You know you’re in New England when…

  • Don’t like the weather?  Just wait a minute.  (#2 points out that people from all over the country say this, and in some seasons it’s true everywhere.  Particularly in the PNW.)
  • The only people holding doors open for other people are tourists from the midwest.  (#2 thinks Bostonians are the rudest and most self-absorbed Massholes ever in the world.)

You know what… I don’t think we can do this one.  We were able to easily find nice things to say about all the other parts of the country we’ve lived in, but apparently we’re falling flat on this one.  After talking about the weather, we’re out of neutral.

Oh, I’ve got one… Blueberries, apples, and strawberries = awesome.

  • Apples!  Apple picking!  (#2: see also: Wisconsin; Washington State #1: Yes, but New England has DIFFERENT apples… Carousel, Macon, Honey Crisp etc.)  Apple wine!  Apple desserts!  Hard apple cider!
  • Fall is gorgeous!  Spring is non-existent.
  • If you like Lobster, New England is a good place to get it.
  • High ice cream per capita ratio.
  • Public transportation is awesome.  Driving… not so much.
  • Housing is expensive, even places nobody wants to live.

Ok, drifting back into negativity there.  If only the guy who thought we were trashing the South could see us now.

(And #2 can’t help it… she literally gets covered in rashes when she visits Boston.  But Pennsylvania, Delaware, parts of New Jersey, the parts of New York I’ve been to, etc., are all nice, except that #1 informs me these are not in NE.  I have never been to Maine; I like DC ok and would probably go back for the museums but not live there.  New Hampshire has some strange things going on.  But I think use of the word “wicked” is wicked awesome, so there’s one nice thing we can say about New England!  I actually like parts of NE quite a lot but don’t have specific things to say about its quirks.)

Dear readers, surely those of you who have been to New England can finish this list for us…  Remind us of the good or just quirky things that let you know you’re in New England.

One Link Leads to Another

CPP has an interesting idea about the illusion of control and making real change, building from initial comments on politics and extending them into work life.  Go read and comment.  It’s actually similar to an almost excellent post by Fareed Zakaria earlier this week that we cannot link to because of his egregious misuse of the your/you’re homonym.  He still hasn’t fixed it, and that makes us sad.

Something our Fox News watching readers should see, if we haven’t driven them all off (we suspect we have).  The important part is where he runs the numbers and shows what 50% of the wealth of the poorest 50% of Americans amounts to and makes comparisons.  Powerful stuff.

Center of gravitas noting that we find drunk girls sexy and that’s kind of sick.  And not sick in the good way.

Would Neil Degrasse Tyson please run for president? A plea from pharyngula.

This xkcd made me laugh out loud, but DH doesn’t get it.  I still love him.

Apparently I also have this B of A temporary credit card feature.  Who knew?  Well, In mint condition, obviously.

A trenchant analysis of the tea party and the general population by We are respectable negroes.

Dr. Virago with a fun informal survey on academics and debt.

Aieeeee!  Do you have a kindle?  Amazon is having a $1.99 Georgette Heyer sale until Sunday.  I, um, bought 25.

Our hearts ache that some people are Not Equal Enough. A powerful post from A Practical Wedding.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.  (Rawr, CPP?)

Oh dear: dumb but catchy:

Even more googled questions answered

Q:  are homeowners associations liable for poisonous snakes on property?

A:  Probably not.  But check your bylaws and with a lawyer.

Q:  do professors check email over the summer

A:  No!  Absolutely not.  Don’t even bother trying if you have any sort of complaint.  They have these amazing filters that allow in professionally written emails that are important, but completely filter out the whines straight to spam over the summer. Amazing secret technology.

Q:  what to do with a rental house that foundation is slipping away and we still have a mortage

A:  Either fix it or sell the house.  Be sure to disclose the problems, ‘cuz it’s illegal not to.  If you cannot sell it for your mortgage, then you either have to pay the mortgage down or try to work with the bank to shortsell.   You could probably foreclose on it too.  If you shortsell or foreclose, bad things will happen to your credit, and you may still owe the money or taxes on the money (depending on the state).

