran across this feature awhile back and didn’t really explore it until now. I’ve often wanted to send out a class-wide email, but was reluctant to type all the information in to mailing list and send out a mass email that exposed all my students email addresses to each other (I’m the kind of person who forgets about BCC sometimes, like most people may). This solution lets me send out emails to my entire class, with an individual email going to each student (That I can modify) and doesn’t share the email addresses with the entire group. It also doesn’t rely on a mailing list that is separate from my gradebook that I have to manually update every time a student changes email addresses. The same feature in Word can also be used for paper letters, envelopes, labels, etc… and not just for classes, but also for groups, family members, business contacts, or anyone you keep tabs on using a spreadsheet!

What you need

Here is what you need to perform the Mail Merge:

  1. Your class roster in MS Excel format. The roster should include first & last name, and email address.
  2. A copy of MS Word, MS Excel, and MS Outlook setup on your computer (You must be able to send email through Outlook for this to work right)

Instructions

(These screenshots were taken with Office 2003 – Office 2007 has the same procedure however minor changes are noted in italics)

  1. Open Word (The screen shots below are from MS Word 2003, if you have other versions this should still work, however the menus may look different, etc..)
  2. Click Tools, then Letters & Mailings, then Mail Merge (In 2007, click on the Mailings tab, then choose “Start Mail Merge” then “Email Message”)
    mailmerge1
  3. In the toolbar on the left, select the document type you are creating. Letters, e-mail messages, envelopes, labels, etc.. I chose “E-mail messages” and clicked “Next: Starting document” at the bottom
  4. You can use the current document as your guide, although I’ve selected to use a template that has fields already set up for me to type my message in, and it inserts each person’s name in the email, which is a nice touch.
    mailmerge2
  5. Hit Next: Select Recipients at the bottom left of the screen. In 2007, choose the “Select Recipients button on the Mailings Tab, selecting “Use existing List”
  6. Chose “Browse” and find your gradebook file
  7. When you hit Open, it will ask you what sheet your data is in. For most of us, this will be sheet 1.Hit OK
  8. You should get a screen like this which lets you select which students you want to send email to. This is useful if you only want to mail some students based on criteria (i.e. who is failing the class, etc..) (To get to this screen in 2007, click on the “Edit Recipient List” button)

    mailmerge3
  9. Check next to each student you want to send mail to and hit Ok.
  10. Click Next and write your letter or message.
  11. Click “Preview your letters” When you’re done and you should get an individual preview of each person’s letter. If you’re happy with the way things look, hit “Next: Complete the merge”. If you’ve done it right, you should have an option for “Electronic Mail” and clicking this will create new mail items in Outlook for each student, so in effect, you’re sending out a separate unique email to each student.

And that’s it, you’ve now emailed your class without exposing all of their emails, and since it’s coming from a spreadsheet, you can re-do it without much work at all. There should also be ways to include other fields (i.e. a grade on a assignment, etc..) through Mail Merge, although that’s a bit more advanced. Check the help files for your version of word – trust me, it’s all pretty easy once you get the hang of it! Play around with it and have fun!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

    Setting Up Brick Level Backup On Exchange 2007 With ExMerge

    Way back in January I attended Microsoft’s Exchange 2007 / Vista / Office 2007 launch event in Cleveland. I sat there with one of my fellow Bug Jr. Executives and marvelled at how PowerShell would change the way we managed our Exchange box. exmerge-splash-computerEagerly, I then Installed Exchange 2007 on our primary mail server back in May, and found out that PowerShell, despite it’s wonderful abilities, was a royal pain to work with for the un-initiated. Sure, I’d used command-line tools before (Heck, I run a linux box for fun, with just Webmin to help me manage it), but I was not ready for PowerShell’s glorious take-over of some very simple Exchange administration tasks!

    Continue reading “Setting Up Brick Level Backup On Exchange 2007 With ExMerge”