School (and other) fundraisers

Cloud asks (on her twitter, but we’re going to answer here anyway):

Clearly it is time to come up w/my personal policy on buying random crap from coworkers’ kids. So, twitter? Do I buy the gift wrap?

#1:  My policy is to ignore it unless personally asked, which I realize leads to bad motivation if I don’t want to be asked for money, as it rewards people bothering me.  But I’m only human and bad at saying no to good causes, especially education-related.  I never buy the crap unless I really want girl scout cookies, and the past few years I actually haven’t.  But I will give a cash donation.  I never have cash on me, so it’s always a two part process in which I say, I will give you cash tomorrow if you remind me.  Then at home I get cash from my partner.  Then I completely forget I have it the next day and the person never reminds me.  But on day 3, I remember, generally after fishing the cash out of my pocket the night before and feeling embarrassed, and money exchanges hands.

I never ask my coworkers for money for my various causes (well, unless they offer first).  If the school wants to do a fundraiser I just give them the money and don’t sell the crap.  Schools get so little from these fundraisers compared to what you buy, and the chocolate is so bad (unless it’s See’s, but it isn’t See’s here), that if I give $5 instead of spending $15 on something I don’t want, we’re all better off.  Except the companies that make money off of this whole facade.

#2:  I do not buy from kid fundraisers, not even in my own family.  I’m a bitch like that.

What do you do when your coworkers ask for donations/fundraising orders?  Do you ask your coworkers to buy things?

Googled Questions Answered

Q:  which famous person said “it’s a lie! a lie i tell you!”

A:  We don’t know.

Q:  will i ever find what i want

A:  You will find that you wanted the wrong things.

Q:  what to take if sick a lot

A:  Trips to the doctor.  Then specialists.

Q:  what is alevel 1 charge in the er

A:  It is the minimum amount the er will gouge charge you just for sticking your head in a room.  For us… $1400.

Q:  what’s on your bookshelf?

A:  What is this bookshelF of which you speak?  Do you mean what is in your bookcases?  Mostly fantasy novels, but some other stuff too.

Q:  why do i want everything

A:  Because everything is nice?

Q:  why does everyone go to grad school

A:  Everyone doesn’t…

Q:  will feeding my newborn on demand make her an overeater later?

A:  NO NO NO NO!!!!!  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Scheduling your baby will teach her to overeat so she doesn’t end up super hungry before the next feeding.  (Yes, I know I’m not citing this, but of the literature on this topic I am most convinced by the correlations and logic going this direction rather than the other, even though I am well-aware that the literature generally sucks and is rife with omitted variables bias.)

Q:  who can love you better than your parents

A:  Depending on your parents, a lot of folks!  But the Flying Spaghetti Monster will always love you, bless his noodly appendage.

Q:  should i still insure house house after i paid off

A:  Answer is probably yes, but it will depend on the same things any insurance depends on.  What would your situation be if your house burned down– would you be able to replace it without difficulty?  How bad would you feel if it burned down and you couldn’t just rebuild?  How much does your insurance cost?  How painful does that feel?  If you want to get really technical, what’s the probability that something bad is going to happen your house.  Put all that information together and decide whether or not it’s worth paying insurance for the peace of mind.  For housing, it probably is.

Link love

And I thought *we* lived in the bible belt.  Apparently unbalanced reaction has it worse.  Also, I totes think a science pamphlet to hand out to these folks would be teh awesome.

Hyperbole and a half with a post that is very very true, and also sad, with a little bit of funny.  But mostly just truth.

Micro Dr. O tells us about her job search, starting with the hunt for a post-doc.

I hate politics, post #2492045 from Slate.

Late for an important pregnancy wants you to write a 5 minute get it all out post.  Also she shares hers.

How to be zen with kids?  Answer:  Have a wife.   If you’re a heterosexual female, well, you’re SOL.

This made me twitch inappropriately on the side of my mouth.  From to a green thought.

Female Computer Scientist noting that “even your mom can” is just as assholish a thing to say as “like a girl.”

