Christmas gifts

Lotsa people talking about giftcards and cash… are they tacky, are they appreciated, and so on.  Here’s Donna Freedman on the subject, and here’s Graceful Retirement.  Also GRS.

We do all of the above, and presents too, and we think there are good and thoughtful reasons to give cash or a gift card.  Sure, sometimes they’re the equivalent of bath salts, but sometimes they really are the best present.

We gave cash to:

Brother and sister-in-law #1 because they just had an offer accepted on a house… and we know how unexpected expenses tend to crop up when you buy a house, especially those first couple of months.  If they don’t need it for an unexpected expense, they can use it for tchotchkes.

Relative with the passel of kids who is bad with money.   Every year we say we’re not going to, and then every year we end up doing it anyway.  This year it was the burst appendix of kid #4 that was the straw that made me write a check.  DH almost suggested purchasing a chastity belt with it in the enclosed card (very funny story there… assuming it wasn’t *your* daughter as female lead), but thought better of it.

We gave gift cards to:

Father-in-law because his favorite activity in the world is shopping for his hobby.  And my mother-in-law prefers he not spend all their money on that.

Brother-in-law #2 because we asked his wife what to get him and she said that his favorite gift ever was an Amazon gift certificate.  That’s easy.

My  mother because there is nothing she likes more than shopping at our bookstore when she comes to visit.  It’s what she asks for.  It keeps her happy in our boring small town.

Grandmother-in-law #1 because she’s on a small fixed income and she likes to buy things for people and is sad when she can’t afford to.  A giftcard to Walmart helps her do that, or just get things for herself.

DC’s teachers because cash would be weird and we understand teachers like gift cards.

We gave presents to:

SIL #2 got a cookbook to go with her new crockpot and a subscription to audible.  MIL got a professional book she’s been wanting and another thing.  The little cousins got various books and toys.  My sister got ballet tickets and backstage passes to enjoy with DC.  My father got a bottle of fancy rum.  Grandmother-in-law #2 we already talked about (MIL says she got her copy last week.)  The other half of the blog is getting an assortment of goodies from her Amazon wishlist… some things she really wanted and some I selfishly think she should have.

What kinds of things are you getting for folks?  Are you avoiding any of the above categories in your giving or receiving?

Link Love

Kashmir Hill explains why writing an intentionally racially insensitive post makes money for the author based on Forbes’ compensation scheme.

Femomhist’s son is pretty cool.  Square pegs out to change the world!

Proflikesubstance tweets his vasectomy.  For realz.

Fie upon this quiet life with 11 truths she has learned so far on the TT.  Also, her health insurance is obnoxious about birth control.  My grad school didn’t cover mine but did not have a religious excuse.  IBTP.

Remember these?  Don’t be silly, protect your willie!  (I wish I could relate the story that caused us to look this up… let’s just say we were wondering how to keep [specific] teenagers from getting pregnant and STDs.)

Speaking of birth control, the blog that ate manhattan gives us a visualization of the clot risks between the patch and the pill and, you know, pregnancy.

Cute overload!  That one of us is not allowed to watch until she’s done grading.

Shiny steampunk!

Giant Lizard!

Google Questions answered

Q:  is the minority really the majority?

A:  By definition, no.

Q: am i made to work harder because i’m a young white male

A:  No… you’re being made to work harder than you think you should be because you grew up entitled and not understanding how much other folks have to work.  Lazy-asses tend to have victim mentality and think they’re working harder when actually they’re barely average (if that).  Privileged folks with the victim mentality also tend to be less bright and less empathetic than the average person as well.  Because if they had better awareness, they wouldn’t be blaming their privilege for not giving them the privilege they’re actually getting.  (Unless you’re talking about being more challenged in school– then yes, there’s evidence showing that white male school children are asked more difficult questions and given more time to figure out an answer before being given the answer, especially in math and science classes.  It’s what we call the “soft bigotry of low expectations” for girls and minority children.)

Q:  how to pay debts without a job?

A:  u can always find money but not a family i love my parents

No, wait… I don’t think random googler has the best answer there.  Though getting a family loan is possible, as is moving in with family in some situations (but obviously not all).  1.  Sell your STUFF.  2.  Sign up for public programs for which you qualify (do you qualify for unemployment? food stamps?)  3.  Call your creditors and tell them the situation– ask for forbearance.  4.  Try for any kind of odd job you can get (assuming it doesn’t conflict with unemployment benefit retirements if you qualified for them in #2), temp agencies, pet sitting, cleaning etc. 5.  Cut your spending– you should be back to rice and beans.

Q:  what do you think about reading

A:  We are pro-

Q:  are you grumpy when your sick?

A:  YES.  Also mopey.  And annoying.

Q:  if i work more, should my partner do more housework?

