Loepelmann's Law

It's one of those weeks. I've been clobbered by a nasty cold, my car had a near-death experience (good-bye old clutch, I'll miss you--good times!), and all this talk of budget cuts has me anxiously looking over my shoulder even though my current contract goes until 2013.


I talk about a number of scientific laws in my classes (oy, there are some crappy web pages out there that fail spectacularly at differentiating between a law and a theory--sorry, Wikipedia, no love for you this time). These include Weber's Law, Fechner's Law, and Stevens's Law. (Haven't gotten around to adding Fitts's Law but that's another show.) These ones stick out in my mind because they're so, well...memorable. That's because they've got the names of the people who discovered them in the name of the law itself.

It seems that people who discover new things get those things named after them. I call this "Loepelmann's Law."

Thank you and good night.

(BTW, if you want to have a mathematical theorem named after you--only £15--check out TheoryMine.)

Why aren't you studying?

The Lecture Notes

If you're not already aware (thanks for joining us), I do put my lecture notes online. (Yes, the ones with blanks in them. But this is not about that.) At the bottom of every webpage of lecture notes, there's a little blurb:

This document copyright © 1995-2012 Karsten A. Loepelmann. All rights reserved. Viewing this page is taken as acceptance of the copyright agreement.
Yup, that's right: my notes are copyright, and they are free--free as in free beer, not free as in free speech. I have control over the content, which, actually, is taken from sources that are themselves copyrighted (e.g., journal articles, books, magazine articles, and so on). I am allowed to do this under the provision of "fair dealing" in copyright law; because these resources are being used for educational purposes. But I don't want anyone to "steal" my lecture notes, which are the product of many, many hours of work.

I also don't want anyone to profit from my lecture notes. Every so often, someone gets the bright idea of opening a "notes exchange" or registry of some kind. It's been done on campus at least twice before. You give them the lecture notes you've taken in class, and they pay you. They make money by selling those lecture notes to other students. I don't want students in my class to have to pay to get my lecture notes, and I certainly don't want anyone to have old, outdated lecture notes from a previous term. Now, however, there are several notes-exchange websites on the Internet.

Unfortunately, last term some students uploaded my lecture notes to one of these notes-exchange websites and shared them with others in the class. This was a violation of the terms of service of the notes-exchange website, the terms of use for the online storage site used by the notes-exchange website, the Code of Student Behaviour, and a violation of the copyright of my lecture notes.


The students who did this, said that they did it to be helpful, assisting students who had posted messages on the course eClass message board asking for notes they missed. That is altruistic and commendable. Except for, you know, all of those violations. They could have just posted the fill-ins words on the message board itself, which would not violate anything. Heck, I'm completely OK with that.

If you miss class, you should try and get the notes from someone else in class. That way, you get not only the "fill-in" words you missed, but any annotations or side-notes that the other person has made (look for someone who scribbles coherent notes all over their printouts). For now, though, I've turned off the message boards on eClass/Moodle, sorry.

Why aren't you studying?

The Grad School

At this time of year, graduate school applications are on my mind, because I'm up to my ears writing letters of reference. Yikes, deadlines!

Students often ask me for inside advice on what graduate committees are looking for--how high their GPS needs to be, who to get letters of reference from, that kind of thing. My answer is: I don't know. I've never been on an admissions committee, and things are different (old man voice) from when I applied to grad school back in the day. Ahem.

So, I asked the Department of Psychology's Graduate Program Assistant, Anita Mueller, for some insight into the process--at least, in this department. Here's what she wrote me [I've added the information in brackets]:

It's not GPA alone that determines admissibility. It's true, we do look for the best and the brightest (the closer to a 4.0 the better) and those are the students who typically are offered recruitment scholarships. The minimum to be accepted into FGSR [Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research] is 3.0. In order to be eligible for recruitment scholarships, you need to have a GPA of greater than 3.7 in the last 2 years (~60 credits) of your undergraduate education. The other things we look at is your GRE [Graduate Records Exam], STATS courses and research experience. Research experience is included in our Honours program under [PSYCO] 498 Individual Study. If you are in the regular stream, you can also get research experience, and it would be listed under the PSYCO 496 individual research. You would however have to find your own supervisor to complete the PSYCO 496. Students who are in their final year of their Bachelor’s degree can apply for scholarships (NSERC [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada], etc). It looks good on the application of you are coming in with a scholarship.

The Graduate program is very competitive, last year we had 65 applications and admitted 8 students. This year, we have 72 applications and our admissions would be about the same percentage. We also look to ensure that there is a supervisor who is willing to supervise the student. There would have to be fit with supervisor/research and physical space available to accommodate new students. With all that being said, we encourage those students who want to continue into Grad School to get their applications in early as our deadline is January 15 for fall admission.

