The New Logo

You may not have noticed, but the University of Alberta has quietly changed its logo. The changes in the "shield" and "wordmark" are subtle, but they're there: compare the new one (top image) to the old one (bottom Linkimage). Without any fanfare, the new logo appeared on the UofA home page on March 7, 2011 (heh, they even remembered to change the l'il favicon, too). This change came after a staggering 100,000 people (me included) participated in research to evaluate the new visual identity.

It's odd that there was no big press conference about this. I don't think it's because they're not proud of the new art scheme, but rather because they don't want to draw attention to the old one. I mean, lookit it! It's got Times Roman font--yuk! That's almost as ubiquitous as Helvetica. Times Roman is so, you know, authoritative (maybe even authoritarian). And you don't want a university looking too, like, authoritative or whatever.

So, why the change? Rumour is that some people thought the old logo was too stodgy for university-choosing kids coming to the UofA homepage; it should be updated to be more distinctive on the web. But hold on, who starts by going to homepages anymore? And what about all the existing (old-logo) letterhead? (We're assured that it won't be thrown out, but used up and then replaced with the new design.) OK, but there are also a lot of electronic documents that will have to be updated.

I'm not opposed to change, as long as there's a good reason for it. But I didn't see a pressing need for change here. On the one hand, the logo (which has been around for ages--anyone know how long?) is being changed (sorry, "refreshed"). On the other hand, administration is going back to 1908 and promoting Henry Marshall Tory's assertion that, for the University of Alberta, "The uplifting of the whole people shall be its final goal."

I thought we were in the middle of a budget crisis. Why go to all this trouble and expense? This doesn't look like belt-tightening, it looks like a way to spend a bunch of extra dollars. Will this attract significant numbers of new students, who otherwise would have presumably gone to Waterloo because of its spiffy new logo?

What do you think? Is the new logo sufficiently kewl? Is it not kewl (or different) enough? Did you even notice?

Why aren't you studying?

The Gmail (update)

I’ve been having a problem using the Mozilla Thunderbird (“Tb”) email client to access Gmail via IMAP. I don’t want to delete a message and sent it to [Gmail]\Trash, because any message in there will be deleted after 30 days. Instead, I want to archive deleted messages in another folder, [Imap]\WebTrash but this hasn’t been working. I can set Tb to do this correctly, but after a restart, deleted messages will end up in [Gmail]\Trash. Grr! Turns out this is because Tb has a bug.

Tb bug 533140: “Cannot specify custom trash folder using Gmail IMAP ([Gmail]/Trash is always used regardless of trash folder selection at Server Settings, because Tb currently ignores trash folder selection if Gmail IMAP in order to avoid unwanted problems)” since 2009-12-05.

Here’s a solution from Gmail engineer RyanTaylor:

The first step is to create your own Trash folder:
1, In your Thunderbird, create a new folder under your GMail account for your own Trash, let's call it "MyTrash" for now.
2, Go to your account settings (Right click on the account / Settings...) and then select Server Settings.
3, Set the "When I delete a message", "Move it to this folder:" and select your MyTrash folder.
4, Click OK.

Then make sure that you unsubscribe the GMail Trash folder:
1, Go to your subscription settings (Right click on the account / Subscribe...)
2, Find the Trash folder under [GMail], select it and click on "unsubscribe".
3, Click OK.

At the last step, you need to restart Thunderbird. When the trash icon is appearing in your newly created label, then it should to be working.
It works for me now, yay! (AICT sent me the fix, but HT to Dr Connie Varnhagen for finding it first and telling me about it!)

Finally, here’s one more resource from the MozillaZine Knowledge Base on “Using Gmail with Thunderbird and Mozilla Suite (Troubleshooting and Gmail Quirks)”. That's right: "Gmail Quirks"!

Why aren’t you studying?

The Guest Lecture

I gave a guest lecture on Wednesday. This is not something I do very often--because no one asks me, that's why. It's a strange feeling, stepping into "someone else's" class, taking over like you own the joint. There's a whole class of students who are used to a certain way of doing things, then suddenly there's some new person who does things all differently. Like using PowerPoint, or something else very strange. And maybe those students are taking that class because they certainly don't want to take my class. (Potential nightmare: walking into the classroom and everyone groans and says, "not that guy".)

This time, I filled in as a favour to Dr Elena Nicoladis. She had a graduate student's candidacy exam to attend, so she couldn't make it to her PSYCO 323: Perceptual and Cognitive Development class. (That's a pretty good reason for missing a class. Not like my reasons: because I gotta go pick up my laundry, or because my fish has the hiccups.) So she asked me, and I couldn't say no. See, she's currently the Department of Psychology's Associate Chair (Undergraduate Program), which makes her...well, kinda-sorta my boss. What, I'm gonna tell her, "Naw, why should I? Help you? What's in it for me? Forget it."? Because when it comes time to renew my contract, she might tell me, "Naw, why should I? Help you? What's in it for me? Forget it."

