Prom memorie$

Here’s an interesting article on the cost of prom for kids these days.  The article quotes a Visa survey that finds the average family with a high schooler spends $807 on the whole Prom kit and kaboodle.  They say 1/4 of students don’t go because the cost is too high.  One thing I don’t understand is why some couples think the limo etc. part is so necessary that they eschew the entire prom experience if they can’t get the car and all the other accessories.  The ticket prices they quote in the article are $65-$150, which is not cheap, but a lot smaller than $807.

IIRC, prom was $85/ticket when we were in high school.  So I’m not really seeing prices going up all that awful much for the tickets.

I didn’t go.  I couldn’t afford it (though several years later my parents paid for my sister to go to a cotillion, complete with wedding dress and misogyny, but I digress).  My partner’s family probably had money for it and no doubt would have paid for my ticket (and I did have a dress I could have worn).  But to be honest, the money issue was only tiny.  One of my anxieties that I haven’t gotten treatment for is ocholophobia which manifests itself for me in feelings of extreme claustrophobia in situations in which I am in the middle of a large crowd of closely packed people who are standing.  I assume I was trampled to death in a previous life.  I’m fine in opera houses and at plays where folks are seated and orderly.   Can’t do rock concerts, definitely cannot do dances.  It hasn’t bothered me since high school, as in most of life one is not being forced to go to crowded dances or concerts.

So instead my boyfriend and I had a lovely weekend together doing low key things like hitting up the ice cream parlor.  I think I may have had a rasmetazberry fudge sundae.  I miss that ice cream shop!  Why don’t they have turtle sundaes outside the midwest?  I know I could make them, but it’s a pain to salt and toast pecans… and if we had the ingredients on hand I would gain lots of weight.

Back when I was a freshman taking Algebra II, I learned a lot about what goes on at the pre-parties and after-parties.  Very interesting.  If I were a parent of one of those kids, I would be worried.

#2, who I am sure will correct me if I misremember, went to prom twice, and had a magical evening both times.  Though the first time she went with a jerk (the first in a series of, shall we say, imperfect guys), the second time she went with the perfect guy (for her, which is what matters), who I totally approve(d) of.  I’m also vaguely remembering a gorgeous madrigal dress, but that may be something separate.

Did you go to prom?  How much did it cost?  How did you pay for it?  Was it everything you dreamed of?  If you didn’t go, then what did you do instead?

Book movies

Almost always the book is better than the movie, even when the movie is pretty good.

Princess Bride.  Fantastic movie.  Even better book.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.  Book = awesome.  Movie = suck.

The list here is pretty well endless…

Sometimes the movie is better than the book… this is especially true with messed up children’s classics.

Peter Pan.  Messed up book.  Seriously messed up.  And the opposite of feminist.  Blech.  Always with an underlying creepiness.  The movie isn’t much better in terms of feminism, but the creepiness is mostly gone.  Peter Pan isn’t so thoughtless… he doesn’t almost lose the children on the way to Neverland in the movie.  Tink doesn’t almost kill Wendy in the movie.

Pinocchio.  Similarly messed up and creepy.  The movie doesn’t bank you over the head quite so much.

Mary Poppins.  (I wouldn’t say the movie is better, but it is certainly different!)  No way could sweet Julie Andrews play the Mary Poppins from the book.  They’re very different stories… somehow the movie omits the lady whose fingers turn into candy when she breaks them off her hands.  Among many other things.

The 39 Steps.  (Not a children’s book!)  What can I say, I’m a sucker for romance.  And you know, the existence of female characters (of which the movie has several, swapping genders of book characters).  Also, the movie keeps what is charming about the British colonial period (Cricket…) and jettisons what is not (antisemitism, etc.)

Rebecca.  You may disagree, but the book is so dark and so depressing.  The movie is all that, but adds some hope!  Some reason to actually care about the main characters.  I like that.

Can you think of any books that were made into movies where the movie was better?  Or where the book was crazy better?  Or where you loved the movie and were then blown away by the book?

These… are the Links of our lives.

Farm subsidies are not only a huge waste of money and a distortion of the economy, but they’re also making us fat.  Conservative or liberal, we should be against them.

Speaking of utter paranoia (have crimes against children increased?), here is some high-quality rage going on in a fascinating rant and comments thread. To be clear, we here at Grumpy Rumblings support safety for kids and are 100% against child abuse. But sometimes a misguided focus drains resources away from real ways to solve real problems.  (#2 points out:  Maybe abuse etc. is down because kids are never left alone anymore: if crime is down that doesn’t mean people are paranoid, even if they are paranoid.  Still #2 wishes there were still roaming bands of neighborhood kids that she could send her DC out to play with when ze is bouncing off the walls.)  Related:  link stolen from a Ianqui in the village.  Don’t read it if you have kids and are liable to care about whether or not you’re destroying them based on other people’s opinions.

