• PG&E is spitting out dividends again, at least for its preferred stock.  It’s still a fraction of its high value (somewhere between a half and a third), before it was discovered to have set California on fire.
  • It has been so long since its last dividend (2017), that it decided to no longer keep up with direct deposit.
  • I got a check in the mail for $218.  But it also said that they’d paid us another $3K to date (in back dividends).
  • So I figured out how to logon online (it still remembered my password from tax time, I guess) and it said that it sent a check for $3K two days before it sent the check for $218.
  • I set up direct deposit again.  They didn’t know the name of our credit union, but they knew a name with fewer words and there doesn’t seem to be another credit union with those same words?
  • We decided to wait another week to see if the larger check came.
  • These dividends are only for our preferred stock, but most of our stock is regular.
  • I don’t think our preferred dividend amount will ever go up.  I think it’s going to be $218/quarter whenever it pays dividends.  No matter what happens to inflation.  But I could be wrong about this.
  • Our regular stock reached a high of $800/quarter, but those times are long gone.
  • We have twice as much regular stock as we have preferred stock, but the regular stock is only worth a tiny bit more than the preferred stock.
  • The check for $3K came about a week after the check for $218.  I have deposited it to our Wells Fargo account and it will eventually get used for music lessons and other smaller expenses that require checks.  (Expenses above $500 tend to come out of our main credit union account.)
  • Utilities are supposed to be bluechips– stable not risky ways of getting regular income.  But that’s obviously not true.  Index funds really are the best, not single stocks.

Link Love

More traveling this week.

You can order more test kits from USPS

Scalzi discusses his straight white male lowest difficulty setting 10 years later.

I just want to add to this Captain Awkward post that one of the big things I learned about the difference between LA and the midwest is that the LA people who are waffly on time and don’t always show up also don’t get upset if you start without them.  You don’t have to wait– they would not wait for you either.  After I learned that, it took a ton of stress off me.  (My lesson was when I’d promised to go to a movie with an LA friend and she went earlier without me and I got upset because I’d had a chance to go earlier with someone else and didn’t take it because I’d promised to go with LA friend.  And she was like, you should have just gone.  Then something clicked about the different cultures and what “let’s do lunch” really means.)


Talked to another reporter
Sent an email about voting to students

Ask the grumpies: Will we see hyperinflation?

First Gen American asks:

As an economist. How likely is it that The current rate of spending by both President Biden and former President Trump will lead to significant inflation and devaluing the dollar. Why or why not.

Well, we’ve got inflation right now, though that’s mostly because of supply-side problems (factories in China, shipping all around the world) driving up prices globally.  We don’t think it’s been caused by increases in US government spending.

In terms of hyperinflation, it is unlikely that the current rate of spending is going to cause anything of the sort.

I’m sure if Trump got reelected he could cause hyperinflation somehow.  A lot of what causes hyperinflation is loss of trust in systems.  People still trust the federal reserve.  They can still raise interest rates to slow down inflation.  There’s plenty of room for that.  People around the world still trust the US government and our currency.  We will pay back our debts.

I’m not a macroeconomist, but this is just not something anybody (other than some reporters who don’t have economics training) is worried about.  We’re not just printing money.  We still have economic growth.  Here’s investopedia on the topic.

RBOC (cw: aging verbally abusive parent etc.)

