Happiness is getting paid

For the first time in 3 months.

Yay!

That is all.

A Chat with My Musical Sister

In the vein of “everyone is entitled to my opinion“:

me: holy jeez. I’d rather [do something else] than listen to a Liszt concerto, but that’s why you’re you and I’m me.

sister: well, [husband] and I are also pretty music nerdy

me: also I am only MEH on Stravinksy
sis: how can you be MEH on Stravinsky! Firebird, come on!
whatevs, dude
me: It seems that the romantic period is not a kind of music I generally love.
sis: well, that’s some silliness
me: I’m so old school. I prefer baroque.
all those complicated thingies and fugues and whatnot, I like them.
counterpoint, ya know.
sis: I enjoy Baroque, and seeing mad Baroque styling skillz in action is pretty cool, but give me an expressive art song, some impressionistic piano, and a flexible tempo any day
I actually prefer Renaissance counterpoint (so, super-early counterpoint)
the ducking and diving of madrigal singers, for instance
me: fabulous of course.
I like renaissance too. I don’t like impressionistic piano at all.
sis: don’t tell [husband], his heart is with the Romantics
me: shhhh.
sis: and Debussy is a big thing for him
me: He can have Debussy. Handel can be mine, all mine.
sis: although Debussy never used nor liked the term “impressionism”
me: fair enough
I think baroque people didn’t call themselves that, either.
but it’s easier than saying “music with fancy bits put on”
sis: well, he’d tell you to keep your damn Bach
me: good, I shall!
to the romantics, I say: fugue you.
sis: when it comes to piano, Bach is the enemy of human hands
me: yes, I can see how Bach would be monstrous to try to play.
Much like Sondheim is a bitch-and-a-half to sing, but so very shiny.
sis: the Romantics are a bitch to play as well, but they were actually written for the piano (as opposed to harpsichord or organ), and they, you know, have something to say in their music as opposed to being a mere exercise in form.
That’s a roast, folks
me: yeah, but I find what they have to say whiny.
and I like harpsichord or organ music.
sis: hey, that’s cool if you’re an expert in that action, the problem is that people expect this music to be played on the piano too, and it’s just not supposed to be done that way.
me: well now, I agree there.  it’s not for the piano.
sis: indeed
Bach never had to contend with the weighting/action and dynamics of the piano.  You can only hit a key on a harpsichord a few ways
me: also I think some performances I hear get bogged down in all the detail and it can sound muddy, instead of light, which I prefer.
sis: indeed, should be light, crisp, the melodies should play with each other, not overshadow each other
me: yes, for reals.
sis: and excellent Baroque performers should, of course, be considering expression in their ornamentation and not doing it at inexplicable times just because they can
me: worst example EVAR, who should be stuck in a sack and kicked: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir trying to do The Messiah. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Stuck in treacle!
sis: well, that’s unfortunate
me: it IS.
Best recorded Messiah: Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, with Samuel Ramey, Florence Quivar, some tenor, and Kathleen Battle.
Very light.
sis: hmm…
but Kathy B is such a DIVA
me: sure, sure,
I don’t dispute that.
I wouldn’t necessarily want to work with her.
I like Ramey’s work on the Jello Aria. [and I will shaaaaaaaaaake…]
sis: I haven’t heard the recording
will add to amazon list forthwith
me: the Jello one is another place where people get really bogged down, and he doesn’t.
sis: dude, the Toronto recording is all out of print and stuff
lamesauce
I can download it, but I don’t want to, bitches
me: yeah, bitches! wait, why not?
hm, the editorial review on amazon thinks nobody is “involved” with the music on that recording, but all the listener reviews are very high.  The people reviewing it who say they are conductors or musicians love it.
But anyway, I do so hate it when things I like go out of print.
ew, even the abridged version is out of print
sis: like I said, lamesauce
me: yes. wynton marsalis: I like his baroque
tum-tiddly-tum-te-tum and whatnot
sis: I do like Wynton Marsalis
me: though I suppose I should clarify: although I do like me some baroqueness, Pachelbel’s canon in D can go hang.
sis: ok, I’ll give you that one

#2 says:  I like Romantic composers with names I can’t spell.  Like Puccini and Rimsky-Korsakov.  So fugue me, I guess.  Pachelbel’s canon makes me fall asleep because in high school we had this yoga class where they played it while we were supposed to be relaxing, but I would always fall asleep instead.

