Are you a bad parent if…

(hint:  The answer is always no)

  • you take your kid to the playground and let them play while you sit on the bench and do your thing?
  • you take your kid to the playground and play with them?
  • you sign up your kids for tons of activities and lessons?
  • you don’t sign up your kids for any extracurriculars?
  • you skip baby food?  or buy it in little containers at the store?
  • you make baby food lovingly by hand?
  • you send your kid to a good preschool?
  • you skip preschool?
  • you start potty training before Brazelton’s signs of readiness?
  • you wait on potty training until Brazelton’s signs of readiness?

Just a little comment from blog posts I’ve read recently where someone makes a side note confirming the conventional wisdom or takes the conventional wisdom and says that no, only the opposite is what people should be doing.  Seriously, there is no “right,” just trade-offs.  If you play with your kid on the playground, ze doesn’t get solo time or just kids time.  If you do, the kid is getting more adult/parent interaction.  These are both good things.  Activities and lessons provide new and interesting ways to grow, but they also take time away from other activities and family time.  Which is better?  Neither, they’re just different.

What are some dichotomies you have encountered?

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Wasting food is a sin

or at least it was in my depression-baby father’s kitchen.*

Fortunately there are delicious ways to repurpose food after they’ve gone stale.

Tonight we had one of my favorites… Bruschetta.

Slice stale bread
Liberally drizzle olive oil on top
Cover with garlic (crushed, diced, sliced… you make the call)
Bake in oven until garlic is starting to brown. (I like 375 for 10 min, but you can do it for longer at lower temperatures or shorter at higher. Heck, you can even broil.)
Take out of oven.
Spoon diced tomatoes seasoned with basil, oregano, garlic, salt, or really whatever your heart desires over top.

#2 wishes we could get away from food-as-morality, which I think contributes to lots of unhealthy attitudes in our society (fat-phobia, overeating, anorexia, bulimia, emphasis on weight instead of health, overemphasis on willpower and self-control over biology, etc.).  It makes eating into an anxious situation fraught with meaning and duty and power, when really it’s just all about fun!  Also, telling your kids, “Eat that!  Think of all the starving children in China!” will only make them hate you and whatever you are trying to feed them.  I always thought that the starving children in China were QUITE welcome to my lima beans, or whatever.  Let’s get away from a sickening combo of food-and-guilt, please, and just focus on having fun with food.


#1 notes that her household never had a “Eat that!  Think of all the starving children in China!”  Instead we were encouraged to take small portions and go back for seconds.  Taking a large portion and not finishing resulted in eating leftovers from that meal the next meal.  In any case, the point about not wasting food in this post is not to throw out tons of wasted food from the fridge each week, instead to menu plan more carefully, and to use creativity when faced with things like stale bread.  (Because, of course, you only buy/make high quality bread.)  But we still should be careful about language.  Or else #2 gets grumpy.  And that rumbling isn’t her stomach, no matter how delicious bruschetta is.

What are your favorite ways of repurposing leftovers?  #2 likes to make “whatever’s in the house, over pasta.”  (#1 also likes the same as an omelette or stir-fry.)

*Caution: Don’t take eating old foods too far. Food poisoning is not frugal. “If in doubt, throw it out.”

postscript:  DH tried and failed at making mozarella this weekend.  Sadly, that resulted in a gallon of (organic, whole milk) buttermilk.  So we had pancakes for breakfast and buttermilk rolls at lunch.  Then DH made ricotta and a cheesecake.  Mozarella attempt #2 ended up with cream cheese.  Also, did you know that when maple syrup gets a skin, that’s mold, and you can take it off, reboil the syrup, and it should be ok to consume.  According to chow-hound anyway.

Quick quiz: Housework!

When one spouse is working full-time and the other spouse is getting education, how should the housework be divvied up?


(Also, if your answer is, “It depends,” then what does it depend on?)

For the Love of Our Links

Find out some science about delicious delicious cheese:

Now I’m all hungry.

We here at Grumpy Rumblings continue to love Tenured Radical. Here she talks about whether girls rule the world (or whether, as we insist, we should keep on blaming the patriarchy).

Historiann talks about how even among the insane, actions from insanity are gendered.

The internets this week talked about mothers and work, and working mothers, and stuff.  Cloud has a synopsis of some of the good ones this week.  Also:  We don’t want to hear about your personal life on your cv.  As long as you weren’t in jail, we don’t care why you left the labor force.  We just care about the experience you have that is related to the job at hand.  Sure, mention in your cover letter that the gap was for family reasons or a business start-up unrelated to the work at hand, but please don’t go into detail.  We don’t care.  No more than part of a sentence, please, unless you have something to say that helps your case for our position.  Choices = consequences.   #2:  We already said this!  #1:  We did?  We said things related in that one post, but apparently readers of FSP didn’t get the memo.