We at Grumpy Rumblings suggest that Historiann take a small break from posting excellent posts and post some cruddy stuff instead so we can leave her off next week’s link love.  In the mean time, pop over there and see what she’s written.  Start with this one on female physicians opting out.  Related:  Wandering scientist comments on the same article, as does Dr. Isis.  This last response from a physician on motherlode is pitch perfect.  This one on scientopia has the best comments of all.  I think I agree more with Dr. Isis about the experience thing than I do with Historiann (in her comments, not in the main piece), especially since according to an NPR story I heard the other year, women able to cut back to part-time are cutting back by cutting out paperwork and red-tape working for HMOs and large group practices rather than cutting down face time with patients.  I’m not really sure that a few years down a few hours a week is really such a big deal for patient outcomes, especially as Wandering Scientist points out that many of these doctors are probably working too much to be safe or efficient.  (Atul Gawande has some horror stories in that respect!  Nurses with checklists!)  Obviously the experience/outcome profile for doctors varies by profession and is an empirical question, but I tend to doubt we’re seeing that much of a reduction in quality.  Especially given that much of the job of these GPs and so on for complicated cases in the US system is to refer patients to specialists, not to make difficult diagnoses themselves.  (And, as a commenter pointed out, much of this work is done nowadays by NPs in any case.)

Boxcarkids blog is back from hiatus and they’re buying a new trailer!  I hope she gets a job soon.  Also:  Molly on Money finally got health insurance.  Read about her saga here.

I’ve often wondered when one should use an ETF vs. an index fund.  Here’s a cnn post on that.

FeMomhist with graphs and charts asking where are the women in the history profession?  My discipline used to put out these charts every year showing the pipeline dwindling, “The status of women in X” but for some reason they’ve stopped.   Which is a shame because just eyeballing, we are doing a lot better than we had been, and the norm now seems to be one pre-tenure baby which was unheard of when I did it.

Question:  Should people who don’t need help with personal finance be allowed to read and comment on personal finance blogs, such as Get Rich Slowly?  In any case, we think we’ll take a bit of a break from personal finance blogs (though not from ET, SMRM, FGA, etc. etc.) as perhaps our insightful summative comments make other people feel insecure.  We’re still going to bring baked goods to private functions, whether that makes folks feel insecure or not.  The nice thing about the internet is that, unlike most of real life, if something annoys you, you can leave.

I’ve had this song stuck in my head all week!

We always love it when there’s a new Simon’s Cat video.  They’re funny because they’re true:


I can’t believe it has been 11 years of marriage.  We’re getting old!  And this year marks the year that we’ve spent more than half our lives together.

We’ve got a beautiful small child, and two adorable kitties.  And a wonderful future ahead of all of us.

We’ve checked off the standard list of accomplishments and accouterments together:  education, jobs, cars, house, steady retirement savings.  We’ve got dreams for the future.

But even without any of those life would still be wonderful because together we can accomplish anything.  We’ve been poor, we’ve been stressed, we’ve been through heart-break and celebration.  You’ve been my rock and help-meet and partner through it all.

We can finish each other’s sentences, but even still surprise each other with new ideas, new thoughts, new ways to grow.  Even terrible new puns.  You calm me when I’m irritated and feed me when I’m hypoglycemic.  You help me find rational solutions to any kind of problem.  I’m never afraid when you’re there to help me.  I trust you with anything and know that you will always take care of me, just like I will always take care of you.

You make me a better person.  And more than that, you make me happy.  Every single day I think about how blessed I am to have found you.

Happy Anniversary!

Related posts:  The proposalThe wedding.

Now please join #2 in wishing #1 and her husband many more happy years together!

Answering Google Questions

Sometimes I want to contact folks who are finding our blog through the googles and answer their questions.

Q: paid off mortgage do i have to pay hoa fees?

A:  Yes.

Q: iq of teacher’s assistants

A:  No clue.

Q:  do professors work during the summer

A:  Hells Yes.

Q:  why do mother’s have guilt

A:  We blame the patriarchy.

Q:  is it ok to marry my bestfriend

A:  Yes, so long as you’re not breaking any laws to do so.