Q:  is it hard being this perfect

A:  Sometimes, sometimes.  Not usually though.

Q:  If you can’t pay your mortgage why would you continue to pay association fees

A:  Because depending on the state you’re in and the bank your mortgage is from, it might take longer for the bank to foreclose on you than the HOA.  Also, the HOA may harass you more frequently, since they kind of live right there.

Q:  can i take a year off from teaching without tenure

A:  It is possible.  You can take a year off without pay for many reasons, including family leave, a great opportunity (say a presidential appointment or a prestigious fellowship), if they think you’re valuable enough to keep but you need to spend a year elsewhere (say another university is wooing you or you got an amazing post-doc).  Some places and departments give automatic pre-tenure leave, some don’t.  (#2 laughs a hollow, bitter laugh.)  Some will delay your clock a year, some won’t.  If you department allows it, you may also be able to continue to get paid if you buy out your classes– if you have nice grants, for example.  Some departments limit the number of courses you can buy out though.  In some places you may also be able to get your teaching load reduced if you go into administration, but that’s generally not a good idea pre-tenure.

Q:  if you foreclose on your home can they get your savings

A:  It depends entirely on the laws in your state.  In some states yes, in others no.  Also be sure to look into tax implications.

Q:  are you a homebody

A:  Yes.

Q:  is there too much feminism

A:  No.

Q:  is “do you still love me” correct grammar

A:  Might we suggest the following corrections?:  Do you still love me?  Why not?  Since when?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 9 Comments »

What have we been reading?

Harry Dresden novels… not as good as the Kitty Norville novels.  They make decent airplane reading but I can’t focus on them outside the plane.  I also don’t like the way every woman is a sex object.  Neither Kitty nor Rachel Morgan seem to feel the need to make every man a sex object.  Every vampire (of either gender), sure, but not every person of the opposite sex (or the same sex either).

Oscar Wilde plays LM Montgomery short stories.

DC discovered my Kindle on a recent plane ride and got halfway through the Tin Woodman of Oz.  Ze was adorable and a wee bit annoying reading while walking (ever so slowly) through various airports.  (At one point I had to confiscate the Kindle so ze would speed up.  But never fear, I returned it after there was room for folks to pass.)  We got lots of comments about what an interesting video game ze must be playing.

Kraken by China Mieville:  it’s the end of the world!  Sort of.  It’s about belief and magic and religion and science and squids.  Echoes of Neil Gaiman and a bit of Pratchett, too.

Queen and Country: Politics bore me and I don’t like how the main character is drawn.  Still, I kept reading to find out more about the protagonist’s personal life.

In a bizarre fit I decided I wanted to read The Feminine Mystique, but I couldn’t get through the forewords for each new edition.  I just can’t think that hard about not-work stuff right now.

On the kindle (for free!):  Miss Mapp… think uh, Sherlock Holmes if instead of solving crimes he were a provincial old maid in a small town with a nasty streak.  I keep thinking, man, if only she would get hired by Scotland Yard her life would have meaning.  It’s awfully droll stuff though.  Usually I can’t get into a book if there’s nobody to root for, but this one is tres funny.  Apparently this is part of a series starring someone named Lucia who does not appear in this book… Miss Mapp is her foil.  (Amazon suggests there may have been a British tv show based on the series?)

I just finished The Book of Air and Shadows.  It’s pretty good — the last third or so of the book gets very twisty.  Some twists I figured out early, some I didn’t.  Turns out this author has written a ton of other stuff I’d never heard of.  Hmm…

I yearn for more Georgette Heyer.  Obviously I need another library stop.  I wish the university library had more of her stuff– they deliver directly to my office!

I also yearn for collections of Sheldon.  (#1 is just missing the newest book.  Her bathroom is well-stocked.)

