Do you know anybody who has quit a tenured or tenure-track job mid-semester. Do you know why? How did that work out?
Do you know anybody who has quit a tenured or tenure-track job mid-semester. Do you know why? How did that work out?
I have a confession to make. They totally don’t stress me out. I find them to be totally relaxing. Holidays are awesome.
And yes, I’m the one with kids. And yes, we celebrate Christmas.
Now, the end of the semester is a bit stressful. Finishing up classes, then the final exam, then grading. Also the OMG everybody is about to disappear we must have these last 50 faculty meetings to discuss urgent business. Oh, and the 20 referee reports that are due right in the beginning of December. And the 30 letters of recommendation. That part is kind of stressful. When all of that is over and the students are gone, it’s hugely peaceful. So our Christmas season doesn’t really start until classes end (sometime in the late teens or early 20s of December, depending on the year). The kids don’t seem to mind an abbreviated season at home even if school and stores start at Thanksgiving.
Do we make Christmas cookies? Sometimes. If we feel like it. Ditto Christmas breads. I like buying a little live rosemary tree a week or so before Christmas and we decorate that. Christmas shopping mostly happens online. Stocking stuffers (the only thing “Santa” brings) get bought at Target when we pick up gift cards for the teachers. We’ve taken the oldest to see the Nutcracker.
Having the kids home 24/7 can be a little stressful, whether it’s Christmas or not. (At least until DC2 learns to read like DC1.) We try to arrange family visits so they overlap at least a little with kids’ vacation so that they can burn some of their energy off on the relatives. Spread it out, so to speak. We definitely use daycare as much as it’s open, and DC1 goes to daycamp for one of the weeks that ze is off (same place ze goes in the summer).
This time of year articles start popping up about the Elf on the Shelf and all sorts of crafty etc. time-consuming holiday traditions that moms can do to make things magical. And that’s great for the parents who get utility out of doing stuff like that. We love that DC1′s best friend’s mom is doing another gingerbread house party this year.
But what about people who feel compelled to do all the Christmas stuff even though they hate it? The folks who are totally stressed out because they have to remember to move the elf every night, or they would rather watch a movie than make cookies, or they have a racist uncle Mike that they hate seeing every year at Christmas dinner?
Think about your sources of holiday stress (if any).
What happens if you:
1. Don’t do them? Would the world end if you just didn’t visit your racist relatives and stayed at home with the family you chose and you love instead? If you don’t do outdoor lights? Will the children be scarred for life if the elf moves to another house and never returns?
2. Pay someone else to do them instead? I learned this year that I will never adopt a family and go shopping for them again– instead I’ll just give money for someone else to shop with.
3. Get someone else in the family to do them? Why is it always mom’s job to bring holiday cheer? Maybe another family member can step in and take the kids to see the lights or bake cookies and clean up the kitchen etc.
4. Change them so they’re less stressful? Maybe instead of getting a big cut tree you can get something that’s more manageable. Maybe you can change a tradition so it’s more chill. Instead of 12 different batches of cookies, maybe one or two. Maybe it’s time for Santa to drop off the packages early and to leave them with some assembly required after they’re unwrapped.
5. Reframe them so they’re not as stressful? Sometimes you can just will yourself to enjoy a long drive (in the snow) to see the grandparents. It’s an adventure instead of a chore. Sometimes that’s not possible, but if you can’t get out of doing something, might as well make the best of it.
Do you have holiday stress? What tips do you have for avoiding holiday stress? What have you tried that’s worked for you?
The media has it out for Gwyneth Paltrow. They’ve got a thing going where she’s out of touch and too-perfect and privileged and whatever. She doesn’t help it with the things she posts on her blog. After reading this post by Family Building with a Twist, I had to see what the latest thing was. Turns out she’s suggested hundred dollar hostess gifts and stocking stuffers (cynically, I would not be surprised if some of the items on that list were sponsored or put down as favors for someone invested in their sale). Useless over-priced crap that rich people give to each other even though they don’t need more stuff. Because they can.
It actually reminded me of this recent CNN article on the huge amounts being spent on art and jewelry. Money that is definitely not “trickling down” to the little people.
This is what wealth inequality does. It makes useless luxury items more expensive and it moves wealth around amongst the wealthy. It doesn’t feed kids.
