External effects on spending

I’ve been reading some no-spend challenges and I’ve been noticing that in their no spend months they spend on a lot more stuff than we do in a normal month.  Just sundry things… they have justifications, but still…

We tend not to buy things we don’t need, but sometimes an entire month will go by without us getting anything other than the occasional groceries.  It’s not like we’re doing a no-spend challenge.  It’s not because we’re frugal or because we’re trying to be holier than thou, but simply because we didn’t have time and we put off purchases.  Sometimes if you put off purchases long enough you no longer need what you thought you did.  Some of these “emergency” purchases they just had to make in the month of February, well, we’re putting off until March because it’s just going to take that long for us to get to Target.

Yes, yes, I know that no time causes people to spend money on things too… but let me say that before we had a kid we didn’t have time to cook.  After we had a kid we didn’t have time to go out to eat.  We’re now very good at pantry cooking and Faster!  I’m Starving!  and Help!  My Apartment Has a Kitchen! definitely changed our lives (thanks, #2!).

If you really don’t have time and can live with a certain level of squalor, you’ll never actually get around to hiring that cleaning person.

Even if you have more time than you need, there’s still hope!  We once lived in a series of 3 digit square foot apartments in the city.  The smallest was 100 sq ft.  The largest somewhere in the 300 range.  We were pretty poor, but one thing that enabled us to save for a house downpayment on our graduate stipends was the inability to actually put anything in our apartment.  Our first thought would be, “Is there space for this?” and then second would be, “Can we afford it?”  You really get into the habit of not buying junk when there’s already no room.  Some of our friends in the SF bay area were able to put a 400K downpayment on a house because they saved money not only on the small house they were renting in place of the larger one they could have been renting, but also because they couldn’t buy things to just store in the house.

So what is the bottom line here?  If you really want to save money, you can do it unconsciously just by living in a small area and having a demanding job.  Then every moment of your time will be too precious to spend shopping and every inch of space too valuable to fill up with junk.

What external effects change your spending for lesser or greater?


  • Starfall has MATH now!  WOOOOOOOOOOOO!  http://www.starfall.com
  • Epic Fail on the epilator.  I was prepared for pain, yes.  I was not prepared for skin pinching without actually removing any hair (skin: yes, hair: no).  Goodbye $80.  You were an expensive lesson to learn.  But I always would have wondered.  (If anyone asks… I fell on concrete.)
  • Happiness is gourmet food trucks coming to your academic building.  :)  Our little town is becoming quite the food mecca.
  • I don’t think I like it when people say mean things about other people.  Especially when they’re other people that I like.
  • You know what pisses a formerly nice referee off?  When you completely ignore large portions of her questions and are a jerk about the few that you do address (which you only address because Referees #1 and #2 asked the same thing).  Sincerely regretting the decision to revise and resubmit, Referee #3.  P.S.  When a reviewer says, “Cite paper X,” you should cite paper X.  (X isn’t my paper, but for all you know it could be!)
  • Today during my 15 min class break a student NOT IN MY CLASS asked if he could get help on a problem set for the class (that I do not teach) of the woman whose office is next to mine because she wasn’t in her office.  I said, “No.”  He seemed shocked.
  • Today after class a student asked if she could borrow my textbook for the entire semester.  I said, “No.”
  • An email from a student:  This is my homework for the week due tomorrow.  Can you check it over to see if I got it right?  Answer:  No.  Come to office hours or ask specific questions on the class webpage in the spot designated for specific questions, as you were told in class multiple times and as it states on the syllabus.
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Insert creative link title here: and a challenge update

Clio bluestocking tales learns a painful lesson about budgets and other people trying to get you to do their work for them.

An oldie but worth reading: xoom is against decluttering because it promotes consumerism.  (#2 adds:  hahahaha!  I like it.)

If this video doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, then you are a hard-hearted jerk.

How did we miss Grover Appreciation Day???

Do want.  From the little professor.

Mutant Super Model needs book suggestions for a precocious 7 year old.  Help her out!

An exhaustive list of resources if you think your kid may be gifted from davincilearning.

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

Money Reasons has no clue on how to eat healthily (or cook, apparently).  Help him out by giving him advice and encouragement.