Have you been reading anything good (or craptastic) lately?

preschool perfectionism

Hm… I started this post about a year ago and kindergarten is about to start, so maybe I should finish it.  I don’t have the books on hand that I was going to cite, so this’ll be a lot more hand waving and a lot less quoting (watch me not be a perfectionist!).

One of the things we want for our child is that ze be able to take risks (measured ones, anyway), and able to achieve at hir desired level.  We don’t want hir to be paralyzed by fear as so often the best and brightest are.  We want hir to be used to making mistakes and not scared by the prospect of sometimes being wrong, so long as ze learns from those mistakes.

Perfectionism is a scary thing.  It can keep us from achieving our goals.  It can make us afraid of taking risks, even measured ones.  In gifted kids, perfectionism can start young.

About a year ago we started noticing signs of it in our child.  Ze would be terrified of making mistakes, ze would say, “I don’t know” to things that ze did know, especially if we misheard the first time ze answered and we asked hir to repeat.  If we’d say, “just guess,” ze would refuse to guess.  At school the teacher told us DC could read just fine but couldn’t comprehend, which we knew not to be true as ze would rush into our office in the evenings with long explanations of whatever exciting thing was happening in the latest Magic Treehouse book.  Ze would rather be silent than be wrong.  And sometimes ze would completely collapse trying to tie a shoelace on hir shoelace book, sobbing uncontrollably.  (It’s ok if you don’t know how to tie a shoe!  You’re only 3!  I couldn’t tie my shoe laces until I was 5, and we didn’t have velcro in those days.)

These tendrils of perfectionism, particularly the tantrums, are what started my reading of gifted books (I’m done now), years before we thought we’d have to dig into them.  Turns out some of the less fun aspects of gifted kids can show up before school, even if the public school doesn’t test until 3rd grade.  (And not just lack of sleep!)  There’s a lot of scientific evidence on the causes and consequences of perfectionism.  Even if gifted books don’t always help with techniques to mitigate perfectionism, most of them do note it as a side-effect, or more often as a sign of giftedness.

Naturally it’s a side-effect we want to treat, if possible.  The big thing that’s suggested is that we want to push EFFORT, not intelligence.  Gifted kids are often told how smart they are from the moment they open their bright eyes.  That means that when they make a mistake, they often take it as evidence that maybe they’re not smart.  (If you’re always right, you’re smart.  If you’re not always right, you’re not smart …  It’s not true, but it can feel true.)  This can lead to shutting down, giving up, cheating, and other negative behaviors that gifted kids don’t need to do and that can ultimately hurt them in the long run.  Carol Dweck’s Mindset book also has a chapter or two on growth mindsets for kids.

Perfectionism is especially a problem when kids are way ahead of their classes at school.  Inappropriately red-shirted kids, or gifted kids who need but are not getting accommodations are especially likely to fall prey to perfectionism.  If everything is always too easy, when confronted with something difficult, cognitive dissonance sets in and the kid shuts down.  Also when bored, trying for a perfect can be a way to create one’s own challenge.

I’ve definitely grappled with perfectionism myself, as has DH.  But I didn’t understand why DC was grappling with it in preschool.   When I was DC’s age I already believed that effort was important and I didn’t fear failure… I just knew I needed more practice… Some day I would be able to blow a gum bubble, or whistle or turn a cartwheel.  Part of that was knowing that other kids were older and had worked hard practicing before they could, and I’d be able to do what they could do some day too if I just tried hard enough.  These days there aren’t so many roving bands of mixed age kids playing outside.  So you don’t see the practice so much.  And DC doesn’t have that bucket list I had… ze’s probably never even seen a cartwheel.

So every time DC fell into a fuss or refused to do something we knew ze could do, we would explain how important practice is.  How when I was hir age, I wanted more than anything to be able to stand on one leg, and I practiced and practiced and finally I could.  We would pull out the little engine that could and read it again, hoping some day ze’d believe us.

