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!

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!

Three Things I Saw Today

While out today I saw this truck…


People parking near him were out of luck
When you park that poorly, I guess I can see
Why you overcompensate so thorough-a-ly

After that I saw this cart


Placed perfect like a work of art
I suspect it was left by a person in need
Whose tendencies ran a bit OCD

Finally I saw this bag

To hold things securely, read the tag
I don’t want to disparage the praises it sings
But wouldn’t a thief just steal all the things?

Not Cruel, Freeing

A friend of mine joined the choir at her church awhile back. After a few months of stressing out over making sure she was always on time for each practice and recital, one of her fellow singers made an off-hand comment saying “We made due without you, we’ll be OK if you’re not here.

At first glance this seems a bit cruel. Our minds race through the iterations of the saying until we distill the message out: We don’t need you. We’re OK without you. You could fall off a cliff and we would just go on. Pretty mean. However once you realize what this statement actually brings with it, logically, you find it immensely freeing. Continue reading “Not Cruel, Freeing”

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!


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”

Why St. Jerome?

Friends who connect with me via Skype have noticed that my profile picture there (and in some other places) is St. Jerome (Specifically St. Jerome by El Greco). I figured I’d write this up to clarify why Jerome gets special treatment when A) I’m not named Jerome and B) I’m not a saint.

St. Jerome by El Greco
St. Jerome By El Greco (From the Frick Collection)

First of all, who was St. Jerome? Well, he was an early christian from the region of Stridon, which today would be somewhere in Croatia or Slovenia. He’s a doctor of the church, and known mainly for two things:

  1. His translation of the Bible from Greek and Aramaic to Latin.
  2. A story involving him removing a thorn from a lion’s paw, which if true, is probably just as awesome an accomplishment as translating the Bible.

Because of this, you often see Jerome in one of three types of poses in historical art. The first, on the left by El Greco, is your standard artistic profile shot (Because you know Jerome would rock Facebook if he’d had the chance). He’s got a book, associating him with #1 above. A second depiction is of him with the lion from #2.

Jerome in his study, chilling with a murderous beast
Jerome in his study, chilling with a murderous beast


But while both depictions are pretty sweet, in my opinion the best is the third depiction of Jerome translating the Bible, usually doing a “facepalm” move so popular by the meme of the same name these days. Translating the Bible must have been long and annoying work, and rightfully so Jerome isn’t always looking too chipper and happy. I suppose that Mr. Lion might be around just out of frame might also make him a bit tired – can you imagine having to take care of a lion? And you thought housecats could be needy.

I’ve taken a quick swing through Google Image Search and found a few great Jerome Facepalms for your enjoyment, at the bottom of this post. However if you’ve stuck with me so far, you’re probably saying “OK, so why is he your Skype avatar?”. Well, for two reasons. First, his beard is great (the El Greco version is my favorite because his rectangular face sorta sports the beard as an extension, not merely as facial hair). And second, I really feel like the photos below, at times, and so I empathize a bit with Lion-loving Jerome. So next time you want a facepalm image, don’t reach for Picard, reach for Jerome!

Jerome by Domenico Ghirlandaio
Jerome by Domenico Ghirlandaio
Jerome by Albrecht Durer
Jerome by Albrecht Durer
St. Jerome Icon
St. Jerome Icon
St. Jerome by Eric Armusik
St. Jerome by Eric Armusik
St. Jerome & The Angel by Simon Vouet
St. Jerome & The Angel by Simon Vouet

P.S. I particularly like the last one since Jerome looks like he’s really pouring his story out to the angel. “And then I told the lion he could go. And he didn’t! Do you have any idea how much kitty litter I’m going through?!?”

How do you blog from a tablet?

I type really fast. It’s so fast that it’s always been my blog entry method of choice. However since I spend more and more time on a tablet these days, I thought it might be nicer if I could write blog posts from my tablet of choice.

See that last paragraph? I dictated it. Then I corrected it. Then I started tapping out this paragraph and stopped to re-read, re-word, and correct the first paragraph again. For someone with a solid 95 wpm, dictation isn’t the most satisfying way to work.

Tapping out via an on-screen keyboard isn’t much better. My thoughts take forever to get on the screen, and while I have read that sometimes it is better to slow yourself down on purpose, I don’t know if I buy it. When it takes time to write, as it does with this post, my mind wanders. It hears my wife putting Pepsi in the fridge and mentally thanks her (something I should probably do verbally more often.) It thinks about lunch tomorrow and debates floating the concept of a pizza buffet lunch past said awesome wife (something no one should do more often). It floats like a breeze and makes me wonder what it was I was doing in the first place, as I tap away at virtual keys.

Oh yea, I was writing about blogging. And was wondering aloud (or ‘aprint’ as it were) how one could blog on a tablet, with limited input speed. And I have no idea. I suppose I won’t be ditching a keyboard any time soon.

What Happens on The Internet Stays On The Internet

Earlier today I received the following email:

My name is XXXX.  There was an article you posted on your website.

Anyway, it is not very flattering.  I have been out of the job for a couple of years and have had job interviews, but when this article comes up, it is usually fatal to any job prospect.

If not too much trouble, could you please remove the article.  You don’t have to do it, and i understand if you don’t,  but it would help me and my family so much if you could.

Several years ago I used to post “Stupid People Alerts”, links to news articles that were examples of people acting in less-than-responsible less-than-intelligent ways. Apparently one of those articles has followed someone around, bombing their job prospects. I decided that after so many years I was fine removing the article, but as he points out, I didn’t have to (And there are still copies of the original article that I posted to out there, so his work is not done). I wish him the best of luck in finding a job, as soon as Google takes my articles out of its cache!