A:  That is something that must be decided on a partner-by-partner basis, especially if there are children involved.  If this is an item of contention, you may want to spend some of your income hiring outside help.

Q:  why kids these days work harder than you did in high school

A:  They don’t.  If you mean you instead of me, then I hate to say it, but you kind of had the reputation for being a slacker back then.  I’m surprised nobody told you…

Q:  do only people in new england say wicked

A:  No.  Also people in Oz.   (By which we do not mean down undah, but rather the Land of.)  They mean something different by it.  A more literal interpretation.

Q:  why banned books are a waste money

A:…. well, some of them suck.  But many of them are a good use of money.  Some of them you may want to check out of your library before deciding on whether or not to spend moneys.

Q:  what role do ethics play in market efficiency

A:  None.

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A scare and a heartbeat

On Thursday night I had a bleeding scare.  Brown blood mixed with mucus.  Friday morning we called the doctor and gave them some information.  No, no fever, no intercourse, no chills, yes lower back pain, no abdominal cramps…  They said bedrest (which I know doesn’t work first trimester, but we don’t live in a city) and go to the emergency room if the blood turns red or cramps start.  We asked… should we get a baseline beta (blood test)?  They said sure, why not.

To make a long story short, the bleeding stopped on Sunday and we spent the next few days playing phone tag and finally gave up and changed doctors.  My previous doctor is good, and actually delivered DC as the backup for the amazing OB/GYN who moved to Australia… but it is impossible to get an appointment in her office less than a month in advance, and it is difficult to get in touch with her nurse.  The new doctor recently moved to the area and was able to fit us in in a day’s notice.

So, while waiting to hear back from the nurse about the second beta (if they go down => miscarriage… if they go up… that may be ok or may just be the placenta making hormones), we went to the new doctor and did an ultrasound.  This one was abdominal rather than transvaginal, but the baby and heartbeat showed up just the same.  I cried.  She was also able to give us our beta results since she’s in the same hospital system as our other doctor.  Heartbeat is healthy.  Growth exactly on track.  Everything is fine.  Six days of tension and fear melted away.

Now, the new doctor said some things that aren’t factually correct.  I mentioned my PCOS.  She said, very confidently, there’s no difference in miscarriage rates between PCOS women and normal women.  Maybe I should have contradicted her, but I didn’t say anything given it was our first meeting.  But, if there’s no difference then why the heck am I on 1500mg metformin?  I’m pretty darn sure the only reason I put up with it is because 1500mg metformin has been shown to lower the chance of miscarriage for women with PCOS to that of normal women in the first trimester.  My previous doctor said new research has come out in the past 5 years suggesting I should stay on it for the duration of the pregnancy because even though it doesn’t change chance of miscarriage or stillbirth past first trimester it has been shown to improve other outcomes.

But I can see the new doctor if I have sudden bleeding, and I have to wait up to 4 weeks to see the previous doctor.

The problem is if I have other issues that are beyond her area of expertise.  These days it really seems like you have to become an expert on whatever problems you have.  We do so much asking and suggesting to the doctors based on empirical research and what other women’s doctors in larger cities who really are experts suggest to their patients.  I wish I could have an OB/GYN who is as awesome as DC’s pediatrician.  When we went in to the pedi with a problem we hadn’t the slightest clue about, he was able to look at DC, ask a couple questions, do a couple of tests, diagnose the problem (“Nursemaid’s elbow”), fix it, then explain how to avoid it or fix it ourselves.  If something like that happens to me… I’m just up excrement creek.  As long as things I can Google happen I’m fine, but once I’m out of my league, I really wish I were living in a city.

But the baby is alive.  And for now that’s what is important.  Hopefully there won’t be any more bleeding scares.

And now I can get back to work… there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t do in the past week that really needs to get done.  But it’s much easier to do without that overwhelming worry.