This beautifully poignant post from Mutant Super Model made at least one of us  cry.   MSM should submit this to O magazine!

Never try to take First Gen American’s Babci in an alley.  She’s got a shiv. 

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.  Hosted by my personal finance journey.

I am strangely entranced with these short fictions about how China Miéville wins at life…

Favorite movies post

The Princess Bride:  I’m sure this one needs no description.  The book, of course, is even better.

Tales of Manhattan:  A wonderful b&w movie, sadly not on DVD.  It’s a bunch of little life-affirming mini-stories following a tailcoat as it changes of the life of everyone it touches.  You will laugh, you will cry, you will feel joyous.  My favorite is the Charles Laughton one.  Unfortunately the last one kind of sucks in its stereotypical 1940s Hollywood way; Paul Robeson is sorely used.

Captain Blood: A wonderful Errol Flynn piece, romance, sword fights, pirates, cunning, and a hilarious ending.  Ah, the book is better, but the movie is also wonderful.

When Harry Met Sally: Like flan.  (In a good way)

The Silence of the Lambs.  For someone who’s not into horror/suspense, I’ve watched this a surprising number of times.  Great movie.

Secretary: Amazing acting and psychological maneuvering from Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader.  I appreciate it even more now that I’ve watched the director’s commentary.

Say Anything’s pretty good, too.  Buckaroo Banzai.  Charade.  The Wedding Singer.  This is not a comprehensive list.

(Note:  #1 only likes the happy movies from the above, but does not include Say Anything which she found painfully boring, though she likes John Cusack more generally, especially when teamed up with John Hughes.)

What are your favorite movies?

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Grammatical (and spelling etc.) pet peeves

10.  Saying anymore when you mean “these days.”  As in, “Seems like everything is a race anymore.”  Ack.

9.  Its vs it’s (see also #1)

8. Learn to spell!

7. Subject-verb agreement.  Folks for whom English is not a native language get some leeway here, but it should be fixed by your second draft, and if English is your native language, you don’t have that excuse.

6.  The most effective, not the most affective.  Unless you’re like a psychologist and even then I’m not exactly sure what that phrase would mean.  (How can you be more affective?  Do you have more emotions?  Not clear.)

5.  Fortunately, The Alot has my back.

4.  Weird formatting.  People, your paper or your blog is not more artistic if you center the entire thing.

3.  People, you look ridiculous when you type rediculous in a comment.  Srsly.

2.  Less instead of fewer.  Less is continuous, fewer is countable.  (AGAIN.)

1.  Apostrophes.  Learn their proper use.

What are we missing?

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Teasing sucks

And I mean teasing in the sense where you think you’re going to get something nice but it’s all a lie.

There’s something professional that I really really want.  It would help my career and make life easier and be a big boost reputation-wise in the profession.  A lot of my colleagues (not in my department, but in the greater community) have it… but I made some incompatible choices, ended up at a place that isn’t a top 10 school, and although I have been productive and have impressive publications, they’re not tippity top… I’m in the potential pool of candidates with a mass of people who are qualified but not obviously must-have contenders.

This year on a schedule, there was something written suggesting I’d gotten this thing.  But on the official page, there was nothing.  Finally I made a phone call and it turned out to be a typo.  Some folks just assume I’ve got this, hence the typo.  But I don’t.  So I don’t have access to the professional benefits that come with it.

I wouldn’t be feeling bummed right now if it weren’t that they’d dangled the possibility in front of me that this could actually happen this year.  All my hard work might have paid off.  This could be my year, and it would be an excellent year for it, with my tenure packet being sent out to external reviewers and so on.

I also wouldn’t be feeling quite so bummed right now if I hadn’t looked at the cvs of the people who got this benefit last year and saw that they were inferior to mine even at the point in their careers that they are now.  Usually the folks who get it I’m like, “I wish I could be that cool, maybe I will be in X years.”  The folks from last year are at better schools but they don’t have the cvs to back it up, only promise (they’re earlier in their careers).  And it is much easier to fulfill promise when you’ve got this benefit, and are at a better school.

I like where I work, but if I’d made different choices, maximizing my career would have been easier.  I need to remind myself that I’m doing ok, I’m respected, I do good work, even though it is slower than I’d like.  I don’t work as hard as I could, I don’t put myself out there as much as I could.  But my quality of life isn’t so bad.  And if I’d never gotten my hopes up, I wouldn’t be feeling them dashed right now.