Fie upon this quiet life with an interesting hypothetical question about what to do when a heterosexual friend of the opposite sex hits on you repeatedly in the workplace despite you being married to someone else and having zero interest in said friend.

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

Ask the grumpies: Odd student questions

Rumpus asks:

What’s the oddest question a student has asked you?

#1:  Well, my story here is probably too complicated a build-up for not enough payoff, but I’ll make up for it with the oddest question I’ve ever heard from when I was an undergrad in the next paragraph.  Here’s my story: there was the time when we were talking about instrumental variables in class and we were talking about this instrument for divorce that is sex of the first child.  (If you have a boy, you are less likely to get divorced.)  So I ask the class how that instrument could be invalidated– the answer is if the child’s sex is correlated with other things that are correlated with divorce.  So I talk about some research that has been done showing that people who cohabit are more likely to have one gender and those who don’t cohabit are more likely to have children of another gender.  Which derails the class into explaining Taking Charge of Your Fertility and drawing girl and boy sperm on the board… (My other section did NOT get derailed like this.)  Anyhow, after class in office hours a bunch of students start asking me about birth control!  They never had it in high school because this is a God-fearing state.  And one guy asks me about condom failure rates.  (Thankfully students from the Midwest are able to clarify things so I don’t have to…)

Anyhow, the oddest question I ever heard.  One of my math professors in an advanced analysis class asked if there were any questions after she finished a proof.  One of my classmates asked, “Is it ok to get married to someone even if you don’t love her so long as she really loves you?”  He did get married to her, and as a young undergraduate.  I learned that it is better to have premarital sex than to get married to someone you don’t love because you’re concupiscent.  Especially if you’re not allowed to divorce for the same reason you’re not allowed pre-marital sex.

#2:  Ooh, ooh, I actually keep a list on this!  Let me find it… Let’s see here…

“You seem so together.  What’s weird about you?” (This is odd on many levels, trust me.)

“Do you like cheese?”  Doesn’t everybody?  Except lactose intolerant people.  Poor things.

“Are you a hard grader?”  What am I supposed to say?

“Why do you have to travel so much?”  Wrong question.  Right question:  Why is our conference travel budget so small?

“How does your job affect your role as a family member? ”  Gnrf.

“What is your weirdest talent?”  uh…

“Are you a connoisseur of LOLCatz? ”  Yes…

“Can we get email reminders about the homework in between classes?”  No.

What’s the oddest question a student has ever asked you or another professor?

Why we’re blogging less

  • Leechblock
  • We are both now living with our partners
  • Back spasms
  • exhaustion
  • Tenure coming up aieeee!
  • Bad reactions to Metformin and other fertility-related things.
  • Low grade headache (possibly related to the Metformin etc., possibly related to the dentist being distracted by mortality and possibly botching a filling)
  • Meetings to “Save the school”
  • So… much… work… to… do…
  • So… many… students…
  • So… many…meetings…
  • That $1.99 Georgette Heyer special
  • infinite exhaustion
  • We’re probably losers (according to CPP)

I think the time has come to cut to an irregular schedule, or a regular not-7-day-a-week schedule.  We’ll probably start by ditching Thurs, Fri or Sunday.  Not sure.  In any case, the back-log is now much less than a week and blogging is seeming like a chore.  And we would never want our interactions with our lovely readers to become a chore!

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A two year grandma gift

Not particularly frugal, but maybe a little academic.

Last year we got my partner’s grandma this journal

Memories for My Grandchild Journal
by Annie Decker and Nicole Stephenson

and requested that she fill it out for us.  It’s a neat book asking for information about memories from childhood and adulthood, with prompts that help tell stories.  My partner’s grandma had an interesting life, and we were hoping to capture some of that while she’s still around to tell us.

So she filled it out for us.  She did gloss over some of the darker parts of her past… reading between the lines you can see that she was estranged from her parents very young, and got married to an older man as a teenager, but the why or how isn’t there.  Only the happier stories.  Apparently she eloped in a tiny private plane to a state with a younger age for marriage!

