Adventures in why you should never do contract work while getting unemployment insurance

DH was offered the chance to do some contract work by some former colleagues who needed his skill-set to help with a grant proposal.  He would have done it for free as a favor, but they had money for it so they wanted to pay.  It also turned out to be more work than they initially said it would be.

Before he agreed, I was like, what will this do to your employment insurance?  And he said that he’d looked it up and they would prorate it and then give it back if he ran out of weeks (that is, he could stay on unemployment insurance a little longer up to the amount that he was prorated).  He would have to declare the weeks he actually worked, not when he sent in the invoice or when he actually got paid.  (He has not yet been paid.)

Turns out that they don’t ask for all of the information that they need on the form to declare contract work.  We found this out later.  Here’s how we got to that part:

So three weeks after he turned his stub in, I noticed he hadn’t been paid the week before like he should have been.  So he went on the online site and it said there was a problem with his unemployment insurance and they had stopped it and he needed to call some number.

So he called the number and it said leave your number to call back.  So he did.  Then he waited a few days and the weekend and a few days and nobody called back.  So he called again and was on hold for over an hour (maybe an hour and a half?) then that office sent him to another office and he was on hold for a while, but under an hour.  Then he got someone and was giving them his information and the other person’s phone went out (are they doing this from home? was it a cellphone?)  So DH was like, surely they will call me back (HAHAHAHA), but of course they did not!

So the next day DH looked up what to do on reddit, and they gave him the number for the place he’d been transferred to rather than the first place, so he would only have to be on hold for part of the time.  Except, that second number was overburdened so instead of being on hold, it would give a message that it was overburdened and to try again later.  Reddit says this is normal and to just keep trying.  So he did.  And eventually he got through, after maybe half an hour of continuously redialing.  Then they got his information, then got the information for the place he contracted from *which they could have requested online when he declared income,* but didn’t.  They didn’t even tell him they’d cut off his benefits.  He just … didn’t get them.  They have his email address and could have sent him something, but they didn’t.  They could have warned him this would happen when he submitted the form.

This is a hurdle.  This is not an accident.  They could fix it but have chosen not to.  Probably because they want people who can do contract work to give up on trying to get their unemployment benefits back and just to stay employed.  What it does instead, of course, is it keeps people from taking contract work because it’s just too much effort to declare (something I suspected when my sister’s boyfriend offered DH some contract work), and it causes people to get paid under the table or to just not report earnings.  (DH would never do that, but he would certainly do something for free instead of for pay because of the known effort cost!)  Since contract work often becomes full-time work, this could be costing people jobs.

This process is irritating to us and I was like, we need to pay someone to hit redial!  But imagine for people who actually need that money because they don’t have a high earning spouse.  How frustrating and terrifying.  And how many hours does it take away from actually looking for a job or getting education or taking care of kids etc.  Not to mention the time of the people answering the phones for something that could have been collected online when it was initially declared.

Stupid administrative burden.

Have you ever dealt with your state’s unemployment insurance system?  Did it work smoothly or did you have any problems?

Link Love

Guys, there is a LOT going on right now.  I don’t know how many of our readers live in the South like #1 does, but if you do, PLEASE check to see if your state legislature is in session right now and if they are attacking:  1.  Voting Rights, 2.  LGBT children, 3. Abortion rights, 4. Anything else that is terrible (like not requiring licenses for gun ownership!).  Also, you may want to check if there are good bills about A.  Expanding Medicare… B… not sure what else is plausible right now.  If there are, please call your local representatives and come out in strong force against them (or for the good things).  Children’s wellbeing is in grave danger– that LGBT “show me your genitals” bill that is in most of the Southern states right now is horrifying– it allows for literally checking girls’ genitals if they want to play in sports.  Yes, it is intended just to harass trans girls which is horrific by itself, but if that’s not awful enough for you, it really does allow them to check any girl.  On top of that there are bills about taking trans kids away from their loving parents, requiring teachers to report trans kids, barring trans kids from getting hormone blockers (which isn’t banned for non-trans kids and isn’t dangerous!).  I wish I had a list of some clearinghouse for all the states.  I do twitter follow someone in TX who has this page for what is going on in the Texas Lege right now and what your most efficient actions right now should be.  Here’s Georgia’s lege listSouth Carolina’sAlabamaFloridaArkansasMississippi. North CarolinaTennessee.  If you know of any for your state or another state, please link below!  Local activism is SO important right now.