#2:  They’re pooty brains.

#1:  YEAH!  Poopy heads with pooty brains!

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The “It is never the right time to have a baby (for a female academic who wants kids)” post

Yes, this is trite advice that you’ve probably read before, but hey, why not?


1.  Before college graduation.  This option is not usually a choice.  Women academics who do this are generally highly selected so it is difficult to say whether this is a good option as a policy recommendation or that the women who decide to go into academia after having a child young are made up of stern stuff.

2.  During graduate school.  Some people look down on this, some people strongly recommend it.  The effect also seems to vary by discipline.  Men do this all the time without consequence.   Pros:  Flexible schedule, kids are older and potentially easier to deal with once you’re in a tt position.  Body is still young.  Cons:  Advisers may take you less seriously and relegate you mentally to a mommy track.  Money is often tight so it is difficult to pay for a full time nanny or high quality daycare etc.

3.  Before tenure: Pros:  Your body is still relatively young.  Your biological clock may be ticking loudly at this or any time.  You have more money than you had before and can funnel it into baby-related things.  Depending on where you are, you may actually get maternity leave which will help you continue research when you have a newborn (because of the break from teaching and service).  Cons:  Your colleagues may take you less seriously and relegate you mentally to a mommy track.  If you take an additional year to your clock you may be expected to produce more stuff (but you may not).  In my discipline women are just starting to have one baby before tenure.

4.  After tenure:  Pros:  You’ve already made a mark in the field… you can slow down (working on bigger projects, perhaps) and people will still respect you (so long as you continue quality work).  You have more money than before.  You can take a semester without pay if you’ve been saving up and you don’t get paid leave.  Cons:  You may not be able to have a baby at this point, which may be heart-breaking.  If you can, you may have to space them close together (or have multiples if you need medical assistance).   This is the choice one of my advisers made (and recommended for me).

So none of the options are perfect.  I long ago decided I would time my fertility based on what I wanted, and academia be damned.  I wasn’t ready in graduate school.  I was ready after it (with the biological clock alarm screaming), but turns out my body didn’t want to cooperate, but right when we gave up I unexpectedly got pregnant.  My colleagues were delighted– after all, why shouldn’t they be?   There’s no maternity leave at my school.

#2 notes that we wholeheartedly support everyone’s reproductive decisions while at the same time not endorsing compulsory motherhood, and noting that some of us are extremely happy not having children and will go to great lengths to avoid having them!  If this is you, don’t let today’s post put you off our awesome blog.  We support people of all stripes being in control of their own decisions on when, whether, and how to raise kids.  (Unless you do something like blanket training with a switch… then we’re calling CPS.)

#1 agrees– this is conditional on you wanting kids, which says nothing about your character nor is it obligatory.  Obviously if you don’t want kids it doesn’t matter when is the best time to not have them because you’re always going to not have them whether that’s the best time or not!

What are your thoughts?

The experiences vs. stuff post

Lots of research from here and there suggests that people get longer lasting happiness from buying experiences than from buying stuff.

Obviously that means we should all become minimalists and travel the world, right?  Get 100% experiences and 0% stuff because experiences are always superior to stuff.

Obviously that’s silly.  (As is streaking through the world…you’re likely to get arrested.)

When we try to decide whether to do more of one thing than another, we’re interested in how much additional happiness an additional unit of each thing will give us.  This concept is termed, “marginal utility.”  We want to know how much happier one unit of something is going to make us.  We’re not interested in how happy all of the things we already have are making us, just how much adding or subtracting a unit of each thing will make us.

The canonical example of marginal utility (and diminishing marginal utility) is that of pizza.  Let’s say you’re stuck in Detroit on a weekend at 6pm at the conference center, starving, and the only place open is Sbarro at the attached mall.  The first slice of pizza gives a high marginal utility.  You’d be willing to pay a few dollars for it.  The second slice of pizza you don’t really need so much, so you’d only be willing to pay a couple of dollars for it– if it costs $3.50 you’ll only get one slice.  A third slice of pizza you might be willing to take free.  A fourth slice and you’re not really interested.  The happiness you get from pizza is determined by both the inherent value of the pizza and how much pizza you already have inside of you.  (And if you’re trying to decide between pizza and a beverage, the beverage gets more attractive compared to pizza the more pizza you eat.)

In this framework, experiences aren’t automatically better than stuff.  If you don’t have a lot of stuff, stuff becomes more valuable.  If you have a lot of stuff, travel becomes more attractive by comparison.