Donna Freedman with some tips for older job seekers.

Graceful retirement comments on another post that comments on another post… but really it’s about whether or not we should be trying to impress  other people into thinking we’re wealthy even if we can do it cheaply.  Is looking good or feeling good more important? Me, I’m middle class all the way, baby.

Meanwhile, Steampunk Challenge is… continuing.  The reading is coming along, the reviewing not as much so.  I think what happened in my contrary brain is that as soon as I committed to reading one type of book, I instantly got distracted by every other type of book there is.  I’m a contrary blogger, yo.  (#1:  probably doesn’t help that the new Flavia De Luce is out…)

Confidential to Invest it Wisely:  got the book, thanks.  It has drastic flaws in logic which make it hard to take seriously, but I’m still hoping to get something useful out of it.  Memo to self: never ever read another book “published” by CreateSpace.

Writing challenge:  Did it.  A couple days were really difficult though.

Preschooler chapter books

One problem with having a high reading level is that the interest level often does not match that reading level.  Jokes that are hilarious to an elementary schooler just aren’t funny to a preschooler.  Without getting the jokes, a lot of these top elementary school-level books are just boring.  So no Stink, no Horrible Harry, etc.

The local children’s librarian was a bit hostile when I asked her for recommendations (for the small child to my right who I claimed was reading and loving Magic Treehouse books) and kept recommending books at a much lower reading level.  We do love Mo Willems, but we’ve been loving all the Pigeon books (and Knuffle Bunny, and Piggie and Elephant) for many years now.  We are aware of Mo Willems and many other books at that level.  When pushed, she went to the internet and did a “If you like the Magic Treehouse, maybe you will also like…” but the Boxcar Kids didn’t work for us, nor the other suggestions.

I thought we would fix the problem with Bill Peet books, but apparently not.  Still too high of an interest level.  BUT, we did rediscover Arnold Lobel!  DC was willing to spend hir own pocket money to get more of Frog and Toad, which is always a good thing.  And DC’s favorite Mouse Tale was also my favorite (the one where the mouse wears out his feet)!  We’ve also gotten some mixed reactions to Maurice Sendek.  I always felt mixed towards Maurice Sendek too.  I need to remember to pick up some Danny and the Dinosaur type books next time we’re at the library… that’s another avenue to try, though (s)he seems to have lost interest in Go Dog Go and earlier Seuss.  I suppose we should try for Bartholomew Cubbins and other story-driven Seuss.  (S)He does like Horton quite a bit.

I also thought mystery novels would work out well– so we have all 26 A-Z mysteries, Cam Jansens, Encyclopedia Brown… no dice.  I’m hoping in a few years (s)he’ll gain interest in the above.  In the mean time they’ve just fueled my Scholastic addiction.

So what’s been working for us are what I called “magic books” growing up.  We cannot get enough of these.

The Magic Treehouse (we’re well into the Merlin Misisons now!)

Everything we can find by Ruth Chew (I wish they were still in print!!!)

The Oz books.  I was much older when I first read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and had seen the movie many times.  It’s amazing watching DC discover it in the original L. Frank Baum version for the first time.  What a wonderful book and I’m so glad it’s only part of a long series!

For us doing nighttime reading, I wonder if ze would be interested in Anne of Green Gables.  At about this age, my mom read me Peter Pan and Pinocchio and Bambi and all sorts of children’s classics, but I don’t think I could handle going through such sad and horrible books again… once in preschool was enough.  I suppose DH could do the reading.  They’re reading a lot of E.B. White at school so we don’t really need to introduce those.  We could also try Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle again.  Or Pippi Longstocking!

This forum thread has more suggestions for early readers.

I ILL’d this book on books for gifted kids. It gets a big meh.  Lots and lots of what we call in technical parlance, “touchy-feely” books.  There are some good books in there, but they’re all Newberry and Caldecott winners that are on most lists.  In any case, DC has not been impressed thus far with their picks for age 0-5, give or take.  Ze takes after hir mommy, I guess.  And how can you have suggestions for older kids without having Ender’s Game on the list (or Matilda)?  Really other than the usual suspects (Wrinkle in Time, The Dark is Rising, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh), there really weren’t a whole lot of fantasy choices.  Of course, the newest edition may have caught onto the Harry Potter craze, as this edition predated it… but not so far back that there are no options!