I suspect that my mom was better at promoting that message than I am.  I will work harder at it and I will not give up.  Thus I hope DC will do the same.

update:  DC “I practiced and practiced and now I can stand on one leg, see?”

update:  The joy of erasers!  DC’s teacher drilled in that when ze makes a writing mistake, ze can just use the eraser to fix it.  This is a miracle in hir willingness to write anything down.  (Problem:  DC thinks it is hilarious to make silly mistakes on purpose. ex.  3 + 5 is M)

update:  Word World’s Sheep learned to ride a bike, falling over and over and over again.  (A realistic montage, unlike most shows where it seems like you get things on the third try.)  So did DC!

update:  After 8 weeks of lessons 4 days/week, DC can swim!

Play fight repeat has two great posts on this topic.  Paying kids to failTeaching kids persistence.

Do you or does someone you love struggle with perfectionism?  Do you have any suggestions for how to combat it?

My hobbies are not statements about your values

Again with our long-running multi-part series:  My choices are not judging yours.  (And if they were, why should you care?)

As we have mentioned before, and I quote, “personal finance blog posts about the latte factor are always devolving into arguments in the comments about whether or not we should get rid of tv and whether getting rid of tv means you’re some sort of effete arugula eater who thinks you’re better than anybody else.”

PF blogs focus on the money aspect, as we did in our previous post.  Today’s post focuses on the effete arugula eating portion, as do the academic blogs that tackle this topic.

Folks, there are only 24 hours per day and a lot of things competing for our time.  You can watch tv or do something you like better.  Maybe you like to read trashy novels to decompress.  Or garden.  Or (pfeaugh) exercise.  Or maybe you don’t even have time to decompress because your life is so crazy.  Maybe you live someplace where it’s beautiful outside instead of stifling.  Or your family needs to keep you up on all the local gossip, something that rivals any reality show.  Or you’re addicted to computer games or fora or blogging.  Maybe tv is the best option for you.  Maybe it isn’t.  We can’t make that decision for you, because our utility functions have different weights (and we have different opportunities as well).

The only problem is when you wish you were watching a different amount of tv but for one reason or another you’re not happy with your own amount of tv watching.  Then perhaps you should do a time audit and figure out what needs fixing.  Put in some commitment devices.

If your preference is to watch tv, maybe you think doing other stuff is a waste of your time (and it probably is for you).  If your preference is to do something else, maybe you think that watching tv is a waste of your time (and again, it probably is for you).  That’s fine.  We all have our own preferences and we’ve made our revealed preferences based on our own preferences.  And our preferences are allowed to be different than the mainstream (yes, the majority of people still watch some form of video entertainment in the US) or identical to them.

I find the posts complaining about how people who don’t watch tv being lying effete snobs more annoying than the posts talking about how turning off the tv for a month changed their lives for the better.  I’ve never actually seen a post from someone saying that tv is a complete waste of time and only stupid people watch it, though I have seen many posts complaining about people who say such things.  (Not to say such posts don’t exist, just that I haven’t read any.)

It all reminds me of when I was a kid and my uncle teased me for asking for a bratwurst (like the adults were having) rather than a hot dog like all the other kids were having… but I LIKE bratwurst.  I don’t like hot dogs, never really have.  Am I saying you’re a loser plebeian* for liking hot dogs?  No.  Am I some sort of elitist scum for disdaining the humble processed dog?  Maybe.  But seriously, I promise I don’t get together with my similarly foodie friends and snicker about your hot dog eating habits.  I probably don’t even NOTICE whether you got a hot dog or a burger or a brat.  And I may not understand your choice– since I think hot dogs are gross, but that doesn’t mean I think any less of you as a person.  (And if I did, wouldn’t that say more about me than it does about you?)

I also don’t care if your secret pleasure is that reality show about the people from the Jersey Shore.  Or you just like commercials.  Or you prefer artsy fartsy films.  I honestly could not care less.  I just don’t have the energy to judge you on those choices.  Sorry.  (Though if your preferences do overlap with mine, totes let me know– we should hang out.)