Discussion question:  How come they make you take naps in kindergarten when you don’t want them and don’t let you take them when you’re all grown up and need them?

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Hacking my work habits

(What is a hacker? Let’s please get away from thinking that hackers steal your password — those are crackers — and get back to the original idea of a hacker as someone who tries to make things better, more elegant, more efficient, more effective, or just new and cool…)

This semester I am desperate to get more writing done.  It not only betters my career chances but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment that teaching never does.  It would alleviate a lot of personnel-evaluation angst if I could get some things accepted pretty soon.  I am trying so hard to carve out times to get my brain into research-mode, and then to actually execute on my plans to write.  My brain is not being cooperative, though.  It keeps being obsessed with how I haven’t seen my partner of over a decade in a month, and it’s another month until I have time to fly and see him.  I am so lonely.

So I am hacking my work habits.

Usually my writing must take place off-campus.  In my campus office I am constantly getting interrupted by students, and if I close the door my office gets hot, and sometimes I have to leave the office to use the bathroom (thereby betraying my presence in my office).  So I write at home, and I try to also write in a local indie coffeeshop.  I know it’s dumb to pay for coffee when I have both a home office and a campus office (and I can get cheap coffee at either), but I will do whatever it takes right now and see if it works.  Sometimes I will do a sprint, such as working constantly until my laptop battery dies, and then plugging it in and taking a break to switch tasks.

I need to use external controls on myself, like accountability partners, because self-control is a limited resource, especially without my partner around to encourage me.

I have a colleague in the same position I am: too many things to write, too little time.  The two of us have made dates on Friday afternoons throughout the semester to meet up off-campus and have research time.  During this time we may not do any teaching or service work, and no surfing the net randomly — only research and writing.

When in the afternoon doldrums or at other times when I am craving a nap and yet have work to do, I have tried something new, which is the idea of a standing desk.  I first saw this idea, in various forms, at Lifehacker, which tends to show off fancy custom-made standing desks.  I have a simpler method that I’ve tried in my campus office: making a stack on my desk of a ton of textbooks, and putting my new small laptop on top of that.  It’s easy to go from standing to sitting just by moving the pile of books.  Working on the computer while standing definitely keeps me more alert and can be combined with the sprint idea.

Have I mentioned how much I love coffee?  I find it to be not only an alertness-enhancer but also a mood-elevator.  Cheaper than therapy.  All hail coffee.

Virginia Valian is an amazing scholar of, among other things, women in academia.  She has written two incredible chapters about hacking your work habits.  One is Learning to Work (PDF): how is writing like sex?  I think Boice would approve of what she says here about working in very small, but constant, chunks of time.

Solving a Work Problem (PDF) details her updated system as an assistant professor in trouble (hi!). She is now a distinguished full professor with major research in not one but two areas.  You should read this because I want to quote whole entire paragraphs of it, way beyond what is fair use.

One thing I took away from this chapter was the idea of treating yourself as a research subject and trying different things, recording the results to see what is most effective in getting the desired behavior (in this case, writing) from yourself.  I am giving myself more permission to do whatever works this year, even if it seems weird.  In a memoir I recently read, a creative writer talks about how he finally managed to work out a routine that produced excellent results every time — but it was really complex.  It involved turning out all the lights, jogging in circles, lying on the floor, etc.  His behavior, explained out of context, seems… well… maybe a bit insane.  But the thing is, I understood how he had gotten there.  I don’t want to have to go that far, but I’m giving myself more permission to engage in whatever rituals or behaviors will produce results (publications).

If you are at the point of tl;dr by now, then:

bunny with a pancake on its head

Boice says to proselytize and I am infecting my mom with these ideas.  Not only have I sent her some books about writing for her birthday, but she is also on our writing accountability site and has even started trying to moderately hack her own work habits.   Last week she IM’d me in the middle of the day to ask me if I would call her at a certain time that night and ask her if she was done with her freelance work yet.  She reports that it really did help her get motivated and complete the work.  Go, accountability partners!

I really can’t handle normal people

So I was reading a mommy forum.  (Yes, #2, I hear you saying, “Well, there’s your first mistake.”  You haven’t said it yet, but I can still hear it!)