If you’re in a Blue State, your focus should be on getting rid of the filibuster, passing HR1 (voting rights), making DC a state, expanding the supreme court, gun control, and anything else you think is important– here’s a 5calls list.  Let your blue congressperson know these are priorities and that they are worth it.  They want to do these things, but they need justification.  They need to know their constituents are into it.

Stolen goods found by off duty Carabinieri in Brussels shop.

Colton Underwood of Bachelor fame comes out as gay.  Also I apparently missed that the woman he chose (Cassie) took out a restraining order on him(!)  He was creepy stalkerish on the show and I felt bad for her then– all the bad romance novel tropes plus she just wasn’t that into him, but I didn’t realize it got that bad.  How BIZARRE.  But I’m glad he’s realized that there’s nothing wrong with being gay and I hope he is able to have healthy relationships now without you know, stalking.  Also I feel a little uncomfortable about him attributing his virginity to being gay– that may be true for him, but I feel like other people could be 20-something virgins without being any specific sexual orientation.  Sexuality is a very personal thing, and some people are asexual, some people just haven’t found the right person, and so on.

I am so hooked on Seth Meyers recaps of the (non-existent) show, Tiny Secret Whispers (streaming on the non-existent service, Butternut).  It has some real Twin Peaks vibes going on and I am DYING to find out what happens next!  (“Don’t you think I know that?!?”)  It has gotten so dark!

 

Ask the grumpies: Have you ever had a conversation that permanently changed your life?

CG asks:

Have you ever had a conversation that changed your life permanently? How?

I’m sure that I have, and probably lots of them, but I’ve been coming up blank which is why this question has been put off so long.  I mean, I had a conversation once that made me realize that mortgage interest wasn’t the same as credit card interest which changed things… but did it really change things that much?  I feel really bad because this is such an interesting question and I am dying to read everyone else’s answer, but I’ve just been coming up blank.  I’ve had a couple of conversations with people that lead to quick publications, which is always nice, but I’m not sure how life-changing that is, just you know, marginally.

We’ve read books that have changed our lives.  But that’s not a conversation.  I’ve had conversations with people that they claim caused them to permanently change their lives.  Apparently an off-hand comment I made to a friend about how dating without the internet was just as risky as dating using an internet service led her to meet her future husband through a dating app.  Another friend credits my saying that she didn’t need to go into the family business if she didn’t want to and she should think about what she’s interested in as jump-starting her career, but I think she would have gotten there on her own anyway.  I’ve saved a few of my colleagues hundreds of thousands of retirement dollars by explaining that they need to use TIAA-Cref or Fidelity rather than the super expensive retirement place that sends people around to get them to sign up with their program.  They don’t realize that I’ve changed their lives permanently and probably won’t ever know or remember, but I did.  A colleague credits me for introducing her to early potty training which she says was life-changing (I don’t even remember doing this!  But there was a time when I was super into explaining it.)

What does it say about my massive ego that I remember when people tell me I’ve changed their lives with random conversations but I don’t remember other people changing mine?  Nothing good!  Also it’s weird that it’s always the off-handed comments that I barely remember that seem to spark people.  Life is so random!

Grumpy Nation, please answer CG’s question!  It’s so fascinating!

Things quarantine has taught me

DH got his first vaccine shot.  I’m just a bit away from being completely vaccinated.  The US is starting widespread vaccination for all adults in most of the country sometime in mid-April.  This is amazing.  The prospect of escape lets me reflect.  Here are some things I’ve learned.