I hope that somewhat answers your question.

Anita Mueller
Graduate Program Assistant
Thanks, Anita, for that information. (Yes, I know that the application deadline has passed. You should be looking ahead to next year.) Here are some other things you should know. The Department of Psychology does not offer a graduate program in professional psychology. That is, you can't train to become a clinical or counseling psychologist. (At the UofA, the Department of Educational Psychology has a program in counseling psychology and school psychology, for example. But I've been told that it's now more competitive to get into professional psychology programs than it is to get into medical school. Eep! Psychiatry anyone?)

Why aren't you studying?

What I Did on my Winter Vacation (2011 edition)

I took my family to Hawaii. I know, right? It’s awesome. Palm trees, warm breezes, sunset dinners overlooking the ocean.

Our hotel, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, had a lot of family-friendly activities. Kids can help feed the koi fish, make leis, and ego to a free pineapple tasting. The chefs built an enormous German-themed gingerbread village, complete with two model trains. And there’s free outdoor music and hula dancing every night.

Shopping? We were right next to the International Marketplace, so: check. Took a trip to a “swap meet” (read: flea market) which has 700+ vendors located in the Aloha Stadium parking lot, check. Ala Moana shopping centre? Check. And yawn.

Trinkets and T-shirts are as exciting to me as an Internet outage. Me, I love just going to a grocery store to see what’s interesting. A huge pile of papayas! Key lime pie gum! Haupia yogurt! Macadamia nuts! And of course, that delicious Kona coffee--the only coffee grown in North America.

We saw to the zoo, the aquarium, we even went swimming with the dolphins. Well, we tried to, anyway. Turns out some kids get really freaked out when they are within touching distance of 7-foot aquatic mammals, and have to get out of the water immediately. This brings me to...

The bad news. Before you start to both hate me and envy me, let me tell you that this vacation was not all mai tais and hibiscus. Oh, no my friend. There were downsides.

The cost: Hawaii is expensive. From the flight to the hotel to the meals, everything is pricey--even though the CAD-USD exchange rate was holding steady around $0.98.

The beach: I’m not a toss-my-beach-towel-on-the-sand-and-flop-down-on-it-for-the-day person. I’m more of a sit-in-the-shade-and-read-a-book-while-sipping-an-iced-coffee person. I don’t enjoy spraying sticky sunblock all over me; it makes me feel like a licked lollypop that fell onto the floor. And the sand. It gets everywhere. Just...everywhere. But my kids like the beach, so off I go. Oh, and it rained almost every day.

The catamaran ride from hell: It was pretty windy that day (there was a wind advisory, actually) but I didn’t expect our 1-hour tour to hit 8-foot swells. There were free drinks, but when you’re holding on to a railing for dear life with one hand and holding on to one of your children for dear life with the other hand, it’s kinda hard to sip your drink. Plus, seawater splashed into mine. Yuck.

The hotel: I love to sleep--I really do--whenever I get the opportunity. And what better opportunity than a tropical getaway? Alas, Waikiki is not a quiet place. It’s a tradeoff: if you want to be close to a lot of activities, you’ve got to be in the city, with all of its sirens and car horns and trucks beep-beep-beep backing up. Unfortunately, the lanai doors at our hotel were only single-pane glass, which offers no soundproofing. So when the street performers (including, but not limited to, drummers, singers, and what apparently was a troupe of synchronized shouters) started their night shift, we were forced to listen to them, even with 29-dB NRR earplugs. Hilariously, every night, they started just as we were trying, in vain, to put the kids to sleep.

The kids: Think you’re a seasoned world traveler who can handle anything? You haven’t traveled until you’ve traveled with kids. Well, with my kids, anyway. For example, try having the two-year-old decide to start ignoring you, run away, scream at her 129 dB max volume (yes, I measured that; I’m a scientist), and vomit all over her shirt. And this was in the departure lounge before we even got on the plane. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. Showing them the diversity of the world is a blast. But it’s not easy. I’m seriously reconsidering Disneyland in 2012, girls.

Finally, I missed Christmas. No matter how much you decorate a palm tree, it ain’t a Christmas tree. I actually started to miss snow. (Really!) And not just that; Christmas is about friends and family. There’s something a bit...hollow about sharing your Christmas dinner with dozens of strangers in a hotel restaurant. Yeah, I’m glad to be back. (Also: the U of Hawaii Department of Psychology has no Faculty Lecturer positions open.)

How was your holiday break?

Why aren’t you studying?

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