She gave us back her copy this summer.  We took it to the local print shop and are having 8 copies made, one for each grandkid.  Hardcover was going to cost something like $140/piece (seems overpriced compared to BigCity; there was a lot more competition in BigCity), but 8 copies in soft cover in black and white will only cost us $230 for the lot.  The average cost over two years makes up for only spending $13 or so last year!

We will ship the 8 copies to her in time for Christmas, and hopefully she’ll give them out as presents.

And that’s our present to my partner’s grandma this year.  I hope she likes it. Next year we’re out of ideas again.

Do you ever give gifts that require effort from the recipient?  What’s on your list for folks this year?

Are all bloggers who are mothers mommy bloggers? Also: how do you feel about the term mommy?

Femomhist has a series of posts in search of daddy bloggers that nears the end with this interesting penultimate discussion on the term “mommy blog.”  Femomhist dislikes the term.

We don’t really have any problem with the terms “mommy blog” or “mommy forum,” if that’s what they are. Generally that indicates something focused on mothers of kids age 0-6 or so. (Older and they become “parenting” blogs… or, more often, the parents aren’t so tied to home and computer at that point or have developed other interests.) We’re not crazy about BlogHer and all its advertising, but not because of the term.  I also don’t mind being called DC’smommy because I don’t remember other people’s names either when the only connection I have with them is their kids.  If my colleagues or students called me DC’s mom instead of my first name or title, I’d get pissed, but if all you know about me is my kid, go ahead and call me by that relationship.

But what’s more interesting in the post, and the comments of her previous posts in this series is the observation that a lot of blogs are categorized as mommy blogs whose sole purpose is not motherhood, and if the parent were a different gender it wouldn’t be considered a daddy blog, even if the guy talks about his kid(s) a lot. For example, Retireby40 or Manvsdebt or even The Simple Dollar. Those are personal finance blogs. But if a woman wrote the exact same thing they’d be considered mommy blogs. That’s a problem. But it would still be a problem if they were termed parenting blogs if a woman wrote them and finance blogs if a man did.

Apple Pie and the universe added a poll to her blog– what kind of blog is it?  In the comments it is interesting how folks who joined her blog at different times have different perceptions.  But if her tag were mrcomethunter instead of mrs, would the perception be different?  Would the telescope overshadow the clipart baby?

I didn’t really get when FSP and Historiann made a big deal about coming out as moms after hiding that identity for so long, but maybe they didn’t want to be positioned as mommy bloggers instead of science and history bloggers.  It never really occurred to us.  And honestly, we’re ok with being mommy bloggers about once a week, even if one of us has never reproduced (that she knows of).

Do you dislike the term “mommy blogger”?

Are you more likely to mentally categorize a blog as a mommy blog if it’s written by a woman rather than a man?  (Would retire by 40 be a mommy blog instead of a personal finance blog were it written by a woman?)

How do you categorize your own blog?

Marginal tax rates: why they make sense

All righty kids, today we’re going to talk about diminishing marginal utility and taxes. For now I’m leaving comments on, but if things get too political we’ll be shutting them off. This is about the simple theory.

Above you see a nice figure of what economists generally think people’s utility curves look like with respect to income. Ignore the exact numbers– pretend they’re in zubwats instead of dollars and you don’t know the zubwat to dollars exchange rate.  (I certainly still get quite a bit of additional happiness from an extra 100 even when I have 1000… but in zubwats, an additional hundred isn’t so much).

First off, utility is just another word for happiness.  If you have no money, an additional 100 zubwats makes a HUGE difference in your quality of life.  But, as you become wealthier and wealthier, say you have 1000 zubwats, an additional 100 zubwats isn’t such a big deal.

Let’s think of this in terms of dollars.  You can probably think of a time when an additional $10 was kind of a big deal.  It meant you got to eat something other than ramen.  Today, hopefully, $10 isn’t such a big boost, and not just because of inflation.  $10 to Bill Gates would be nothing.

$1 is worth more to me than to Bill Gates.  $1 is worth more to my students than it is to me.  And $1 is worth more to a single mom working minimum wage than it is to the majority of my students.