  • I am more productive when I’m not constantly getting random colds and other viruses from students and my kids.
  • I am more productive when I don’t have students constantly dropping into my office to say hi or to ask questions (not about the homework because I don’t allow that outside of office hours).
  • A lot of what I thought were random colds are actually allergies.  Going forward I need to be more proactive with trying allergy medicine when I’m feeling congested and not just assume I have whatever crud is going around.
  • I am more productive when I have a reasonable amount of service and some of my lack of productivity these past few years really was because I was overburdened.  I also do a lot of service that I don’t get credit for because it’s the “mom” kinds of service of remembering things that need to get done and checking to make sure they got done.
  • My children are incredibly resilient and yes I can tell them that I’m working and DC2 is more interesting than my work but I have to get work done, so ask your teacher.
  • My kids are much happier people in general when they get up at 7:30 compared to when they get up at 5:30 or even 6.
  • I am more productive at home where I have a computer that I have administration privileges over and have Dropbox working.  Our department IT is incompetent but I actually knew that before quarantine.  But the new thing is that if I work at my computer then I start treating it like a work computer and not just a play computer.
  • Gochujang really is a fantastic condiment.  We are now going through it faster than we do ketchup.
  • Curbside from the grocery store where their own workers do the picking is way better than delivery from instacart.  There really are gains to experience (human capital…) from doing something repeatedly and it isn’t completely unskilled labor.
  • DC2 doesn’t need to be out of the house to keep from bouncing off the walls, but zie DOES need mental stimulation and probably some conversation (zoom is fine) in order to let us work on work days.
  • We’re allowed to ask librarians to pick books off the shelves and hold them for us even if they’re shelved at the library where we picked them up.  It seems so lazy!  But in a quarantine, it’s great for everyone (especially with curbside pickup).  I’m wondering if I should stop doing it when it’s safe to be at the library again– that is, maybe I should go back to picking the books off of shelves myself.
  • DH actually can be away from his extended family for a year so long as he gets his weekly conversations in.
  • I am reminded at how easy it is for a large propaganda machine to sway [too many] people from being their best selves to their worst selves, even at the cost of their own personal interest.  There really must be extremely wealthy super-villains out there who get their jollies by making things worse.  Because it’s easy to make things worse and doing so makes them feel powerful.  Making things better is harder and can be frustrating.

Grumpy Nation, what has this past year and some change taught you?

Reminder: If you have kids, you need a will

If you don’t care about what happens to your assets after you die, you probably don’t need a will.  Your stuff will be apportioned out in accordance to state laws and people will get what they get, including the government.

But if you have kids, you need to make sure they’re taken care of.  Even if you don’t have much of an estate you need to make sure that if you die unexpectedly that the powers that be know where your kids are going to go.  So they don’t have to enter the foster care system.

You may be thinking, but I have a spouse, if I die or if they die then it’s obvious that the kids will just go with the other spouse.

That’s fine, but what happens if you both die at the same time?  Say you’re in a car accident together.

You need a will.

The will needs to say who is going to take care of your kids and who is going to take care of your kids’ money.  (Which they will presumably get because you and your spouse had life insurance, right?  If you have kids, you probably need life insurance!)

If you have pets, you may also need a will depending on what the people in charge of your estate would do if you died without a will.  At the very least, stick a note in their vet records saying who will take care of your pets should you be gone (and make sure that person agrees!), especially if said person is not your next of kin.  If you don’t have people you can trust, this random website says that a will may not be enough.

Do you have a will?  

Link Love

Carcinogen found in some hand sanitizers (this is different than the one from last year)

This test lets you know if your microwave has a leak, or at least it says it does.

Ask the grumpies: gender and power

Rose asks:

What are the current trends with gender and race on corporate boards and what is having impact? What are current  trends of who is attending and graduating from college and salaries by gender and race? What about graduate school. Please include % of foreign students involved. Same question about med schools today versus 25 and 50 years ago. Are more/any med schools opening today? Same about Vet Schools.

Diversity improves board performance.  Here’s Catalyst with information on gender trends. Here’s the washington post.  They’re doing less well with minority groups.

Here are college enrollment rates by race and gender.  Here are college graduation rates from the same site, though they’re from 2017 which seems a bit outdated.