Q:  how to get out of an emergency room bill

A:  You probably can’t get out of it, but by doing enough asking and explaining you can probably settle for a fraction of the cost.  [update:  see comments for suggestion]

Q:  if a house is condemned do you still pay the mortgage?

A:  Well, if you don’t want to keep it or the land you can “walk away” from it and get it foreclosed on.  That will, of course, hurt your credit.  But the fact that it’s condemned doesn’t give you any special privileges that I am aware of.

Q:  do children need to be taught to be civilized in lord of the flies

A:  YES.  That’s kind of the point.

Q:  why do i moan in my sleep when i am sick

A:  No clue.

Q:  what should i do when my house is paid off

A:  Celebrate and put more away for retirement.

Q:  how much do you give a graduate you don’t know

A:  NOTHING.  Seriously.  If you must because of some sort of social obligation (like your mother is pressuring you) then $10-$25.  But if you don’t know the graduate, don’t give anything!

My Catholic relatives aren’t really Catholic: A rant.

That’s not to say they’re my only Catholic relatives– we were all brought up Catholic (who wasn’t!).  Some of us converted to religions that better express our beliefs about social equity (such as Episcopalian), some are Christmas and Easter Catholics, some are even more lapsed and secular.

One of my uncles married a not very nice woman (I say she is not very nice because she was a bitch to me at my grandmother’s funeral because I dare be a working mother) and had a passel of children.  The not very nice woman did not work.  IIRC, my uncle is/was a forest ranger or something like that.  Growing up I remember seeing videos of the family opening their Christmas presents (they would send the video to my grandma and she would show it) and being absolutely astonished at all the fancy electronics they could afford and we couldn’t, not even including the video camera they were using to shoot the footage!

Turns out, spending a lot of money doesn’t actually mean that you *have* the money to spend.

But this isn’t a story about relatives making foolish choices with their money.  This is a story about hypocrisy and me being judgmental, judging the judgers.

These folks have drunk the Fox News koolaid.  They quote “Rush.”  (Not the band– people who listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio are apparently on a first name basis with him.)  They complain about how the lamestream media is out to get Sarah Palin and death panels are going to destroy the nation’s elderly.  (No matter how many times my other poor uncle, the one who took care of my late Grandmother unfailingly for over a decade after my parents could no longer lift her, tried to explain how helpful it would have been to know what *she* wanted before she descended into Alzheimer’s.)

They complain about all the poor people who don’t work and expect government handouts.  Government shouldn’t give out health care.  Government shouldn’t feed kids.  Government shouldn’t aid the poor.  Government shouldn’t help people get educated.  The poor should help themselves.  Apparently they don’t realize that the Catholic church has some pretty important tenets that have nothing to do with Gay marriage or the status of women.

My liberal elitist relatives, including my own parents, the ones who saved instead of buying those boom boxes and video game systems (back when such things were pricy), are sending their myriad children to college.  That’s 2 high-powered careerist aunts (one with children, one without) and my own working parents.  Giving charity to this family of supposed Catholics who thinks nobody should be allowed charity.  Having the money to do it because the women worked and the families saved.  We take care of our own, even if we disagree with their parents.

The one kid we’re not sending to college (yet, anyway) is a son who is serving our country in Afghanistan.  He has fallen in love, with an American Christian even. They’re getting married.  In a church.  But she’s not Catholic, so it isn’t a Catholic church.  So my uncle and his wife are refusing to attend.  They’re not even paying for the reception and they think they should have final say in the type of church.  They’re refusing to attend the wedding ceremony of an American soldier serving overseas in a dangerous country, their own son, because he is not getting married in a Catholic church. They’re also not allowing his siblings to attend.

That is just reprehensible.  I am ashamed to be related to these people.  If they were some small sect evangelical I might understand better (disagree with, but understand why it is consistent with their religious beliefs), but they are giving Catholics a bad name.

The wonderful thing about the Catholic church is its reminder that we are supposed to do Good Works.  What we believe is not as important as what we Do (though both are important).  They couldn’t have been listening to my Grandma’s wonderful funeral sermon, because that’s pretty much what the priest officiating reminded us, illustrating that reminder with the wonderful things my late grandmother did throughout her life (come to think of it, this uncle did spend the entire time complaining about the funeral– the rest of us thought it was bang-up).  Story after story in the New Testament reminds us how we are supposed to help those less fortunate than ourselves.  More than one story tells us how we’re supposed to act with grace and forgiveness, especially with relations, when they do something of which we disapprove.  And the Catholic church does not twist these messages– they go full out.  We accept prodigal sons, we forgive prostitutes, we love, we guide, we help.