So if we want to keep people equally happy, we really shouldn’t have a poll tax, the kind of tax where everybody just gives the same dollar amount.  The single mom wouldn’t be able to feed her kids, my students would get into bigger student debt, I’d be annoyed, and Bill Gates wouldn’t even notice.  Poll taxes seem fair in terms of dollar amount, but they’re unfair in terms of utility.  And isn’t happiness what matters?

Ok, well, how about a flat tax?  Everybody pays 10% just like God intended (not that 10% of everybody would actually make anywhere near as much money as the current system, but you can put in your own %).  Well, that isn’t going to work either.  A flat tax is essentially a straight line sloping upward.  So if you made $100, your tax would be $10.  If you made $1000, your tax would be $100 and so on.  You see that diminishing marginal utility curve?  You notice how it is curved and not flat?  Even if you subtracted off the same percent tax for everybody, it would still hurt the people with more money less than it hurts the people with less money.  And think about it.  Someone with an income of $10K simply cannot afford to lose $1K and still eat (much less feed a family).  Someone with $100K can pretty easily lose $10K.  The difference between $1,000,000 and 900,000 is really only rounding error to someone with an income of a million.  Sure, that $100,000 seems a lot to those of us who don’t make six figures, but to the person with an income of a million it actually hurts less to pay that 100K than it hurts the $100K person to pay the $10K or the $10,000 person to pay a mere $1K.

(Note:  there are more complicated “flat taxes” that are really more like step taxes that don’t quite have this problem, just with a continuous step instead of brackets, so each additional dollar is taxed a little more than the dollar before it.  These are actually thought highly of by some well-regarded economists.  But that’s not what a couple of the leading candidates for president are advocating.  They don’t want any “progressivity.”)

And that is why progressive taxes, in which additional dollars earned are taxed more then previous dollars earned (or:  those with high incomes are taxed at higher rates than those with small incomes), are actually more “fair” than poll taxes or flat taxes.  We’re trying to do our best to equalize happiness, not money.  It’s all because of diminishing marginal utility.  Each additional dollar is worth less to us than the dollar before it.

The question of how progressive a tax should be, and where we should put the brackets– those are big open questions.  Policy is not easy.  But we know that zero progressivity is not the answer if we want to minimize the pain and maximize utility.  Zero progressivity is just not fair.

Link Love

We were an editor’s pick at this week’s carnival of personal finance!

An awesome awesome post from Wandering Scientist about the culture of guilt… how when we say we feel guilty, that isn’t necessarily what we mean, but what we’ve been cultured to say.  And saying it when we mean something else has negative spillovers to other women.  IBTP.   If you read one of our links this week, this is the one we recommend.  Though the others are awesome too.

NPR with some awesome videos of the amazing camouflaging cuttlefish.

Clio Blue Stocking Tales had an awesome time at a conference, and some revelations.

Donate to Donors Choose, says ProflikeSubstance or Pigeon will Come To Your House.  Probably in a bus.  Oh man, I laughed so hard.  And seriously, Donors Choose is teh awesome.

Who knew, it is vaccine injury awareness (and bad science) month?  Apparently respectful insolence did.

I love this voice.  From NPR.

A totally awesome article on busted gender myths in psychology that I totes remember reading in my psych 101 textbook, like the one where they have people of different genders proposition people of the opposite gender and guys were all like, yeah let’s go, and women were all, ick, no.  Apparently there’s some selection going on– and many other similar effects deconstructed.

We agree with girl scholar.

Ask the Grumpies

Random Internet Marketer asks:

I loved your post on X.  May I:

1.  Provide a guest post on any topic?

2.  Pay you to add links to your previous posts?

3.  Give you a money/swag to review our company?

The answer to all of the above is, “No.”

If at any time we need guest posts, we will let you know.  And preference will go to people we’ve heard of (regular commenters, people on our blogroll, other people we read etc.) rather than random people out of the blue.

In terms of blog prostitution monetizing, one of us is concerned with her soul.  The other thinks you’re not offering enough moolah to make it worth her while to endanger the other’s soul.

Exception:  If you send us a book, we may read and review it (we may not).  Warning:  we may not give it a good review, and have been frequently known not to if the book kind of sucks.