So why spend energy judging me on my unplebeian choices?  I like what I like because I like it, not because I’m trying to be better than anybody else.  I’ve spent a life-time of being made fun of for liking opera and musicals instead of pop** (exception:  alternative and metal), eating brats instead of hot dogs, drinking milk instead of soda… and more!  (#2 prefers soda to milk, and lemonade to both.  #1 is on board with lemonade, but only real lemonade, none of that minute maid or crystal light crap.)  We’re not in middle school anymore, guys.  We’re allowed to have different preferences.  I’m secure with my preferences.

Are you secure with yours?

* I’m so plebeian that spell check informs me I can’t even spell the word

**oddly, people are always surprised to find out I dislike ballet (except the Nutcracker)… not sure why liking opera necessarily means a person likes ballet, when opera is interesting and ballet is boring (though my sister disagrees on that last point).  Obviously if I were really judging your lack of culture I would enjoy ballet too, right?

Adventures in: Consolidating accounts

One of our August goals is to consolidate accounts.  We both have random retirement accounts here and there and it would be nice for things to be in you know, fewer places!  Easier to keep track of.


I’ve decided that I will keep my etrade account for now, but I will open up a Vanguard account to consolidate everything else into.  Based on my future experiences with Vanguard vs. those with Etrade I may consider moving everything over later.  But not right now.  The etrade account is mostly in Vanguard funds and ETFs anyway.

At work I’m giving another shot at putting my old Ing money into Fidelity.  I tried this last year but Ing lost my forms twice.  (They deny they lost them, but Fidelity sent me copies the second time around.)

What #1 did:

Called Vanguard… moving IRAs easy peasy (they say).  Moving things that are not IRAs takes a few more steps.

Charles Schwab IRA Roth opened by father with some of my college earnings — Vanguard took info over the phone, sent me a form to sign, asked me to send a copy of my last quarterly statement, and they will take care of the rest. The Schwab website is totally not user friendly.  This has been moved (and before congress screwed with the economy too)!

American Century — This is more difficult.  It’s basically gift trust money I didn’t know I had that matured after I didn’t need it anymore (there are times when that 5K would have meant a huge boost to our security and my ability to digest meat… but not right after getting a real job).  It’s in an overpriced S&P 500 Fund, so that needs to change.  Unfortunately the account is so old that it’s labeled “in writing only.”  I tried to figure out the form I would need to sell everything, but failed (I think the word “redeem” means sell, but the form was not friendly).  I did find the form I need to turn the trust into a “full service” account so I can empty it online or over the phone, so I sent that in, and should now have control.  Cost basis on this is going to be a PITA, but the guy on the phone said they would send me a how-to with the sheet when I close out the account.  I have a hard time feeling like this money is actually *my* money and I hope to use it towards tuition for one of DH’s relative’s girls within the next couple of years.

Because of the current financial jiggerings, I’m going to wait to actually move the money until the stock market isn’t going up or down 5% every single day.  Not having control of when to buy or sell because it’s all automated AND having a few days as money transfers from one place to the next does not work well with large market fluctuations.  But I do have the forms filled out AGAIN to make Ing let go (loss in fees ~$300/yr… potential loss from buying and selling when the market is changing 5% within a day:  much higher).

What #2 did:

I have put all my stuff in organized piles by organization!  I am tracking my spending.

I liquidated a tiny retirement account from 2 employers ago…  Accidentally.  I found a check — they liquidated the account and cashed it out to me when they didn’t hear from me for a while.  I don’t mind the tax hit on $82 or whatever, because that was my original plan anyway.  Win.