But that doesn’t make me hate Gwyneth Paltrow. Infinitely worse are people like the Koch brothers or Roger Ailes and other extremely wealthy people who are against higher marginal taxes for the 1% or for cutting food-stamps. If Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t realize that not everybody can afford organic foods, personal trainers, or $200 hostess gifts, then she should be educated on that. Maybe a little mingling with the hoi poloi could spark some social activism on her part, though she doesn’t have to become an activist. Pretension isn’t worth worrying about unless it harms others. She’s not actually doing real harm, just providing media fodder for fun little let’s hate the privileged rich girl stories. (Now that Paris Hilton has dropped out of the public eye.)
And why do we have the privileged little rich girl stories instead of stories about people who are actually doing harm? Well, Gwyenth Paltrow is harmless. She’s a side-show. She can’t harm us. She can’t harm a media organization. She’s probably even well-intentioned. And she’s female.
People love to put down “perfect” women. Paltrow is thin, pretty, rich, and self-confident. Crabs in a bucket like to pull people like that down. It provides circus entertainment to distract us from real problems, like unemployment, failing education systems, or children going hungry while the top 1% gets wealthier and wealthier. It is her very irrelevance that makes her the perfect sacrifice. Attack the perfect woman and we’ll feel better about ourselves and we’ll be less likely to riot in the streets. We’ve dealt our blows to the system by making fun of an actress who doesn’t know any better. And that isn’t going to fix a damn thing. It’s just sending yet another signal that women shouldn’t get too uppity or other women will hate them. That’s a stupid signal.
The patriarchy is insidious in its divide and conquer strategies. It’s great at distracting us from real problems, because those real problems are caused by people we can’t be catty about. Those people are dangerous and powerful. They’re not writing up silly over-priced gift lists on their blogs. Much easier to channel that ire against women. The patriarchy is good at this stuff. It’s had lots of practice.
So my kids were not blessed with fast-growing hair. For each of them sometime before age 1.5 they ended up with awful mullets. Their heads grow faster than the hair, so it gets short on the sides with the proverbial party in back. Awful.
For boys, that’s an easy fix. First haircut and you’re back to presentable.
For girls… there’s either the pixie cut, or there’s the putting up teeny tiny rubber-banded spikes on the side of the head (“Pebbles-style”)… and I think that’s it. Maybe a person can try to even it out, but it’s still going to be longer in the back than on the sides.
So what do people do with the toddler mullet? Just leave it?
Good jobs provide decent wages, decent working conditions, and good benefits. Bad jobs don’t. These things tend to be correlated– you don’t get a job that provides great benefits and terrible wages and terrible working conditions. Minimum wage jobs are generally not great along any dimension.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about minimum wage jobs and income inequality. What is our responsibility towards the poor? What is McDonald’s responsibility? Should taxpayers subsidize low wage jobs so people can live on what they’re making? Why are people working at low wage jobs for decades and not being promoted to a living wage? Why is the median age of a fast food worker in the late 20s, and for women in the early 30s?
Some of the problem is structural. The United States is rapidly becoming polarized. Income inequality is growing. It really is true that the middle class is vanishing. Instead of a good amount of medium-skill middle-income jobs, the country is being divided into low-wage low-skill jobs and high-wage high-skill jobs.
I present for you a fascinating and depressing article on the topic:
The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labor Market
David H. Autor and David Dorn
We offer a unified analysis of the growth of low-skill service occupations between 1980 and 2005 and the concurrent polarization of US employment and wages. We hypothesize that polarization stems from the interaction between consumer preferences, which favor variety over specialization, and the falling cost of automating routine, codifiable job tasks. Applying a spatial equilibrium model, we corroborate four implications of this hypothesis. Local labor markets that specialized in routine tasks differentially adopted information technology, reallocated low-skill labor into service occupations (employment polarization), experienced earnings growth at the tails of the distribution (wage polarization), and received inflows of skilled labor.
We also hear a lot about job creation and how important it is to support small businesses and small entrepreneurs. But what kinds of jobs are these small businesses creating?
