The Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo (2015 edition)

This past weekend was an important event for my people: The Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo. As usual, I had my weekend "Celebrity Fast Pass" and was ready to get my geek on!

Stan Lee was there. I mean, Stan Lee. He's very funny. No, I'm not going to qualify that with "for his age." He's just a funny guy. To create so many alliterative character names (including Fin Fang Foom), he must have a pretty good sense of humour.
A very small Stan Lee.
Autographed, NIP.

But, it's just...the con (sorry, I can't help but call it that) was a bit disappointing this year. To ensure you get a Fast Pass, you have to buy it months before most of the guests are announced, so you have to hope there will be a lot who you want to see. And this year? Yeah, not so much.

I mean, look at the guests at the Salt Lake Comic Con, also held this past weekend: Chris Evans! Anthony Daniels! Walter Koenig! Marina Sirtis! Richard Hatch! James & Oliver Phelps! Felicia Day! Maurice LaMarche! Tress MacNeille! (Shame on you if you don't know the last two. Gasp! Call yerself a nerd?) And more!

It was nice that the Edmonton Expo took over the whole, er, Edmonton Expo Centre this year for the first time. That must've cost. And the weak Canadian dollar isn't helping. But when you see amazing things happening down the road at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo (Aliens reunion! ST: TNG reunion!), you gotta wonder. After getting past the "big names" of Stan Lee, and Michael Dorn (trivia: has played his Star Trek character more times that anyone else in the Trek universe), I wasn't too excited. I don't have a lot of time to watch TV, so I didn't really know most of the media guests. Yeah, I went to interesting panels by Natalia Tena and Jenna Coleman--but I don't even watch Game of Thrones or Doctor Who. (Gasp! Call yerself a nerd?) No, I don't watch those shows. Hey, having two demanding kids, a demanding job, and a demanding wife takes a lot of my time. Like, a lot a lot.

Did you know it was also Alumni Weekend this past weekend? When the University of Alberta puts on an insane number of "homecoming" (the American term) activities? Like, say, special 25-year reunions of the graduating class of 1990? Which is when I got my B.Sc. But, more importantly, it was also when my wife graduated med school. Dilemma: Comic con weekend is the same weekend as my wife's reunion. Unless I want the locks on my house changed, it's no contest: I will leave the comic expo (um, right after Stan Lee's panel), swap my con lanyard for a reunion lanyard, and be arm candy for my demanding wife at her reunion dinner held at the Royal Mayfair Golf Club. I know: tough life. (BTW: No, I didn't go to my reunion events. I literally don't know anyone else who graduated in 1990.)
My wife with a couple of other doctors.
(My wife is the one in the middle.)

Did I mention a demanding job? So while waiting in line at the comic expo, during lulls in panels, and during the hors d'oeuvres at my wife's reunion, I madly checked and answered emails. See, there was an assignment due Monday, and a few students had questions. A few. Like, 52. Not that I was counting. My phone did that for me.

Did I mention two demanding kids? I nabbed a couple of sweet MLP scarves for my daughters (Derpy and Rainbow Dash). (No, I did not name my daughters after ponies. I bought my daughters scarves with the cutie marks of Derpy and Rainbow Dash on them. Clear?) There was much of the squealing and the hugging and celebrating of the Daddy when I got home. As for myself, well...there was this comic that caught my eye. (I know, right? An actual comic at a comic con!) Sandman #1, signed by Neil Gaiman himself. (Don't tell my wife. Srsly.) Sadly, Neil wasn't at the con. Now that would have been swoon-inducing. Maybe next year?
The Sandman #1. Signed by Neil Gaiman.
Quest complete.

Although there was "free" Celebrity Fast Pass swag to be had, I'm going to be keeping it this year. There was a nifty T-shirt (that actually fit me for once), a bag (as always, but nicer this year), and a pair of...socks. That, right. Socks. Is that some kind of message to nerd-dom? You. Need. Fresh. Socks. I'm keeping them. I may even wear them, you know, ironically.

Selfie time!

Did you go to the Comic Expo? Did you wear a costume? Did you email me questions about your self-management project from the Comic Expo? (I did bump into one student who recognized the bathroom. This is what it is like being a very, very, very, very minor celebrity.) Excelsior!

Why aren't you studying?

The Bookstore (Again)

When last I wrote about the Bookstore, I complained about some problems caused by their seeming lack of organization. As a result, coursepacks for one of my classes were misplaced. (They were found in a box outside the manager's door.) That was in February of 2012. How are things going now? I think this picture of an empty shelf where my PSYCO 282 textbook should be tells the story.