One of the women was complaining that her next door SAHM (stay at home mom) neighbor was always making passive-aggressive comments about her being a WOHM (work outside the home mom) or commenting on all the clothing she bought her daughter or what she spent on herself.  The SAHM’s daughter is also a bit of a bully despite being a year younger than the WOHM’s son.  Recommendations for what to do from other mothers included mostly being passive-aggressive back.   (Nobody said, why are you spending so much time with her if your kids don’t even get along?)

It all recently came to a head when the daughter started copying the son copying something annoying that a character in a movie did.  The SAHM sent the WOHM a facebook message saying that she was unhappy with her daughter copying the WOHM’s son.  That caused the WOHM to get very angry.  So the WOHM texted the SAHM (who apparently works the nightshift as a nurse 2-3 nights a month, so I guess is only mostly a SAHM?) at work “and finally got off my chest and called her on her bs. I’ll fill you in more later, but I hope she was up all last night worrying about it.”

The other mothers on the forum then praised the WOHM and shared their own stories.  One even said she’d just yelled at a friend for something the friend had said a *year* ago.

But the thing is, I’m always unintentionally saying things that are taken the wrong way.  I’m from the midwest and I try not to say anything at all if I can’t say something nice, but sometimes I say things that I don’t realize aren’t nice, or they’re not mean from my world-view but in a different culture they’re inappropriate.   (I got in trouble for saying “prick” instead of “jerk” in class once… apparently in Chicago you can put that in the newspaper, but around here it means something sexual.)  I also tend to be forthright and honest without a whole lot of word-mincing.  That sometimes gets me in trouble, always unintentionally.

My friends say they understand I’m always well-meaning and they make allowances for me (and, indeed, forget that I’m actually kind of obnoxious because they’re used to it), but it can be off-putting for folks who are just getting to know me.

People who get so upset like the woman on the forum (and those cheering her on) are very frightening to me.  All that drama is too much.  I would be terrified of opening my mouth because sooner or later I know I would inadvertently say something offensive.  Especially if they never voice their disagreement in person, politely.  I get flashbacks to middle school, which nobody wants to have.

I try hard to think the best of people, because it is easier for my stress-levels to do so.  I tend to be pretty forgiving about other people saying stuff.  My general reaction is to reply with a lecture of facts to the contrary (“actually, studies find that high quality daycare is better than poor quality home care and high quality home care is better than poor quality daycare, but the jury is still out on homecare vs. daycare… there’s positives and negatives to both“), or to flat out say, “that’s not very nice,” since I figure the way we teach our preschooler to interact probably works on adults too, and it does.  If someone were being consistently passive-aggressive to me I think I would probably avoid them if I could.  Not send them a nasty text message.  Not be passive aggressive back.

Are there a lot of people out there in the real world like this?  Maybe there’s a reason I don’t get out much.  And am not on Facebook.  And still have the 10 cents per text phone plan.

Welcome MSN money readers

Stay a while and chat!

Here are a few more pf posts you may find of interest:

Do parents have an obligation to pay for daughter #2’s wedding if they paid for #1’s?  What if she wants a smaller wedding?

The post you all linked in from:  Why I’m in no hurry to become a millionaire.

Adventures in Retirement Saving

Why you should read Your Money or Your Life.

Optimizing isn’t always optimal. Satisfice– it’s nice!

What’s your cooking system?

Don’t *just* prepay the mortgage.

There’s LOTS more good posts in here.  Feel free to dig!

How the used car market is like health insurance

Ugh, over and over again people say, Don’t buy a new car!  It’s like throwing your money away.

It isn’t!  New cars are less likely to break down than the used cars on the used car market.  They cost less because you’re getting compensated for that additional probability of hassle.

Oh, but you say, cars lose some huge % of their value right off the lot.  Their probability of breaking down doesn’t change just because you signed some papers and drove a few feet.

All righty kids, this is where it gets complicated.

First off, before I start, there’s a brilliant and wonderful paper on this topic.  It’s the most cited paper in economics period.  It also got rejected twice (once for being obvious, once for being untrue) before landing in a third journal.

Ok, so back to the question: you’ve probably heard that a new car drops dramatically in value as soon as you sign the papers and drive if off the lot.

Have you ever thought about why?  It doesn’t lose that much rubber from the tires…

After a month or so, you tend to have an idea about whether the car you bought was a great car or had problems.  You know if the a/c leaks water into the passenger side or if it makes funny noises when it hits 65 mph or if it just doesn’t go.  If you could, you’d sell the car to some unsuspecting buyer or back to the dealership and use that money to get a better car.  But you can’t.  Why can’t you?