  • Dear authors, don’t make your fricking tables confusing if you want a positive referee report.
  • p.s.  If you make your tables confusing anyway, then for goodness sake, put numbers from the tables in the main text so there’s at least a chance of figuring out WTH you’re doing.
  • Dear students;  I am tired of teaching you things.  If you can’t write a paper by now, I give up.  Write something good, you will get a good grade.  Write something not good, you get a bad grade.  The end.  That is all there is to it.  I refuse to explain all the bad parts this time.  You were supposed to know this already the first zillion times I pointed it out.  Just suck up your grade and work harder next time.
  • Dear parent of the birthday kid, Don’t say, “Gifts optional” on the invitation, or even “No gifts.”  What happens is almost everybody brings a gift anyway and the one kid who didn’t feels like crap.  This is especially true when you do present opening at the party.  Also:  people are going to ignore, “lightly used gifts only” and “wrap in newspaper”.  Nobody has newspaper anymore and we’d much rather reuse our umpteen birthday party bags from our kid’s last party.  And it’s easier to spend $10-$15 on something new (or raid the gift closet) than have to try to figure out what can both be parted with and the birthday kid will like.  So really, everybody is going to ignore your instructions except a few rules followers whose kids may end up feeling terrible because of it.
  • Dear Candidate, When you do your job market talk, we would like to know: 1.  What is your research question? 2. What did you do to address it?  Conclusions would be nice too, as would info on why your question is important.  But these National-Geographic-like surveys of phenomenon or places that don’t give us any idea of what, why, or how… really we’d rather watch the Travel Channel.
  • Dear applicant, If what you do is a subset of the jargon terminology we put in the ad, make sure you use the jargon terminology from the ad (in addition to the subset) in your application so it is clear you do that jargon thing.  Not everybody on the search committee knows about the jargon terminology field, and it may be difficult to explain to them that you do, in fact, do the jargon terminology thing… or worse, if we’re not looking for your specific term and there are a lot of applications, your cv may never get looked at any more closely.  Save us all some trouble and at least mention the jargon term once on your cv.

Christmas books we love

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I used to love listening to this read aloud on the radio as we spent the day driving to my grandmother’s house in a neighboring state.  There’s just something wonderful about the idea that a person can heal and change and become a better person.

Related:  Best movie version (and best soundtrack):  The Muppets Christmas Carol

A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s writing is always delicious, but this book is especially so.  Gypsum, the protagonist, spends much of the book making baked goods for Christmas… cookies, brownies… first in conventional ways, and later with her new-found … well, you’ll have to read the book.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett plays with the winter solstice on Discworld, causing us to question our own cultural beliefs here on Earth.  Also:  Death’s daughter, a fantastic story, and other great characters.  We also enjoyed the video adaptation.

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, by Jean Shepherd

I have to admit that after several Christmases in a row at the in-laws with the tv blaring the 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon… I’m a little sick of A Christmas Story (which I have completely memorized).  But still have  a soft spot for the collection of essays upon which it is based.  (Actually it’s based on a couple of books of essays, but this one has some of the main parts.  And you can get just the selected essays to go with the movie, but then you would miss out.)

What are your favorite Christmas (and other winter holiday) books?

Monday money: Be nice. (charitable giving)

We here at Grumpy Rumblings know that you thirst to discover our wisdom in regards to charitable giving.  At this time of year, a lot of people, including us, donate more money than we do year-round.  What follows are suggestions for you, the reader, of things that are awesome (and a few that aren’t).  You can also give to these charities in someone else’s name as a gift for the person who has everything.

Recommended charities that could use a little moolah:

  • Girl Scouts of America.  Their cookies are tasty and the organization has always emphasized diversity.
  • Goodwill.  If you don’t have any money, clean out your closet.
  • Planned Parenthood.  Providing sexual and reproductive healthcare for men and women — not just birth control & abortions but all sorts of vital health care and education. Every child a wanted child.
  • Child’s Play.  Won’t someone think of the children?  Toys for kids in hospitals is unassailable. When someone said gamers were violent and antisocial, these guys founded a charity.
  • Heifer International.  You can donate cute baby animals and know that HI emphasizes training for self-sufficiency and community collaboration.  If you do it through this link, you can even get cool stuff from fantasy author Pat Rothfuss (which, by the way, go buy all his books right now).
  • Your local…
    • library needs your donations and probably your political advocacy, too, if you wanna write a letter
    • food bank
    • animal shelters need your time and goods as well as money
    • school scholarship fund
  • Donors Choose.  #2 is really into this one.  You can fund math and science projects for inner-city kids, how cool is that?  Or really anything you want … do it or the pigeon will shank you.
  • Reading is Fundamental.  Because books are good and everyone should have access.
  • Living Beyond Breast Cancer — they help support and advocate for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  They helped #2’s mother with the emotional aspects of her recovery.
  • (a further list from Scalzi’s blog is here)


  • Boy Scouts of America.  Their stance on homosexuality is unacceptable.
  • Salvation Army.  Also hates the gays, is anti-gay marriage, and says that homosexual people should be celibate.  (Look it up if you don’t believe me!) [Disclosure:  #2 donated when the SA were the first folks to get to Katrina victims, but that was a special occasion.  They still send her lots of mail.]
  • Susan G. Komen foundation participates in Pinkwashing and is a big offender in what Twisty calls the Breast Cancer Brand Woman. Cancer is degrading enough already.

Are there any worthy causes our readers would like to plug?  Have at it in the comments!

link love

Daily finances experiments with brewing vs buying coffee.

An interview with awful library books from artifact collectors.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance. 

Bardiac with a very true comic.

Roxie’s world remembers Ruth Stone.

Contemplative mammoth talks about how to get a faculty job in 20 not so easy steps.