This term, I'm teaching three courses. In total, the required readings are: one textbook and three coursepacks. The Bookstore was short: one textbook and two coursepacks. Well, one out of four, hey? At least it's not zero, amirite?

I took this photo yesterday, in the third week of classes. Yesterday, when my PSYCO 282 class had their first assignment due. Empty shelf. At least there are now copies of the coursepack for my other two classes, but some students in one of my other classes did not have the readings last week, when there was a quiz based on the coursepack readings.

I know I'm certainly frustrated, and I'm sure my students aren't thrilled either.

When I order textbooks, there is a form that asks how many copies the Bookstore should stock. I leave that blank. I used to fill it out, until I realized I was wasting my time. It was taken as a suggestion. And, really, I don't know how many copies they should have. Some students don't buy the textbook. Some buy the ebook. Some buy the book used. If there's an oversupply, that costs money. I get all that. So it's up to the expertise of those in the Bookstore to do their calculations and make sure there are enough books. Let me just repeat the last bit for emphasis: make sure there are enough books.

After much complaining, here's the response I got today from the Bookstore:
"We take very seriously our role in serving the campus community, both students and faculty.  Never would we purposely do anything to interfere with your teaching schedule or your students ability to complete their scheduled assignments.  Unfortunately in this case we received a late request from the other section, and had to order more books in August to compensate for this.  In addition there was an enrolment spike so we had to re-order yet again.  For such circumstances we always request that the publisher rush the orders, and we pay for air shipping to cause the least amount of disruption.  For our latest order Nelson was not able to get the book as quickly as we would have liked and did not get them shipped out until last Friday.  We should see them in the next couple of days.

"I apologize for the frustration that this has caused you and your class and hope that our performance will have no such impact going forward."
So there's the explanation for what happened in my PSYCO 282 class. The textbook is in a new edition, so there are no used copies available. But what about my other classes? And the classes that my colleagues are teaching? I sent out an email request asking what problems others have encountered, and it looks like I'm definitely not alone.

In my post of February 2012, I was told:
"Under our new director, the Bookstore is working on several course material improvements including an enhanced web-based ordering service."
Did they "enhance" anything? Nope, not yet. Well, they did just put up a whizzy new website--with the message "Some areas of our new website are still under construction; our apologies for any inconvenience." Er, what? When do you put up a new (incomplete) website? During your busiest time of year? Have there been "improvements"? No--things are worse than ever. (The new website currently lacks any way for me to order textbooks. Apologies in advance what whatever happens to my textbooks next term.)

Have any horror stories about not being able to get textbooks or coursepacks from the Bookstore? Tell me your story below.

Why aren't you studying?

The Textbook Question

Are you in a course that has a newly updated textbook? I know there’s a question you want to ask. Go ahead, ask. Here’s the short answer to your question: Yes.

This is the question you’re asking:
“Do I need the new edition of the textbook? Because my friend/brother/grandmother has the old edition and they gave it to me for free/for a discount/for a bottle of moonshine.”
So the answer is: Yes. Yes, you need the new edition.

Put it this way: Do you want to get the best possible grade in the course? Or do you want to save money?

I know that’s a facile dichotomy. Textbooks are expensive. When a new edition comes out, there are no (much-cheaper) used copies available yet. Saving some money on a textbook is not trivial--and if you can get one free from a friend, that’s great. Some students literally do not have the money to buy new copies of the textbook for every course they’re taking. I am sensitive to the high cost of textbooks, and it’s an important factor when I’m choosing the textbook for a course.

On the other hand, textbooks (especially in science) are continually being updated with new research findings and theories. And there are exam questions drawn on newly updated material. If you don’t have the current edition of the textbook, you’ll just be guessing on those questions. They make up only a small portion of the exam (in my courses, anyway), but every mark counts.

All publishers have a “What’s New” section for every newly updated textbook they publish. This is for instructors mostly, but I encourage you to take a look at what has been changed before you make your purchase decision. Here’s what’s new in the updated textbook I’m using in my PSYCO 282: Behaviour Modification course starting in fall, 2015. It’s a fairly substantial list of changes, compared to other textbooks I use in other courses.

If you are short on funds, the good news is that the University of Alberta Libraries have started a new purchase program for reserve materials. If there are at least 100 students in a course, an instructor may ask the library to purchase the textbook for the course and make it available from their reserve room(s). (For my PSYCO 282 course, the UAlberta Libraries actually bought four copies of the new textbook, and placed them on reserve in Cameron Library.) If you can’t afford to buy a textbook, you can check the textbook out for 2 hours at a time. So you can potentially read the old edition, and check out the new one to read the updates.

Why aren’t you studying?

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