Basically what this happiness research is showing is that people in general have too much stuff and not enough experiences, so the marginal utility of an additional experience is greater than that of an additional unit of stuff. (Americans have too much stuff–did we really need a study to show that?  I thought the rubbermaid commercial made it pretty clear!)

Those of us who travel a lot don’t feel the need to travel anymore because we’ve long since hit diminishing marginal returns to happiness on travel.  Especially if we don’t have as much stuff as the average American.

So don’t take the research on happiness and experience as a mandate to get rid of all your stuff and spend all your time traveling!  There’s nothing wrong with you if you’d rather buy a china cabinet than spend a week in Tahiti.  Maybe for you the marginal utility of an additional unit of stuff is greater than the marginal utility of an additional unit of travel.  Maybe you have plenty of time to engage in your hobbies and not a ton of income, so adding to your wardrobe is more important than buying more time.  Maybe you don’t spend enough time at home doing nothing and would like to spend more.  We all have different values for these things in absolute terms and we all have different stores of these things.  Thus we all get different marginal utilities.

Just because the average American needs to declutter and travel more doesn’t mean you do too.  And that’s ok.

And maybe, just maybe, you want to buy thousands of books and nice shelves to put them in and a house big enough for a library and a comfy chair to read in.  In which case, we salute you.  (And secretly hope you invite us over to share.)

Stereotype threat

Men who are secure in their masculinity are both great lovers and don’t waste their time trying to make themselves feel like real men by putting down women on the internet.  It is well known, and has been scientifically shown*, that men who spend large amounts of times posting about women’s genetic and nature-born inferiority have tiny penises and are trying to compensate for being lousy in bed.

Now, whether that’s true or not, such a statement may cause these loser-“men” to subconsciously doubt their virility and indeed perform poorly in bed (even worse than they already are!).

Stereotype threat occurs when people are aware or are made aware of a stereotype regarding their group.  When presented with this stereotype, their measured performance moves closer to the perceived mean for their group.  This effect has been shown over and over, for minorities, for women, for lower-caste Indians in India, in testing situations and in real situations.  It is a real phenomenon.  You tell someone that their group is bad at something or worse at something than another group, and their performance will suffer.  These negative stereotypes become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Stereotype threat is malicious and malignant.  When men post bogus studies about women and minorities’ supposed natural-born inferiority and complain about poor Larry Summers (who, incidentally, was pushed out of Harvard for problems with micromanagement, his abrasive administrative style, and his general disdain for any humanity/social science field that is not economics, and not for anything to do with his ignorant remarks at NBER), they are feeding stereotype threat.  On Chronicle forums, they are making academic women feel like they should and can achieve less.  On gifted forums, they’re implicitly encouraging housewives to stay home with their children, and to not expect as much from their daughters as from their sons.  Their unchecked general acceptance that people who aren’t white (or occasionally Asian) men are inferior can spread to other people who read their comments and “proofs” who then spread the contagion to people IRL.  And such comments push out those who would argue against them by creating and promoting an unwelcoming and hostile environment for women who aren’t willing to be bullied.

Why so Slow by Virginia Valian is a must read.  It’s a fantastic literature review and well-reasoned argument of exactly how many of these differences that some ascribe to genetics are actually the product of our culture.  If you are a nature-only person, this book provides convincing evidence of nurture.

by Virginia Valian

Even if there are strong genetic differences in ability or whatever by gender  (which there probably aren’t), that does not say much about individual people.  Imagine two normal curves overlapping normal curves, in which one is slightly shifted:

Now compare the area under the curve that is shared to the area that is not.  Individual differences will always outweigh differences between groups.   Or if you believe Pinker (and many experts do not agree with his conclusions or his methods), the two groups may have the same means, but one curve is fatter and the other taller.  Almost nobody is in the parts of the tail that aren’t shared.  Again, individual differences are always greater than differences between groups.

So, to summarize, if you have a tiny penis stop being an ass on the internet.  If you have to harm people by telling them that their entire group is inferior, you’re doing real harm and you’re a loser.  Real men don’t need to put women down in order to feel masculine, because they already are.

*using small-penis-man definitions of “scientifically,” not standard definitions from people who understand statistics, though no doubt there is actually a correlation.  Someone should study that.

Disclaimer:  Penis length is not a direct indicator of female satisfaction, nor does it actually have any bearing on a person’s value as a person. However, we choose this example because we believe it to be most insulting to men who constantly post negative “proof” of women’s innate inferiority (which is stupid of them).  Additionally, it is well known that ability in bed increases with one’s valuation of one’s partner ;).