Here is information on graduate school enrollment.  It also includes information on international students.

This is the breakdown for medical schools graduates for 2019, and here is enrollment for 2018.  Here’s a report on gender.  Here’s an article that compares 1980 to 2016.

Yes, there have been new medical schools in the US.  There are fewer new veterinary schools, but there have been some.

 

RBOC

  • Seems like the busier I get the more RBOC and snippets of my life you get and the fewer thoughtful substantive posts.  Ah well!
  • Vaccine update:  Second shot of Moderna, arm was sore almost right away.  Next day I woke with a massive headache.  Then I had chills alternating with overheating most of the day.  I had a hard time getting to sleep, but also wasn’t any good for work, though I participated in several faculty meetings!  It was pretty miserable and I thought to myself that if this is covid lite, then I don’t want the real thing.  Then the next day I woke up and felt great although my arm was still a little sore.
  • In case you were not eating Annie’s products because they have yeast extract, they stopped using yeast extract like 5+ years ago.  I immediately went out and bought a bunch of their cheddar snack mix.
  • We keep dried fruit and trail mix near the cat treats, and nice kitty has been trained that when we make crinkly sounds by the trail mix, she gets treats too.  I keep chocolate things in the pantry and my kids have been trained that if they catch me, they get chocolate too.  Basically, if I go to the kitchen and make crinkle sounds I suddenly have extra shadows now.  I’ve turned into Pavlov.
  • One of our tenured faculty has started talking about the same hobby horse at every single meeting at great length.  Many of us have discovered that it is a great idea to schedule another meeting right when the faculty meeting is supposed to end rather than leaving extra time.
  • It’s sad that Beverly Cleary died.  If you haven’t reread her core books as an adult, you really should, especially the Ramona ones.  They’re delightfully layered with things for kids and things for their parents that go straight over the kids heads.  Also, I always identified with Beezus because my sister is SUCH a Ramona.  Which Cleary character are you?  (I can definitely see DH as Henry!)
  • My parents always made sure we had a mix of meat, veggies, and starches at every meal.  On Wednesday we had carrots (roasted with olive oil, pomegranate and cilantro) for dinner.  On Thursday we had sweet potato fries (with a little oil, salt, paprika, and chipotle powder).  On Friday we had Korean beef slices (with a marinade and green onions).  So… we get variety over the course of a week.  (They also tend to have healthy lunches, but those are not necessarily balanced either.  Breakfast is usually cereal but not always.)
  • Our uni is having a spike in Covid cases.  But we’re opening up completely for fall with no social distancing and vaccines can’t be required of students unless the vaccine gets full approval by the FDA instead of just emergency approval.  We got those three emails one right after the other, which was really bad timing.
  • The Great British Bakeoff is hilarious whenever someone introduces an American food.  Like they were wowed by Chicken a la King and super impressed by what I consider to be a pretty sloppy pineapple upside down cake (the ones I make for DH are always quite beautiful– you’ll probably see a picture in the next batch of baking photos and I’m sure there are pictures of earlier ones).  But the most hilarious thing was when a woman was saying she was going to use peanut butter and grape jelly together in a dessert and they were like, grape with peanut butter?  There’s no way that’s going to work.  And then they were SHOCKED, shocked! when it turned out to be great.  I had to pause it to yell at the screen a little bit before I could continue.  Peanut butter and grape jelly, who would have thunk it.  What an innovative crazy idea.
  • The other thing that got me was that none of them had any idea what pita bread was supposed to look like.  They all made them oblong.  The only person who had actually eaten them before thought they were triangles because they’d been served as wedges!  PITA BREAD!!!  Do they not have Greek food in the UK?  What is UP with that?  It made me love living in the US because we may not have madiera cake or chelsea buns (which look like slightly fancier cinnamon buns), but *we have Greek food*.
  • If you do watch the Great British Bakeoff, the diversity of contestants in Season 6 is pretty awesome.  We skipped Season 4 because the young woman student character was really irritating (so far in the three seasons we’ve tried, we’ve liked Martha and Flora, who were the young woman student characters in their respective cohorts– wikipedia notes that we were not the only people turned off by season 4’s student) and the cast was so very white.  Also it turns out that Tamal (my favorite in season 6) is gay, though it isn’t mentioned in the show itself.  According to Wikipedia he was interviewed after being put on some hunks list and he was like, sorry ladies, I’m flattered and single but also looking for my own Prince Charming.  (If you’re watching on Netflix, series 1 is season 5, series 2 is season 4, and series 3 is season 6.)
  • DC1 had to read an Ayn Rand novella for English.  I’m starting to believe that QAnon poetry site wasn’t an accident.  Did you know that there are objectivist societies that provide free Ayn Rand books along with propaganda-laden lesson plans to teachers?