  • My father has always been a jerk, but several years back he had a mild stroke and has become even more of a jerk.
  • Pre-stroke, every family visit would include him being a jerk and then blowing up in a huge tantrum for some imagined reason and then going on a long walk and behaving somewhat like a grown adult after.  “Being on his best behavior” we would call it, as if he was a toddler.  Prior to that would be tiptoeing around to try to prevent the inevitable blow-up.
  • After we had a second kid, and there was a spectacular Christmas blow-up that ended in us leaving my sister’s place to go to an airport hotel before our next day’s planned flight to the in-laws, we decided we didn’t have to put up with it anymore and just stopped.  Christmas has been a million times better ever since.
  • He has been getting worse since my mom retired.
  • About twice a month, he sends DH an email (since my email has long-since blocked him) telling DH that I’m a narcissist and my children are in danger because of me.  Once every few months he includes my mom as also a narcissist and a gas-lighter.  If my sister ever responds, then he includes her in the narcissist/gas-lighting list in his next email.  She’s stopped responding.
  • I had to cut off contact with my mother because he started using her email accounts and chat programs to pretend to be her (but not in any believable way).  She no longer has a work email, so I can’t use that.  I can’t even send thank you cards or Christmas presents anymore because I get a response saying that he must be included too.  I know she is also a victim, but she is an adult, and, according to my sister and aunts, still lucid, so I cannot make decisions for her.
  • Before I had to cut off contact with her, my mother was still very much in denial (and still is, according to my sister who has also given up).  She was doing therapy with him, but kept putting all the onus on the therapist.  Or on me to “help him feel included” etc.  She would blame all his bad behavior on his childhood, 70+ years ago.
  • He stopped doing therapy.
  • My mom asked if we could do family therapy with just her.  And we were like, just fly out to visit.  We have no problem with you.  But she refuses to come without him.
  • Back before the stroke, well over a decade ago, he once alienated all of her sisters by fighting a will and being a jerk about it, so she was cut off from her family for many years, basically until the city where the money was left went bankrupt and my grandma died so the subject of the lawsuit was completely moot.
  • My sister says my mom claims to be ok.  “But then, she always says she’s ok.”
  • Most recently he made my mother send my MIL a letter asking if my children are in danger and if she had any suggestions for how to reconcile with me.
  • My MIL then called DH and sympathized with him about aging problems.  She took care of her mom through Alzheimer’s (in conjunction with a nursing home) which was unpleasant.  She responded (also via mail) that DC1 and DC2 are doing great and she does not have any suggestions for reconciling because she is not involved.
  • Most recent update from my sister is that my mom can no longer hang laundry out to dry (outside on clotheslines in the summer, inside on clotheslines in the basement in the winter) so my sister is getting her a small drying rack because my father has always said dryers are bad for the environment.  When we lived in an apartment in Santa Barbara without my father for two years (for work reasons) and when she visited here or at my sister’s she used the dryer.  If he had to hang the laundry a dryer would suddenly be ok, I’m sure.  Though he might just stop doing laundry entirely.
  • Growing up I was always taught to be silent about family.  To keep problems hidden.  Never to make negative things public about my home life.  But I’m an adult now.  And heck, now my MIL knows my family secret.  (Though she did not ask DH any questions about it and accepted the aging-related reasoning.)
  • DH’s family is so even-keeled and normal.  It’s nice having a set of grandparents who are what one expects of grandparents, with no tiptoeing around or apologizing to waitstaff. I want that environment for my kids too.  And I think we’ve succeeded.
  • I often wonder how my sister and I both turned out so ok.  And then I sometimes wonder if we did turn out ok.  But… when I reflect on it more, I think we did.

Grumpy Nation, please do not include the words, “raw,” “brave,” or “honest” in your replies.  

Doing something vs. doing more

Here’s another post from 2011, noting an internet phenomenon.  We were going to do a big post on it, but then XKCD summed it up beautifully in just a few panels.  Here’s what we had:

People who do something small sometimes get yelled at for not trying to reform an entire system.  This sucks.

In reality, we CAN make small changes, but grappling with a large change may not help people in this lifetime.  Some people focus on only the big needs, but we only have a limited amount of resources and doing something is generally better than doing nothing, so long as your cause isn’t something based on hate.

Cueball is going to spend $10 on a game and $10 on charity, Megan(?) says he should spend $20 on charity instead. Cueball decides to buy two games instead.

As a 2022 update:  One of the things that bugs me is that white men and Republicans often get passes for not doing anything at all, or for being actively harmful, while people who are trying but aren’t at the top positions of power get condemned for not doing enough.  I’d be happier with the “you’re not doing enough” if those same people would spend as much energy shaming the bad guys who are actually doing bad things, or who are doing nothing at all.  Let’s have more protests of individual evil Republicans, even though there are a lot of them.

Link Love

I’ve been traveling most of the week and am very much not good at it!  I even lost my glasses.  Plus it was a coastal destination where there’s currently a covid surge going on and about 8 people said they would have attended but either they had covid or were quarantining with a family member who had it or their kid’s daycare was shut down.  All of the people who actually attended said they had gotten covid sometime in the past month and were now clear on an antigen test.  I’m going back next week!

An example of how the evil right-wing manufactures outrage through intentional misquoting.

How the TX law is negatively affecting women who are miscarrying.

Someone asked about book recommendations for personal finance for people just starting out and I said I’d throw it up as an ask the grumpies and then lost the question.  In any case, here’s where we answered the question back in 2019.  I don’t know that much has changed other than the actual numbers.  We’re now in a high inflation environment, and there’s all sorts of dangerous new things you shouldn’t be investing in, but the basics, as always, are still the same.


I talked to two reporters.  Referred a third who wants to talk while I’m on a plane to a colleague.

DH is at a protest and I’m home with the kids.