All of my liberal elite relatives will be going to this wedding.  My aunt will be acting in place of mother of the groom.  We’re going to show this young couple that they do have support, and our family was brought up in love and respect and kindness, just like we’re showing them the value of charity as we help them reach their own goals.

We will help the children of this family get educated because their parents did not save.  We will be there when the depressed daughter who is possibly a drug addict is ready for help (her parents “don’t know,” though she could not be more obvious– my medical professional aunt is keeping a watchful eye).  And we will definitely be there for one of the most important days of this young man’s life.

And if eventually the grown children renounce their parents’ ways and see that there’s another way?  Well, that’s kind of what true Catholicism is all about.  Not the renouncing so much, but the going to where the love is.  Putting good deeds into action.  Helping others as you have been helped yourself.  Giving back to the less fortunate.  (And maybe making a few converts in the process to carry on God’s Good Works.)  It’s a shame that this couple is turning their backs on that.

Would you judge these relatives harshly for refusing to go to their son’s wedding?  Did you think the Catholic church was all bad?

(#2 has a somewhat different view of Catholicism, but I agree with much of what #1 says, so let’s leave it there.  Also, Jesuits have good wine at parties and Jesuits in Space are totally awesome.  #1 is not denying that there are bad things about Catholicism… but charity is kind of one of their big things.  BTW, these relatives hate the Jesuits and think Notre Dame is too liberal [it's actually very conservative] because Obama spoke there.  I think maybe that’s just an excuse because they didn’t want to tell their daughter they couldn’t afford ND even if she got in, but whatever.)

******* creationists!

DC keeps asking questions about how humans evolved… ze knows there were dinosaurs and they died out, and now there are humans, and the mammals during dinosaur time were small, but how did there get to be humans?

Did you know that none of the museums in the city nearest ours have an early humans exhibit?  From the webpage it looks like the museum in the next nearest city also do not have such an exhibit.

We’re all going to (Washington) DC this year just so we can find a museum with an early humans exhibit!  (Also there’s a conference.  Ah, conference vacations, without you we would never leave town.)

But DC still keeps asking, so I thought…well, we’ve got LOTS of science books.  Why don’t we have one for human evolution?  Hm, Scholastic (see:  Scholastic addiction) has lots of science books, but I haven’t seen any on early humans.  I wonder why that is.

Wait, I thought… Maybe the fact that the museums in this specific region of the country are conspicuously missing exhibits on early humans is related to the fact that Scholastic doesn’t sell any books on say, evolution.

Maybe there’s a large purchasing demographic they want to keep buying/donating/visiting.

DH says:   There’s just some people you don’t want to tick off.  Would you want to upset anarchists? Well…

Well, that kind of sucks.  Dratted creationists and their dratted market power.  No wonder folks don’t believe in evolution– there’s a feedback loop.

That’s my rant.  Are there things you miss because of where you’re living?  Do groups with large amounts of purchasing power ever mess you up?

A step forward

DH has a relative with money problems.  We won’t go into detail, but let’s just say this relative tends to learn things the hard way.  We used to offer advice, but then realized that ze is finding hir own way at hir own pace and nothing we say (or books we could send) is going to change that.  So we just listen and make appropriate affirmative or laughing sounds depending on the story.  (Like Sally in When Harry Met Sally when her friend, played wonderfully by Carrie Fisher, is like, “He’s never going to leave her.” Sally: “Yes.”  Friend: “You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right…”)

Anyhow, this relative’s partner really wanted something expensive.  A piece of stuff.  In the past, the relative would just buy it with a loan.  In the more recent past, the relative would not buy it.  This time the conversation went something like this.

P:  I want it.
R:  We can’t afford it.
P:  You always find the money somehow.
R:  Yeah, by not paying our bills.
P: How about I find the money?
R: I’m listening.
P: This thing costs, what, $X00 and $Y for upkeep. What if I cut down my cigarette smoking and have a garage sale and use that money for it?
R: That sounds like a great idea. We could do that. What if we run out of $Y?
P: Then we’ll just stop using it. We can even get rid of it.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to explain what a major paradigm shift this is for said relatives.  First off, they’re not fighting about it… and there are a lot of underlying issues that they could be fighting about and have fought about in the past.  (Couples counseling really worked!)  Second, they’re getting the idea that there are trade-offs, that money has to come from somewhere.  Third, they’re putting a priority on bill-paying on time over Stuff.  Fourth, they’re thinking creatively and doing something that’s a win-win situation; cutting down on cigarettes could have other positive benefits.  Fifth, they’re planning their spending, and waiting until they can afford it before buying.