Do you have any good book recommendations?

How to write a response to reviewers

So you’ve gotten a Revise and Resubmit.  The reviews are mixed.  The editor points some things out as needing addressing, but has left a lot to you.  What do you do?

A.  Have a moment of relief that you got an R&R rather than a “never send us this again”.

B.  Rail briefly and privately about reviewers who didn’t understand you and who may have been drawn from the Wheel of Peer Review.

C.  Then make your revisions and write your response.

The format of your response should be as follows:

1.  Profusely thank the editor.  Summarize the main changes you have made and the main concerns you did not address with explanations of why you did not address them (misunderstanding you have clarified, lack of data, etc.)

2.  Thank Reviewer #1.  Possibly point out anything specific and major that you found especially helpful.

Go through Point-by-point.  In some fields you will need to copy and paste each reviewer point and then follow with your response.  In other fields it is enough to paraphrase.  In still other fields, it is enough to respond to comments by number, but be aware that if you do this, the reviewer may have to dig up his or her original comments, which may be less polite than your paraphrase.

Be polite. Occasionally a reviewer will say something idiotic.  Apologize for being unclear and do your best to clarify their concern.  Sometimes it won’t need clarification, but explain anyway.  Whether the comments are stupid or brilliant, you should be gracious no matter what.

Address every single point.  Do not leave out points, even if you are unable to address them.  Leaving things out will irritate your reviewer.  If you cannot address the point say, “Unfortunately, I cannot address this point for these reasons.  Here are my other thoughts on this, thus proving I took your point seriously.”  If you can provide additional information that sort of gets at the question even if it doesn’t exactly address the question, feel free to include that, acknowledging that it only sort of gets at the question.

When you address points, say where in the paper you have addressed them.  Include page numbers, section numbers, and footnote numbers.  If you already addressed them but their eye slipped over where in the text you did, it is enough to state where in the paper they were addressed.  (Do not point out that they were addressed before.  Just point to where they were addressed.)

If you just do what they told you to do, it is often enough to say, “Done.  See page 3.” or “This has been added to footnote 15.”  Short is nice if you’re agreeing with them and able to do what they ask of you.

3.  Repeat step 2 for reviewers 2 through N, where N is the number of reviewers.

If you have anything particularly difficult to impart, address it in a separate confidential letter to the editor.  Be polite.

Double check once you’re done that all your page number and footnote references in the letters match the ones in the paper.  Double check you’re always polite.

And that’s all I have on my mind.  Did I miss anything important?  Have any “Don’t Do This” horror stories?

The John Cleese post

We love us some John Cleese.  One of us has even seen him give talks in person. On religion. And his cat.

Most of us know John Cleese from his Monty Python days, and he’s got some great movies even without the rest of that cast.  But he’s also got a lot of great non-fiction stuff.  He’s a thinker.

the ministry of silly walks:

Pining for the fjords:

romans go home:

Here’s Cleese on creativity:

Fierce Creatures is a hilarious and touchingly sweet film.  Weird and funny.

What’s your favorite John Cleese thing?

More pet peeves

Because obviously ten weren’t enough to contain our grumpiness.

1.  Being unable to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion.   You cannot agree to disagree on a FACT.

2. Did I miss anything?

3.  Student emails containing the words should, feel, need, or deserve.  You are getting docked ten points next time you send one.

4.  Leafblowers.  SO LOUD, so polluting.  So detrimental to my ability to think.

5.  Cat stepping on tender portions of anatomy.  Owwww.

6.  Credit card companies sending me those ripoff “checks” EVERY single week.  I’ve never used one in my life — get over it!

7.  Weeds.  (More to the point, home owners associations.)

8.  Gremlins.

9.  Hating on people who natural childbirth or breastfeed etc.  Most parents are just trying to do their best and are not making any statement about your choices.  Seriously.  They don’t care about what you did.  So there’s no reason for you to care what they did either.

10.  People who ask for advice (especially those who ask advice columnists for advice) who have absolutely no intention of taking it (unless, of course, the advice matches exactly with what they were planning on doing anyway).

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