Ask the grumpies: How to keep a marriage interesting and fun

CG asks:

Suggestions for keeping things interesting and fun in one’s long, happy marriage, especially when one or more partners are not at all romantic. :)

#1:  Is this a sex question?

#2:  …

I’m not really sure.  The internet suggests trying new experiences together. For us, we like to try new foods together. Travel together is also nice, though we haven’t done that since pre-pandemic and we’ve been ok.  I mean, even just sharing funny youtube videos.  We have got to be the least romantic people in the world.

Well, that’s not true– I’m the not romantic one.  I think DH is pretty romantic deep down and makes do with me anyway.

Given his romantic streak, I do occasionally do sweet things because I love him and want him to be happy and he seems to appreciate small romantic gestures.  Like he has a lab notebook for work, and I’ll sneak in there and leave tiny little love notes for him to randomly find.  Also, since DC2 started doing a lot of post-it-note art, I’ve added my own contribution of a couple post-it notes to DH’s work space that say things like, “Best husband ever, A++++++++++++++ Would marry again.”  Or he was feeling down the other day because lots of little things weren’t going well and like the oldest child he is, he feels a bit worthless if he can’t be of service (to quote Luisa in Encanto), so he now has a post-it note on his computer monitor where I wrote, “You have value just by being you.”

One of my favorite gifts from him is an acrostic poem with my name in diagonals on wood with the words carved and drawn in silver and my name in gold.  (Ex.  Literati for the I in Nicole and everything is silver, but the first I is gold.)  So maybe I do have a tiny bit of a romantic streak.

#1:  I really think this is a sex question.  Have you tried erotica?

Grumpy Nation, what suggestions do you have for CG?


  • A friend’s college on the east coast reinstated a mask mandate after a big spike in cases.  So far cases seem to be under 15 per 100K for our county.  The K-12 schools (the only place that counts at home tests in addition to official tests) has been seeing hardly any cases.  Our positivity rate has been steadily increasing on campus, but it is still under 9% (as opposed to the 25+% during Omicron’s peak).
  • It’s hard knowing what to do about Roe being killed.  And this is definitely not where they are going to stop– they want a nationwide abortion ban.  They want to remove several forms of birth control.  (Some state senators are even proposing bills to ban condoms!)  They want to get rid of gay marriage and put back anti-sodomy laws.  Some of them want to get rid of bi-racial marriage.  I can’t keep reading because it is just too much.
  • But it being too much doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop fighting, just that maybe I have to limit my doom scrolling.  We have to get out and protest.  We have to get people to vote against forced-birth opponents.  Even democrats.  If they’re anti-choice, they have no business representing us.
  • Under the current laws in some states, once the overturning of Roe is official, my MIL would have died of an ectopic pregnancy leaving DH motherless and an only child instead of the oldest of three with a loving grandmother to our 2 children and our 6 niblings.
  • For my first miscarriage, I didn’t need a D&C, but that doesn’t guarantee that future miscarriages won’t require them.  So many horrible things can go wrong if a miscarriage goes awry.
  • If you live in a state where your state legislature is in session (or one where it is always in session), you are needed to pay attention to what bills are up.  Does your state have an indivisible legislative chapter?  Does your nearest city have a group (indivisible or otherwise) that is keeping track of what laws are in committee and need you to call your state reps?  If so, can you get signed up for their mailing list?  If not, you may have to keep track yourself, which seems like a lot of repeated effort.  But if we don’t stop the bad laws from getting passed, the supreme court is not going to have your back, no matter how unconstitutional they are.  And these things can affect you, especially if you are a woman or are any person who identifies as something other than your sex assigned at birth.  Or you’re not white or not evangelical or etc. etc. etc.
  • I hate all of this.  I want to focus on my work.  I want to focus on my family.  I want to read novels and watch videos of Taskmaster!  But we’re in an emergency time.  Rights are getting stripped away to a worse than pre-Roe state.  And I won’t want to give up all we’ve fought for on civil rights for minorities and LGBTQ+ people.  In a world where they are passing anti-abortion laws that don’t have any exceptions, including for rape, incest, and life of the mother (historically, the minimal exceptions) you can’t expect to keep even what rights we had in the 1960s.
  • On top of that, even privileged, connected, people may not be able to get abortions for themselves or their children.  We are being tracked via our phones.  Via facebook, instagram…  Surveillance companies are popping up.  Getting an abortion in the future may involve making sure your web searches are private and non-traceable.  That you leave your phone at home.  That you contact places only via burner phones.  This is a potential future should abortion be made illegal nation-wide, as the Republicans say they will do if they control both houses of congress in November’s election, if states have bounty-hunting laws like Texas does, rewarding people for turning in people who help women get abortions.  (If you can’t go to Oregon because of a nationwide ban, I suggest Amsterdam, though some cities in Mexico look surprisingly promising, surprising because this is a new thing for Mexico.  Back in the 60s, Japan was a destination, but it seems harder for foreigners to get safe and legal abortions there now.)
  • There’s not much time until November.  Believe it or not, a lot of people are not paying attention and don’t even know what is going on with abortion and what rights are under attack.  We need to make noise and get out the vote.  Historically, anti-abortion laws without exemptions have almost no support– just the most misogynist of dudes who don’t care if women live or die.  Most people who don’t approve of abortion generally think it’s ok in the cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother.  The idea that you can die from an ectopic pregnancy for legal reasons, as if we were living in some theocratic developing country, should mobilize people who know, if we’re organized enough, if we make enough noise.  Please help.
  • Lots of people are saying don’t use the coat-hangers imagery because women can get medical abortions.  But medical abortions don’t abort later term babies– the hangers (or earlier, crochet hooks) are really for later term pregnancies.  They are dangerous because they tend to puncture things that shouldn’t be punctured and cause bleeding and infection.  Women will die and saying it’s ok, you can just get a chemical abortion is not actually accurate.  Yes, let women know that they can get pills mailed to them, but also… these laws even affect women who miscarry or who have to carry dead fetuses to term or …
  • What can you do?
    • Seek out and go to protests— The bigger they are the more press there will be and the more politicians will listen even with Peter Thiel or whatever evil supervillains are paying for their campaigns.
    • Pay attention to what your state legislature has in committee and what they’re voting on and CALL your state representatives
    • Call your federal senators, especially if they are democrat, and demand they get rid of the filibuster to pass legislation that protects women
    • Write postcards and letters to voters (not about abortion, but to get the vote out)
    • Donate to abortion funds
    • If you are brave (and to be honest, I am not, but admire people who are), write letters to editors, educate people about stories of women who have needed abortions who would be harmed by the law.  Heck, get people to read the Judith Jarvis Thomson paper that explains how while we do not have the right to murder people, we do have the right to not have our bodies forced to be used as life support.  Until these men making the laws are forced, without their permission, to donate kidneys and livers and other important organs to people on the transplant list, or, as in the paper, be hooked up as human life support to a violinist for 9 months, they have no right to force us to do anything.
    • Educate yourself now, before it is illegal, about where to get Plan B (emergency contraception), where to get medical abortion pills, what your plan will be if you or someone you are helping needs to get an abortion if it is illegal in your state, and what to do if it is illegal in the US entirely
    • You don’t have to do all of these above, but please do something.  And if you can only do one, I would suggest protests.  But if you can’t do protests, call and write.