There's another reason why she asked me--besides the fact that I'm her minion--and that's because I once taught PSYCO 323. Well, twice, actually, way back in 1996 and 1997. OK, that's not exactly true either. I co-taught it twice, with Dr Katherine Robinson. (Co-teaching, that's another strange experience--sometimes one instructor shows up and teaches, and sometimes the other one shows up. It's like flipping a coin, but you never lose. Sorry, I had to say that. Kathy bought me a coffeemaker as a wedding present, so I wanted to say something nice about her!)

Digging up those old lectures was not easy. They were 14 years and many word processors ago (my dearly beloved Ami Pro 3.0). Turns out, Ami doesn't like current versions of Windows, and Windows doesn't like Ami much either. I spent a lot of hours looking for filters that I could shove down Word's throat so it would be able to read my old files. After spending far too much time, I got it to work. A-ha! Now I didn't have to create any lectures from scratch. Except...those old lectures? Crud. Utter crud. Totally outdated. And boring. Rats!

After way too many hours of updating my knowledge of perceptual development, I finished my new lecture. Now it was slightly less cruddy, and no longer totally outdated. (Of course, this is sort of a violation of my self-imposed moratorium on creating new lecture material this year, but it's technically for someone else's class. I love finding loopholes in my own rules.) I had to fill an 80-minute class, because I was told that my lecture was on the 10th of March. wasn't. At the last minute, Dr Nicoladis told me that the lecture was actually on Wednesday the 9th, which means a 50-minute class. But--but--but! That means I'd have to cut my lecture down by almost half! It's really hard to cut out material--almost as hard as creating it in the first place. So I took a hard look at my lecture. What to cut? Ironically, I cut out the only remaining bits from my original 14-year-old lectures. *sigh*

Why aren't you studying?

The Gmail

Because of my awesome specialness, I've been chosen to transition to Gmail. OK, maybe I was randomly selected, I dunno. Anyway, I had finished marking my pile of midterms and was waiting to swap with my TA, so I had a bit of time and decided to go ahead and activate my UofA Gmail.

I'm not new to Gmail; I've been using it since the summer of '04. Back then, Gmail was in beta, and you could only get an account with an invitation which was very highly prized by Googlers. (Yup, I'm bragging: "I've been on Gmail since you were in elementary school, la-la-la.")

I got my invitation by promising to send a postcard about Edmonton to whoever sent me an invite. I sent out two postcards; one person stiffed me, but the other sent me an invitation. And...big whoop. It's email. I've been doing email since, well...I sent my first email in 1989 ("since you were in diapers, la-la-la"). I'm not crazy about Gmail's odd way of labeling messages instead of physically putting them in different folders. The concept of archiving everything and actually deleting nothing was novel, and getting a whopping 1GB of storage free at that time put Hotmail and Yahoo! to shame. But then there's the fact that it's web-based, and I'm pretty fond of my desktop email client (I love me my Thunderbird--the software, not the wine) because of its customizability and extensions.

Anyway, here's how my transition went: hair-pullingly bad. You have to change your password, which is a nuisance--now I've got to update account info and passwords in all my password-management software, argh! Next, I (apparently) wasn't able to change or update my existing account in Thunderbird--I had to set up a new one. That's a hassle. What about all of the email messages in my old account? (Turns out, you can request that they transition all of that over to your new Gmail account, but it could take "days or weeks".)

So OK, I set up Thunderbird to use IMAP, tried logging on, and got an error message. WTF? Did I not enter my new password correctly? Did I not enter all the server settings right? Argh! Turns out, I had to go to a Google webpage and enter a CAPTCHA, I guess to prove my human-ness. That would have been good to know in advance, AICT. So it's working, but now I have to sync all of my computers with Gmail's IMAP servers to download and reindex 25,000+ messages. That takes a little while. Like, hours.

If you don't or can't use an standalone email client, you can use the Gmail web interface. It's no different than regular Gmail. It is a bit of a pain if you already have a Gmail account, because now you have to log out of one account if you want to log in to the other account. And don't forget to update the info in your password-management software, which tends not to understand what's going on if you have two logons to the same website, argh!

Finally, after you change over to Gmail, there's no going back. You won't be able to log in to the old UofA webmail--it will fail. Eventually, though, everyone will have to transition; it's just a matter of time.