By Adam Seth Litwin and Phillip H. Phan
Although much has been written on the quantity of jobs created by entrepreneurs, scholars have yet to examine the quality of these jobs. In this article, the authors begin to address this important issue by examining nearly 5,000 businesses that began operations in 2004. They investigate the extent to which nascent employers provide what many think of as quality jobs—those offering health care coverage and a retirement plan. The authors find that because of small scale, constrained resources, and protection from institutional pressures, start-up companies do not provide their employees with either of these proxies for job quality, and their likelihood of offering health or retirement benefits increases only marginally over their first six years of operation. The finding that entrepreneurs’ impressive record of job creation is not matched by a similarly impressive outcome with respect to job quality challenges policymakers to ensure that entrepreneurs are encouraged to create quality employment opportunities in the course of creating new businesses.
On the whole, not very good ones.
But it isn’t the invisible hand that’s creating this income inequality all by itself. The government can subsidize poor people directly, allowing companies to continue to exploit cheap labor (or it can let those people and their children starve, as Fox News seems to be encouraging–something that will eventually lead to riots in the short term and lower productivity in the long term). Or the government can change its policies to stop promoting income inequality. It can go back to many of the big Nixon- and Johnson- era policies that helped promote a growing middle-class. So that people don’t work at McDonald’s at minimum wage for decades unless that is truly all that they’re capable of doing.
Seems like this is the year (or month or something) of saying no. We’ve been enjoying Femomhist‘s series on the topic, and have been cheering Dr. Crazy‘s new found ability to say no to unreasonable requests.
#1 is a big proponent of saying, “Yes, but…” to unreasonable requests. Think about what you would need to make something worthwhile. If what you would need in return is unreasonable, so much the better.
So, “Yes, I will teach an overload this semester, but I will need a course reduction in writing in the future.” “Yes, I will allow my section to be twice as large, but I will need grading support.” “Yes, I will be chair of the department, but only if you double my salary.” Maybe not quite that blunt on the last one, but you get the idea. (Ideally you phrase it in a way that makes it sound like you need the thing in order to benefit the department, “As you know, my research agenda is very important for the department’s ranking…” “As you know, it is vital that the students get feedback on their homework, and without grading support…” “Doing a good job as chair will take up a lot of time, and I’ll need to be able to make some cuts in time-use at home, may not be able to apply for grants,…”)
Sometimes they say yes, they can get you what you need, and the unreasonable request is no longer as unreasonable. Often they say they can’t do that and move on to their next victim.
The big benefit to this strategy is that you are no longer the first or even the second person that they ask to do these unreasonable requests. And, by the time they get to you, they may be desperate enough that they’re willing to give compensation.
#2 notes that her requests for compensation are usually also unreasonable given the monetary restrictions in her department. So either she gets forced into doing it anyway, or else it becomes a hard NO because the thing that would make it a YES are unavailable. For example, my college won’t pay me enough to be chair of our department. I would need a WHEELBARROW more money than they’re willing to give in order to even consider it. And also, the dean got annoyed when I made it clear that’s what I wanted. For some reason I should just do it out of the goodness of my heart, I guess? HAIL NO. #1 notes that this is how it is supposed to work– that hard NO isn’t really a hard no, it’s a Yes, but it’s too bad you can’t compensate appropriately for what you’re asking. If the dean really wanted you to do it, ze would have come up with the funds. Fortunately for you someone else had a lower asking price.
How do you react to unreasonable requests?
Everyone loves the Paperbag Princess… except we kind of didn’t. We know we’re probably alone in that.
#2 did have a recording of the author reading it that she listed to a lot as a child and liked. #1 didn’t read it until she was older and felt too deeply about it. Like, why is she even giving this jerk the time of day? Poor dragon, stuff like that. #1 thinks perhaps she wasn’t getting the messages it was trying to give, but the ones it wasn’t trying to give. Like, women are supposed to be subordinate to men. That thought would not have crossed my mind, and yet, it is presented as the default option in the Paperbag Princess. Sort of like educational television that makes kids behave worse because seeing the bad behavior that gets resolved at the end is more striking than the eventual resolution.
We like the books that don’t present it as a conflict, but instead present the ideal as status quo. And we really only know one book like that.
We LOVED Boy Meets Boy. It takes place at a school where there’s no question about whether it’s ok to be gay. It’s like 2/3 of the book in where the author addresses how weird that it’s not like that in other towns. Boy Meets Boy is a splendid book and people should read it!