Well, anybody trying to sell a month old car, unless they suddenly find they have to move to Antarctica, probably got a lemon.  You don’t sell an almost new car unless there’s something wrong with it.  That means that people are going to assume that it’s a lemon and aren’t going to offer you much, if anything, for the headache you’re trying to unload.  If it’s a really bad lemon, then the faults should be apparent once you drive off the lot.  So the reason your car drops in value is because you’re only going to sell it back right away if there is something wrong with it and you’re going to keep it otherwise.

Ok, but what about 2 or 3 or 5 year old cars?  Well, say you have that month old lemon.  You think… well, everybody knows that month old cars on the market are lemons.  Maybe if I hold onto it another week, people will think it’s a good car.  So they hold onto it another week, which means people now think that month + week old cars are lemons, and so on.

It gets even worse.  Say someone wants a newer model car after 5 years and has a perfectly good car to sell.  He or she cannot get a fair price for it because there are so many lemons on the market, and only lemons, that if (s)he puts the nice car on the market people will assume it’s a bad car too.  So this person keeps the good car a little longer and waits to buy a new one.  That means that the ratio of lemons to peaches is even higher, further driving down the prices of used cars.

We can even take this argument a bit further and prove that used car markets can’t exist.  Once the ratio of lemons to peaches increases, the next best car will be unable to get a fair price, and the person will choose not to put it on the market, driving down the prices even more.   Eventually even the only sort-of lemons cannot get a fair price for themselves and only the worst of the worst cars that nobody wants to buy will be able to be on the market.  And nobody will be willing to buy them.

Of course, I just “proved” to you that a market for used cars cannot exist, but there IS a market for used cars… how is that?

A bunch of reasons:

Lemon laws not only protect consumers, but they’re good for producers– folks are more likely to take a chance on a car if they know they can return the car without question if it turns out to be bad.  This also helps the used car market have more peaches because there isn’t so much of a downward death spiral.

Producers can also certify used cars as being peaches.  You’ve probably noticed that certified used cars are more expensive than non-certified.  This isn’t just the cost of certification, but that there’s a lower probability of lemon-hood.

Similarly, producers can offer warranties and charge more if people know they can return their lemons should something go wrong.  This also keeps lemons off the market and peaches on.

In some instances, trust can help.  Ads saying that the “owner is leaving for Europe, cannot take car with him,” can convince buyers there’s nothing wrong with the car.  Additionally, if you have repeated games with same dealership, you may be more likely to get a peach so that you’ll be willing to work with them the next time you buy a car.  Similarly, if people talk about dealerships in social networks, then a dealer may be concerned about its reputation and be willing to take lemons out of the market.

If some people do not understand the additional risk, they may be willing to pay more for a used car, which can in turn put more peaches on the market since the going price will be higher.

Additionally, the market for luxury cars may be different if the people in this market put a premium on “newness.”  They may not care that they can’t get a fair price for their old car.

But that underlying problem isn’t completely gotten rid of.  The bad still drives out the good in the used car market, so the average used car isn’t as good as it would be without asymmetric information causing adverse selection problems.

“What does this have to do with health insurance?” you ask, having been tantalized by the title.  Well, with health insurance, we are the car owners and the insurance companies are the potential car buyers.  We know what our health is better than the insurance company does.  Sicker people are more likely to buy health insurance and super healthy folks are less likely which drives up the price, meaning that mostly healthy folks are less likely, which drives up the price, which means that somewhat healthy folks are less likely… and onward until nobody can afford health insurance and the market fails.

That leads us to the need for group insurance, which is beyond the scope of this post.

Happily OCD

I like to alphabetize.

Potential career #3 would have been librarian.  Stupid overweening ambition getting in the way of my happiness.  At least it brings me money.  Though if I’d done 2 years in graduate school instead of 5 … maybe we too would have put a 400K downpayment on a house in the SF bay area…

#2 says: do you know what the job market is like for MLIS grad students these days?  I think it’s not that great, actually.

#1:  Yeah, that’s a big factor in me not quitting in graduate school and getting an MLS 8 years ago.  But if DH had gotten a real job…  I wonder how E. is doing.  She must be about done with her degree, eh?  I guess we’ll find out in her X-mas letter.

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