Is this a fabulous new experience? No. I had my email setup just the way I liked it, and now I've got to chase down bugs and get used to Gmail's weird labeling-instead-of-filing process. But this process was about saving money in the first place. And now we also get cool Google Apps like Calendar, Docs, and more. I've been using all those already ("since before you hit puberty, la-la-la"), but now everyone else gets to as well. Maybe we'll all be more productive. FYI, "Google ate my term paper" is not an acceptable excuse.

Why aren't you studying?

The Awards: 4 (part 2)

So many good comments, I had to split them into two posts. Last time, I covered my perception class. This time, let's hear from students in my 100-level course.

(Warning: As always, remember that snarkiness and sarcasm filters are now OFF.)

Intro psych:

"created a sort of a sexist environment that made a lot of people in class think it was ok to say things that were even more inappropriate. For example, _such_ gendered language e.g., always 'Mom, Dad, husband, wife instead of spouse, parent', encouraging ppl to shout out stereotypes like 'Women are always pmsing, crying, talking, getting what they want.' Saying that the fluffy light Psychology magazine was aimed at Women & that he would never read it."
(I'll go one better. How about I just say "persyn"? Sure, it'll lead to confusion, but it's better than me talking about my wife all the time. And I will ensure that everyone in class submits their responses in writing for my approval before they are allowed to speak in class. Oh, and Psychology Today is closer to Modern Bride than Car & Driver. I know, I measured it on the rack. But I still do actually read Psychology Today.)

"...made me not pay attention in class, he is not good with keeping my attention. I resorted to doing crossword puzzles and checking twitter."
(I'm so proud! The Behaviourist Approach crossword is a good place to start. Mind Hacks has a great list of psychology and neuroscience on Twitter. Glad I could stimulate your desire to learn more about psychology, using new media!)

"We always had interesting and interactive things to do in the classes. It was really helpful and made the classes enjoyable to attend."
(And if you get bored, you could always check Twitter.)

"I feel as though it would be very difficult to pass this course without reading the text"
(Your feelings serve you well, Padawan. Plus, I kept saying how the majority of the exam questions come from the textbook. But a Jedi has no use for such things.)

"I refuse, on principle, to read the entire textbook to do well in this class."
(What a coincidence: I refuse, on principle, to give a good mark to anyone who doesn't read the entire textbook in this class.)

"I didn't like the fact that every chapter was assigned for reading instead of assigning pages, which would have been more helpful."
(That's not helpful. I'm going to assign individual words. Now that's helpful.)

"Only include questions from notes because not everyone can afford to purchase textbook."
(Then why assign a textbook? I'm not going to teach a class that doesn't have any form of required reading. Hey, I know! To save you money, I could have put a copy of the textbook on reserve for you.)

"Also, the textbook that was on reserve in Cam library was very useful. I would have failed the course without it. It also helps students who are more 'economically conscious'"
(Oh right. I did put the textbook on reserve for you. Too bad I'm not currently allowed to do that. Don't be mad at me--it's not my fault. Direct your concerns to UofA administration. Thanks.)

"Don't make the infolit assignments due on a Friday or Saturday."
(You can do the assignments on a Thursday. Or Wednesday. Did you know that? You don't have to do them on the exact day that they are due.)

"The tutorial was out of date for Assign #3 and VERY difficult to follow. The instructor should have notified students that the tutorial did not match teh new library database & given written updated instructions."
(Unfortunately, I can't access the infolit assignments. I have nothing to do with them; I am required by the Department of Psychology to have them in my intro psych course. But good thing you waited until the end of term evaluations to bring this up, though. That way, there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.)

"Lecture moves way too fast for those of us who don't want to print off an entire novel of fill-in-the-blanks and are instead taking notes manually."
(So for the three of you, I should slow way down so you can copy the notes? OK, but only as long as it doesn't bother the other 261 students in the class. I don't want them tuning out and checking Twitter.)

"I would describe this course as a mile wide and an inch deep."
(That's a 100-level course for ya. Well, that's a "survey course" for ya. I have added material that goes into greater depth, but then I can't cover everything in the textbook, too.)

"not a big fan of the textbook/lecture content differences"
(Not a big fan of the vague, unhelpful comments. Do you mean the textbook contradicted the lectures? Or the fact that I don't just read out of the textbook to you, and instead include topics that many think are interesting, like the psychology of happiness?)

"Have a clicker for miniature in class assignments, not graded, and inexpensive, used as a learning tool"
(... That's actual, serious, pedagogical advice for me. I will strongly consider that. Thank you.)

"Stop with the lame jokes. Not everyone is 4 years old."
(OK, I'll try to aim higher: 6-year-olds. I've got one I can practice on. Fart sounds are popular.)

Why aren't you studying?

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