Software for project management/RA management/etc. in the Social Sciences?

Some of this post may be out of date– I started it something like 4 years ago(!)  UPDATE:  6 years ago (!)  All of the cost numbers below are at least two years out of date.

Spoiler:  What I’m currently using is Trello for project-based assignments in conjunction with Gmail for weekly assignments.  I also have one project on Github, but Github is not great for social scientists and it’s slow and clunky compared to Trello.  It has additional features, but they’re just not optimized for what we need.

When I was on leave, I thought it would be nice to figure out a program management methodology that was better than my gmail assignment method, which worked well when I had 1-2 very good RAs who could follow instructions, but not so well if I got more RAs or they were incapable of replying directly to the assignment email despite multiple reminders and a pop quiz during training (to be fair, these folks generally weren’t great at actually doing the tasks assigned either).

So I asked famous economists what they used and I asked grad students and new assistant professors what they used and just generally listened to people discussing this topic.  The idea would be to use whatever everyone else was using which would make collaboration easier going forward.  Economists tend to use dropbox instead of drive or OneDrive any other program (though some of my interdisciplinary collaborators are completely on Drive and not dropbox…) and we tend to use Stata instead of R or SPSS (though some people use R and some people use SAS), and just using those choices makes life a lot easier.

PivotalTracker?  MavenLink?  MS BaseCamp?  Jira? Trello?  Slack?  Google Tasks?

One of my colleagues likes Basecamp.  He thought Jira was too involved. He preferred TortoiseSVN to Github, which are both good at file management, but not great for project management.

I have not looked into kanbanflow.  Recently I’ve been getting a lot of ads for Asana, but haven’t looked into that either.

Pivotal tracker is free for academic use.

Github is different, it is more for storing text files and is really focused on computer programs.  You can set it up like a kanban board but it is slow and clunky.