It is appliance breaking time!

In the past month:

Our brave little toaster that could (purchased probably for $10 fifteen or more years ago) no longer reliably keeps the lever down.  Sometimes it does if you hold it down long enough, but sometimes I just cannot get it to engage.  So we went on wirecutter and ordered their best rated toaster from Target ($30).

Our refrigerator fan started making chunking sounds again, which usually means it is going to need to be replaced soon.  I swore the last time this happened we would replace it and then *buy a new refrigerator*.  But it’s stopped chunking so we didn’t replace the fan.  But who knows how long that’s going to last.  (Estimated cost:  Who knows!  But probably closer to $2000… which is crazy since our first refrigerator was the cheapest full-size refrigerator at either Lowes or Home Depot almost *20* years ago… currently that’s still under $500.)

Our dishwasher has a new and different problem.  It’s definitely hitting the “planned obsolescence” stage.  This time there’s some kind of spring on the door that has failed and the door can either be all the way open or all the way shut and doesn’t gracefully move between the two states or have the ability to stay slightly open like it used to.  We have no idea how to fix this and even looking into it was pretty gross because the area where the door hinges is corroded and just plain icky.  DH is making noises like it might be time to get a Bosch, though we are definitely willing to wait until they are easily available and we don’t have to worry about people in our house.  It’s on the horizon.  (DH is also willing to put up with this for two years and just sell the house without a dishwasher.)  Somehow it is easier to replace an engine than it is a spring.  (Estimated cost for a new dishwasher ~$1000.)  Update:  After some research, it wasn’t the spring, it was the thing the spring attaches to.  Cost to replace:  $40.

Our microwave has started shutting itself off for safety reasons if we microwave too many things in a row.

It’s hard to know what annoyances we should put up with and what we should just spend the money to replace.  Replacing things also often comes with its own frustrations and annoyances since new things don’t always work and lemons are a pain in the rear to deal with.

Not an appliance:  Our fences are falling apart and last year the HOA made it clear that they’re in charge of the stone (which isn’t falling apart) and we’re in charge of the wood.  DH called 4 places and nobody returned his calls.  Then we got an email from the HOA (to everyone, not just us) saying that fence repairs needed to be made so DH was like, Help we need a fence repair place, do you have any suggestions.  So he got 3 suggestions and called the first two and they came out right away to look at the fence.  And… then they disappeared and we never got estimates.  So now we’re not sure what to do.  I mean, call that third company, but after that.  DH has already walked all over the neighborhood and gotten the names and numbers off actual fences.  He thinks they’re just busy what with Weather and almost our entire HOA fencing needing to be replaced and so on.

Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for happy fun novels by underrepresented writers?

MSWR asks:

I’d love to know your recommendations for romance novels and other HEA novels written by BIPOC, especially women.

We both read a lot of books by BIPOC, especially women (maybe even only women in #1’s case?), so if you cruise our link love books tag you’ll find a lot of them.  They’re not all HEA romance novels (although all the books #1 contributes are…) and they’re generally not labeled as such.  So it’s good to have a collection here.  First, let’s see what I’ve been collecting here from internet sources since you first posted this question (every time I see a list, I think of you!).

Sadly the owner of this original tweet has gone private, but the replies have some suggestions.

Are you interested in Black Women Equestrians?  It is a genre!  And here are suggestions.

Here is a list of names of Steve Ammidown’s favorite Black romance novelists and editors from the 80s and 90s.