I still need to figure out what I want to do.  And then do it.  Market volatility also scares me, but I should figure out what to do before the market settles down so I can just do it then.  Actually I have been talking with my partner a fair bit about this, in blips and bits, but that doesn’t make interesting blogging.  We have no real decisions.  I went through some retirement stuff I found and figured out exactly what I need to ask the TIAA-CREF guy about when he is on campus.  And which form to get from HR.  Moving my accounts around and trying to decide on which funds to invest in is really, REALLLLLLY boring to me but I guess people like to read about it (well…maybe some people…)?  You can also look for more details on our Monthly Challenges page.

Do you have lots of disparate investment accounts?  Or are you totally organized and on top of things?  (And if so, what’s your secret?)

Our New Product

#2: People take so much TIME.  And most of them just aren’t interesting enough to be worth it.
#1 : it’s true! That’s why I’m a misanthrope. We sound like a commercial. Try this new product! It’s called Hatred of All Humanity! It’s Great!
#2:   mmm Hatred of Humanity, use it every day!

(Of course we don’t mean YOU, dear readers. You all fascinate us! And don’t actually take that much time…)

Anyone who comes up with an appropriate logo for this product will get a special shout-out and our undying thanks.  Somewhat related:  A sign at a brewery:  “I drink to make other people interesting.”

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 9 Comments »

A very cute link love

OMG.  TOO CUTE.  Viewer advisory for overwhelming cuteness.

I continue to be amused by Better Book Titles.

An intriguing post on assigning and grading essays from not of general interest.  Also our robot overlords.

Small steps for big change with an awesome post on changing her debt paying mentality!  Cheer her on.

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

I have often wondered this, especially when stopping in LAX.  The theories are intriguing.

A nifty empirical exercise from ferule and fescue on taking of last names in the NYT.  Historiann comments.

Professional Question Asker offers this hilarious video on religious nerds.  It’s funny because it’s true.

Scalzi lays down the law on political comments in non-political posts.

Pinch that penny with a funny or die video on the netflix problem.

also, OH SHIT IT’S AUGUST.  From Dame Eleanor.

A much requested picture about the future of the economy

This picture is actually a little bit out of date– the situation is worse now.  But the idea is still the same.  The black line is revenues, the red area Social Security spending, the green area Medicare/Medicaid spending and the blue area is all other spending (including military).

I saw a talk recently by the trustees of Social Security (one Republican, one Democrat… newly filled posts that had been vacant for two fricking years because the Republicans keep blocking appointments).  If we don’t do something, then when the SS trust fund empties in a few years, either we’ll have to cut benefits by 23% across the board, including to people currently receiving benefits, or we will have to raise taxes across the board by 16% (my colleague tells me this is equivalent to 1.6 ppt).  And that’s just the red area.  Check out the green area of Medicare/Medicaid.  Sorry Huffington Post columns… we do kind of have to cut that down.  Let’s try to do it responsibly.

Can we just cut spending?  NO.

Can we just raise taxes?  NO.

A combination of both, phased in as the economy recovers (but NOT until the economy recovers and unemployment is back down!) will put us back on track.

Write to your congresspeople, especially if they’re tea partiers.  Tell them that government has GOT to compromise.  That spending cuts aren’t enough and they’ll put us in a double dip recession.  That Republicans and Democrats need to come together and vote for something like the gang of six plan, (or, in my ideal world, a more liberal version of it).  We need long-term stability for our country.  We need short-term stimulus for our nation.

There’s a range of viable solutions that gets smaller and smaller as time goes on.  We had a lot more options for solving these problems back in 2000 than we do now.  If we keep waiting, that range of options will continue to get smaller and cuts or tax increases (or inflation) will have to be larger.

I’m not tagging this deliberately controversial because well, I have a PhD in this stuff and it really isn’t controversial among anybody who moves in economics or policy circles, no matter their party affiliation.  Just among politicians and folks who watch or read too much partisan media (Krugman also representing partisan media– although he must know better).  The people who really know economics or government or history know what needs to be done.   I wish we were better at getting the message out to everybody else.  I hope this graph, that has convinced so many policy makers, convinces a few other folks too.