The following is from 2+ years ago, so prices etc. may have changed:

I went through the different project management software options. Below I listed the prices, pros, and cons of them. Overall, I don’t think it would be necessary to pay for anything. The ones that require a subscription usually include a lot of features that are not necessary, like help budgeting or performance data.

Trello seems pretty easy to use, is free, and lets you organize and assign tasks fairly simply. You can also attach documents through Trello.

Another option that might be worth looking into is Dropbox Paper. It lets you use your Dropbox account to make task lists easily and is more customizable than other options. That might be a good option because it would not require a new account and would allow you to move things around and keep things in a central location. You can also obviously share documents through Dropbox and Dropbox Paper lets you link in Dropbox documents easily.

I think switching to either of those systems would not require a huge amount of setup since they both seem fairly straightforward and customizable. The advantages would be that it would be easier to keep track of tasks over time and across multiple RAs. Tasks would be stored in the same place, clearly assigned to different people, and you can check them off when they are done.


Probably free as they offer a free, sponsored version for academic institutions if you request it. Otherwise, $12.50/month gets you 5 people and up to 5 projects
Pros: It is designed to be collaborative so you can see what people are working on.
Cons: It is designed for software development. It appears harder to learn and not very flexible. Mostly it looks like a way to boost productivity, or “velocity” as PivotalTracker calls it, by tracking software developers as they complete tasks. People earn “points” when they complete “stories”, but it doesn’t look like things can be prioritized or that you can make notes for partial completion or other things. This is very much geared toward software development.


$19/mo for up to five users
Pros: This is designed specifically to be collaborative and to allow for you to assign tasks and see everything you have assigned and what has been completed.
Cons: This does a lot that is not needed. It is designed to manage tasks but also manage budgets so it can be used to record billable hours and send invoices. It likely will require a bit of a learning curve to start.

MS BaseCamp

$99/month for as many users as you want
Pros: Allows for projects to have multiple to do lists under them, fairly simple to use. It is easy to assign tasks to specific people and allows for other ways to share things such as a message board and a place to share documents.
Cons: Mainly, this is very expensive because it does way more than manage two student workers.


Pros: Straightforward for arranging tasks. Multiple people can use a board for tasks and you can assign tasks to certain people in the board. You can add due dates and change columns depending on what you want. The standard columns are To Do, In Progress, Done.
Cons: You cannot use this to send attachments, so it can only be used to arrange tasks.


Free (options to upgrade, but the free version seems sufficient)
Pros: Very customizable, you just create lists with tasks in them. You could create a list for each RA, or a list for each project, or just a to, in progress, and completed list. Tasks can be assigned to individual people. It can be used to send documents.
Cons: Likely has a small learning curve.


There is a free version that is probably enough. Otherwise, $8 per month + $6.67 per user per month
Pros: It works very similarly to email but in message format. You have the option of sending messages in a public forum or privately to team members. It is easily searchable. You can organize messages into channels based on the project or based on who you want in the conversation. You can include attachments the same way you would with email,
Cons: It seems like it is mostly just a chatroom for businesses. It seems like it has a lot of hype and users, but I am not convinced it is very different from email except it has a more “instantaneous” feel to it because it is messaging.

Google Tasks

Pros: It is synced with your existing Google account so it will be easy to set up. You can send other people a task list and people can put emails into their task list.
Cons: It is not a terribly collaborative feature. You can send people a task list and put emails into your to do list, but you cannot really have two people editing a single to do list it seems. I am not even sure if you would be able to see other people’s tasks, so once it is sent is is essentially no different from emails, although possibly easier for the receiver to keep track of each task.

Dropbox Paper

Pros: Relies on existing Dropbox accounts, so you can send links to documents that way. It is essentially a document that you can add task lists and other notes to as needed. You can assign tasks to people and rearrange them as necessary. There is a lot of flexibility in what is put in and you can do things like tasks and subtasks.
Cons: This is essentially self-organized so it is not that different from any Word Document that you wanted to make a To Do list on, except it it a little easier to set up and more collaborative.

The bottom line seems to be that any system will work if you put enough effort into it and no system will work if you don’t put effort into it.  Very few people felt that the start-up costs were worth it.

Do you use any project management software?  How do you organize your projects?

Link love

action:  call your senators, especially democrats

Keep your eyes open for a national day of mobilization being planned for next Saturday, May 14. Now is the time to be visible. Now is the time to be loud. We need to let our friends, our families, our neighbors, and the world know that we will not sit idly by while we watch a fanatic conservative minority revoke our fundamental rights to bodily safety and autonomy.  There are different links to protests.  Here’s one.  Here’s an article from The Cut with information.  Here’s google.

Daily Dracula Thread