This gorgeous thread of book covers as donuts includes a lot of our favorite BIPOC romance novelists.

Here’s a list from SELF magazine.

This sad but sweet memorial thread includes lists of lists of HEA romance novels and novelists, not only of BIPOC, but also other under-represented groups.

I keep trying to find a post from a few years ago that had some HEA YA by Asian American authors, but I can’t.  (Apparently I didn’t list Jenny Han or To all the Boys I’ve Ever Loved before even though we both read it before it was a major motion picture!  And I cannot remember the name of the JV author who inspired it– not Grace Lin though DC2 is LOVING her books right now.)  A blog gets really dense after 10 years, eh?

In any case:  Must buy favs of ours that are also HEA Romances:

Courtney Milan.  LOVE LOVE LOVE.  They are ALL good.  Even the bad ones are good.  Many of them have White protagonists and her early books when they do have BIPOC or non-CIS/hetero people, they’re side characters or only get novellas instead of full books.  BUT.  That’s changing.  If you want to start with a short novel/long novella with BIPOC protagonists, her latest, The Duke Who Didn’t, is like a burst of happiness.

Talia Hibbert.  She does a lot of biracial romances, often with neuro-diverse heroines, set in England.  I don’t like her newer stuff as much as her older stuff, but she’s still a must buy.  For an inexpensive dip in, start with A Girl Like Her.  (Not all her books are great though– I thought Merry Inkmas was kind of messed up with what we would now call workplace harassment.)

Rebekah Weatherspoon  is another must buy.  Her heroes and heroines are always so *mature* and their problems are external problems that are real.  The beta heroes are wonderfully supportive (because they are secure in their manliness given their physical attributes!).  Start with RAFE, the buff male nanny, which somehow manages to make the falling in love with the nanny trope not squicky by addressing it head-on at the beginning of the book.

Jackie Lau writes light little novellas about Asian romances that often hit my favorite tropes.  Her Holidays with the Wongs series is probably a good place to start.  You can get the entire series for $5.99!  The nice thing about novellas is that they’re not larded down with stupid misunderstandings in order to get to novel length.

I liked the Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon so much I bought it after reading the library copy and definitely intend to buy the next one when it comes out.

I’m mentally going through some of the library books we’ve read.  Slay by Brittney Morris was fantastic, but it’s the opposite of a romance.  There was a series about football players and their girlfriends but it was uneven and one of the “heroes” had anger issues that were totally glossed over.  Beverly Jenkins is uneven just like famous white romance novelists that have similar length careers– I need to do a better job reading her newer work because she has the same problems with consent in her earlier works that the entire industry had.  I couldn’t really get into Alyssa Cole because even before Meghan and Harry I just wasn’t into modern day royalty as romance heroes.  I should probably try a different series.  Maybe the AI who loved me (only $2.99!).  The Crazy Rich Asians series has a pretty satisfying final ending, but you have to get through all the books to get to it, so it is HEA, but not necessarily at the end of each book for everyone.   DC2 has been LOVING all the Rick Riordin presents series and the other books by the authors highlighted, and similarly books by Sayantani Dasgupta and Grace Lin, but those are more about children saving the universe than romance, though they do have HEA.  Also, not for romance, but I recommend going through the last 10 years of Newberry winners– they are diverse and DC2 has been LOVING them (going backwards in time they don’t start getting into the “my best friend died/tragedy is the only thing that makes books about minorities worthy” tropes until 2005ish– newer stuff allows winning the award even without tropey heartbreak!).  Then of course there’s so many great Spec Fic books with/by minorities, but none of those are romances and they don’t always have HEA, so I won’t link here, but Octavia Butler, NK Jemison, Nnedi Okorafor, Tomi Adeyemi, and so on.  DC1 is a big fan of these.  (Still not *enough* spec fic by minorities– there will be enough when published books by minorities are allowed to be as mediocre as those by white dudes.  There’s a LONG way to go before that happens.)

Grumpy Nation, Who are we forgetting!?!?  What amazing recommendations do you have for us?