Anyway, they made enough from the garage sale and cutting back that they’re getting the thing, and we are very happy for them.  Now if they could just do the same for an emergency fund!

Do you know any folks who have to learn money things the hard way?  How has that turned out?

Selling My Soul for Online “Education” and Phat Cash

How do I write this post without outing myself?  If you guess who we are, just pretend we’re Batman and don’t tell anyone.  If you’re my boss, #2 wrote this.  I couldn’t stop her.

#2 says:  You won’t out yourself–schools all over the country (including mine!) are embracing online education as a money maker when education funds are being cut.  We already have a number of graduate courses online, just not ones I teach.

My department wants to start an online master’s degree program that will be self-support (i.e., for profit).  We have a small enough faculty that it’s hard-to-impossible to hide in the woodwork, so I’ll have to have something to say about this.  Personally, I’m against the idea.  I don’t think that for our field an online degree is worth anything, and I didn’t go to grad school so I could be in a for-profit industry.  (Having worked there briefly once, I hated it.)

HOWEVER, embracing evil is the only way to get a COLA increase around here, so I agreed to develop and teach an online course.  Not just any online course.  An online graduate course.  They’re giving me cash moneys to do it:  the carrot.

With the carrot is its accompanying stick. If I refuse to teach in the program, what then? Do I get no COLA when everyone else gets one? The department says it won’t be mandatory to participate, but I anticipate much social pressure.

There is no way to get my dept out of doing this. We had interminable meetings. Those against the idea (a few junior people who relatively recently graduated from excellent PhD programs) were steamrolled by the majority in favor, which is how the process is supposed to work anyway, so oh well for me.  The chair is for it.  I didn’t fight at the first signs of this happening because I’m an untenured cog and because I thought I wouldn’t stick around long enough for this plan to come to fruition, but I’ve gotten settled here.  Oops.  If only the job market wasn’t so bad.  If this gets implemented, it may be close to a deal-breaker for me.

I want money.  Especially since there is no travel budget and I’m trying for tenure.  But graduate education does not belong online in most fields (this point is NOT open for discussion right here right now; maybe in another post), and trust me when I say that it does not belong online for the class I’ve been assigned, even if you could make an argument for the core (which in my field, you really can’t).

It’s possible that the whole thing will die because nobody wants to be in charge of it– there is no prospect of release time or extra cash for the person in charge of training and supervising the proposed legion of online adjuncts and the organization of the whole program, at least not in the first year or two.  Eventually supposedly the profit will pay for this person.  The senior people have refused and the junior people would have to be idiots to do it.

It would be one thing if I’d chosen to work at a for-profit like University of Phoenix: I’d know what I was getting into and so would the students and their employers, but I work at a public school.  I didn’t sign up for this.  When I interviewed, I expressed enthusiasm at the thought of starting a(nother) graduate program, but at the time they weren’t thinking it would be for-profit.

Will my professional reputation suffer?  If I’m ashamed to tell my graduate adviser about this, what does that say?


Does your school have online graduate education?  Would you sell your “last tiny shreds of self-respect” for money?

It’s a Link new day

We were an editor’s pick this week in the Carnival of Personal Finance!

In this video, Elmo starts an interview with Ricky Gervais on the set of Sesame Street… and the director loses all control of the situation:

actually this is kind of an awesome idea; no forced breeding in animals and we should respect animals and not have puppy mills and not force women to breed either.  that was incoherent but you know what I mean

analysing the media is always so depressing, so I let other people do it for me. Thanks, Gayprof.

Historiann has been on fire.  Check out this one on privileged folks not realizing their privilege (or rather, check out this whiny-ass letter from a mediocre student with rich parents who got into a high quality school and begrudges poor students with similar scores their admission).  But also check out the rest of the week’s posts.

You must read this hilarious crazy ass movie review from academic cog.

An interesting article on drag queen power.  I see parallels with arguments about high powered professional women.

Speaking of which, wandering scientist continues that conversation (working women, not drag queens).  Join in!

Thought provoking post on gender and alternative medicine, possibly also hysteria, by Spanish Prof.

Quick challenge update:  I am doing ok at eating fruits and veggies, though I could use more protein.  The one thing I really need to work on is drinking more liquid, especially water.  And, oops, I guess my refrigerator (ancient, inefficient, belongs to the rental) was set too high, because I seem to have accidentally frozen the beets on the bottom shelf.  Hm.

Anybody got any good ways to use up TONS of mint?  There are only so many mojitos I can drink in one day.  Grazie.


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