Que Sera could use some encouragement in this post about whether or not she will ever get paid for her work.

Not of general interest with a magic 8 ball we wish we could post on our doors.  Maybe after tenure.

Wandering Scientist asks why you get involved with online discussion/arguments.

Ask the Grumpies: Alternative realities, alternative futures

First Generation American asks

My question for folks who are smart is this: Do you ever wonder what life would have been like doing a completely different career, or going to a totally different discipline. Do you think you’ll pursue a second career at some point? What would it be in? With average intelligence people, maybe they don’t have those options…they know what they’re good at and they have to go a certain way, but with smart people, the options are limitless. I almost went into medicine. I often wonder what my life would be like and who I’d be married to if at all. I think my standard of living would be about the same, but I’m not sure about quality of life and if it’d be better or worse.

#1:  One thing to note, even people of average or below average intelligence can become smarter.  Intelligence is fluid and hard work can increase it.  I see this with my students, especially in the area of math.  With enough effort they start getting it.

We have one set of friends who we envy.  One spouse has the same degree as my partner, the other is doing something I could do easily.  The live in paradise where they own a house on which they were able to put 40% down.  They had maternity leave, paternity leave, and were able to cut their hours after each child was born.  Why did we go to graduate school?  That’s 6 years we could have been earning and saving and living someplace not miserable.

Will we pursue a different career?  My partner probably will.  As for me, I don’t know.

#2:  More and more I wonder this after my Friday of hell…

Seriously though, I really have been wondering.  I still like academia but our recent external program review called our working conditions “shocking”.  At least I’m not crazy, it really is this bad here.  But what else would I do?  the academic job market is for shit.  Maybe I would try to do something with writing and editing, freelance.  Of course that would be hard, and not a lot of money, at least not for a while.  I have hobbies but I don’t want to make them into career choices.  Does “dreaming of moving to a real city” count?  ‘Cause I’ve been doing some of that recently.  Honestly, I should look more at this question.  Perhaps something to do some internet searching on over break.

I have always wanted to be a college professor (well, after I went through the stages of wanting to be an astronaut, mad scientist, etc.), and the academic lifestyle really suits my brain.  There aren’t any staff positions I want though, and I’m not very good at being a freelance grant-writer or statistical analyst.  I could do some of each of those things, but I can’t have my retirement depend on them.  Hmmm.  Sorry I don’t have a better answer!

Life Changing books

A lot of books have small influences on your life.  But a few books are useful, powerful, and different enough to change EVERYTHING.

Your Money or Your Life :  See our post on this phenomenal book here.  If you haven’t read it yet, read it!

The Paradox of Choice:  See our post on this book here.

Mindset: some day we will post on this one…

Bogleheads Guide to Investing : This book is awesome because it can save you a ton of money.  How to match the market at the lowest cost, and why that should be your goal.  Simple but powerful.  I am so excited– we sent this to my partner’s father and he’s actually changing his entire investment strategy because of it.  Getting a Vanguard account and everything.  No more calling us to ask about tech stocks (and us saying, uh, we do index funds).  He even said he was thinking of getting a fund with a 4% load that his broker recommended, but now instead he’s going to invest directly through Vanguard himself.  I’m not used to partner’s family changing things based on our advice.

Help!  My apartment has a kitchen! : Saved my ability to eat reasonably priced healthy food on a strict time schedule.  Also Faster! I’m starving! once DC got big enough to need to eat a full-sized meal too.

Taking charge of your fertility :  Gave me a better understanding of how and why I was messed up.  For normal women it will probably just give them a better understanding of themselves.

Our Babies, Ourselves:  Confession-time.  I used to be a scared excrement-less mother.  I was terrified not only that my baby was going to die (though that part was understandable), but that I was going to destroy hir one way or another if I didn’t pay attention to the right research.  This book freed me from all that.  Sure, I still scour pub-med when I hear something and am trying to decide whether or not to apply it, but this book showed me with strong scientific grounding that there are infinite good ways of raising a child and although children may turn out differently they generally don’t turn out better or worse because of it.  It let me relax and listen to my instincts more.  If what I was doing felt right (given I wasn’t abused or neglected as a child myself), it probably was the right thing to do.  Plus all those nights when DC fell asleep on DH’s chest weren’t going to kill anybody (given we’re not obese).

Related:  Diaper Free Before Three.  You don’t have to do Brazleton signs of potty readiness vs. infant training.  There’s a whole scientifically validated times when potty training is easier or harder (in fact, Brazelton’s signs correlate with one of the worse times to try… which may have something to do with the fact that his research was paid for by Pampers).  Kids used to train before age 2, now it is after age 3.  That’s not because we were harming kids before!  This book was freeing not only because of the potty training thing but also because it illustrated the points made in Our Babies, Ourselves with an example concrete to today.

What are books that have changed your life?


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