Of course, we also know that ignoring -isms doesn’t make them go away. They do need to be brought to light and discussed. But maybe subtlety isn’t the best way in children’s books.
Should literature present the ideal or present the reality, and when?
I don’t think anybody ever wants to have a late-term abortion, which is abortion before viability but after some specified number of weeks (in Texas, that number is currently 20).
People on the internet and on the radio and so on who have late term abortions are generally in one kind of situation.
They desperately wanted the baby. Or maybe the baby was a late-life surprise, but they came to want it.
Sometime after 20 weeks they found that the fetus had no brain. Or its organs were outside of its body. Or it had some other horrible birth defect which would cause it to be in horrible pain for its short existence should it be born.*
Recently the news has been making a big deal about some survey that was done asking people their thoughts on late-term abortion. “Women disagree with Wendy Davis,” the headlines shout.
1. As with any abortion, some of those surveyed (and indeed, many people) strongly believe that *they* would never have an abortion, or that kind of abortion, but at the same time, they believe they should not enforce their beliefs on others. Some people with that set of beliefs call themselves pro-life, not realizing that means they are actually pro-choice. (See, for example, Bristol Palin. Yes, a subset of people really does believe that there are large numbers of pro-abortion people out there. They’re living in a scary world.) It is difficult to separate the question of, “Would you do X” from “Should everyone be prevented from doing X”, and in these surveys people sometimes answer one question meaning the other, especially when the question is vague, “Do you support a woman doing X?”
2. People give very different answers to the question, “Should late-term abortions be illegal?” and “Stacy and Harry were so excited to finally have a new baby on the way. Unfortunately, at 21 weeks they found out that the child they’d hoped and dreamed of had a birth defect in which it was missing several internal organs and that would cause the baby to die a few hours to a few days after birth. The baby would be in excruciating pain during that time. After painful reflection and discussion, Stacy and Harry decide that the humane thing to do would be to end the pregnancy. Should Stacy be allowed to have an abortion?”
People actually give different answers to all abortion questions, often saying no abortions to the general question but yes to any specific example.
3. Pro-life people often make exceptions in real life when the question is if they should get an abortion or if their daughter should get an abortion. As always, the wealthy will be able to hop on a plane to get a legal abortion elsewhere, or pay to get a safe hospital abortion using whatever quasi-legal avenue is available to them. As for everyone else, read The Search for an Abortionist by Nancy Howell Lee.
States are rapidly taking away women’s right to choose. They’re doing it in places where people are least able to get around the laws to find safe abortions, suggesting a return of dangerous back-alley abortions. In the 1970s, I am told that even some pro-life people were pro-legal abortion because they knew someone who had died at the hands of an illegal abortionist, and they thought a safe and legal abortion was the lesser evil. Women will always have abortions, my mother’s generation says, the only question is if they are safe and legal or unsafe and illegal.
I don’t know what to do about all of this. My mother says there will eventually be a backlash and a revolt, but I don’t know. It seems to me that there’s money fueling the war on women at the state level, but nobody with money fighting in the opposite direction.
What can be done? What are you doing?
*Some late term abortions are also abortions that should have been early-term but because of red tape and credit constraints, time passed before the abortion could happen. The solution to that problem is to stop making it difficult for women to get early abortions!
Update: Planned Parenthood donation page.
One of the things parents of gifted kids get accused of a lot is forcing flashcards on their children. In reality, that doesn’t happen a whole lot. Gifted kids tend to learn to read and count without flashcards. Many of them learn basic arithmetic and other facts just through repetition in day to day school stuff.
However, flashcards do have their place.
DC1 is ready to move on from 2nd grade math to 3rd grade. There’s all sorts of neat new things to learn. Unfortunately we started hitting perfectionist melt-down road-blocks. DH finally figured out that these melt-downs were happening when multiplication was involved. Coincidentally, DC1′s end of the year report-card came with a note to practice DC1′s multiplication facts over the summer. (She also sent a reading fluency workbook that ze loved so much ze’s finished it, links to suggested booklists, and some handwriting practice.)
So I sat down and had a chat with DC1 about maybe learning hir times tables this summer. At first ze was resistant, but I explained that when I was in 2nd or maybe 3rd grade, I had trouble with my times tables too and my mom had to eventually sit me down and drill me with them until I got them. (And then I became the fastest in the class, sometimes tying with but usually beating another kid named Ahmed at Around the World, but I didn’t tell DC1 that. Competition is out these days.) I’ve also helped tons of people learn their times tables with flash cards, including DC1′s aunt. So grudgingly ze agreed to try, and I promised ze’d know the times tables by the end of the summer, which was 2 months off. Ze figured that was a good goal and was a little excited by it.
Day 1 went smoothly with DC1 giggling at already knowing all the times 0s. Day 2 with the times 1s went similarly. We had a few hiccups with times 2s on day 3, especially with 12. Anytime ze didn’t know one, we’d stop and figure out how to get the answer. Then I would put it back in the pack randomly. If ze didn’t get it a second time, I’d put it back in the pack one card away so ze would see it again almost immediately. We’d go through the entire deck once, removing cards ze got immediately and repeating cards ze got wrong or took time to get until the entire deck was gone through correctly and immediately. The cards that ze didn’t know right away would show up the next day too as review.
On the times 3s, we had to take a break, but got through. Ze started being able to figure out how to get 3*6 if ze already knew 3*5 using the techniques we’d used for times twos.
On the times 4s, we had a full blown melt-down. Tears, daddy-intervention cuddles time, not knowing, snack breaks, the whole thing. Horrible. But when cajoled back, I showed hir 7*4 (a sticking point), and ze said immediately “28, but I’m just guessing”, and then 4*4 was “16 but I’m just guessing” and we explained that that’s how memorization works. It was truly a lightbulb moment for DC1 and ze flipped through the times 4s as if ze had always known them. Suddenly they were easy. Ze ran off to get quizzed by DH, who was appropriately impressed. “I’m just guessing and I get the answer,” DC1 explained.
Next day times 5s, which ze mostly knew and could easily figure out on hir own via skip counting. A couple of the times 4s still giving trouble, but nothing major– more like 4*3 = 16 no? 12.
Times 6s were mostly unfamiliar (starting with 6*6, but reviewing 0-5*6), but we got through them without any fussing. DC1 had gone through a mindset change, the likes of which ze probably hasn’t done since learning to ride a bike or finally being able to swim. (Both of which happened long enough ago ze may not really remember.) Ze realized that ze could do the seemingly impossible if ze just worked at it and practiced enough.
Next day we took a break from new numbers in order to clear out all the legacy times that could use more review. To my surprise, after the first go-round only 6*6 remained. DC1 was very proud of hirself and eager to do the times 7s the next day. We also spent two days on the times 7s, with only one remaining.
And so on until we got through the times 12s. (Honesty compels me to admit another small meltdown on the times 8s, though not as bad as the 4s.) Then general review through all the cards, keeping the ones ze didn’t know automatically. Then the pages of multiplication tables the teacher sent home, 5 minutes a day.
And now we can go onto more interesting math stuff.
So… flashcards. Much maligned, but useful. Even rote memorization can sometimes teach a real lesson about persistence and growth.
Do you have strong feelings about flash cards one way or another?
The Penny-Arcade guys are awesome. They started out as a couple of dudes with a web-comic. They’ve taken that web-comic and their fame and channeled it for something much bigger. Yes, they run conventions, but more impressively, they started an awesome charity called Childs Play.
This charity, aimed at showing that video games are not evil incarnate, and that gamers can do good, connects children’s hospitals with games, books, toys, and other resources to help sick children keep their minds off their illnesses. Donations started small– one hospital and the PA guys’ garages as storage facilities, and they made deliveries themselves. Now they’ve ratcheted up into a large non-profit that connects with and ships directly to hospitals.
You can donate here.
And now for some negative griping.
Compare the PA guys to the onanistic navel-gazing you see from other movements. The minimalists. The travel the world folks. The motivationalists. [Note: we are not saying that all minimalists, world-travelers, self-helpers etc. are onanistic con-artists, but you know they exist.]
The Penny Arcade dudes are real. They have authenticity.
So much of that motivational crap seems so hollow and insincere, aimed just at making money off other people.
For the most part, they’re not actually doing anything.
The P-A guys, OTOH, are teh awesome.
And that, perhaps, is why I don’t expect them to get mid-life crises. When you’re busy doing things that are real, you don’t have time to feel like life is meaningless.
also: I like the word onanistic