Dudes, check out these Links (Love)

IO9 with some cross-national differences in math abilities across genders.  Hint:  it’s probably culture.

We live in a wonderful country with wonderful food, via Scalzi.

The blog that ate manhattan with a commentary on product placement for birth control in a reality show.

A great post from a gai shan life on poverty… I guess one of these Mondays I’ll post up about Moral Hazard.  Also type 1 vs. type 2 error.

Want some great suggestions for sci-fi reading and also maybe a little bit of patriarchy-blaming?  Look at this comment thread (the thread is dead but still a good resource).

Also, we say again that octopodes are cool.

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

Google questions answered

Q:  how can you pay off credit card debt without getting a second job

A:  Cut expenses.

Q:  careerhow to have kids in acadimia

A:  Just don’t.  Neither the kids nor especially the academia.  Especially not the academia.

Q:  who are mothers

A:  Ooh ooh, I know this one.  To quote Free to Be You and Me.  “Mothers are women, women with children.”  They can be almost anything, but they cannot be fathers (barring hermaphrodites, and assuming that transsexuals are only one sex at a time).

Q: can i eat colby jack cheese if i’m allergice to cow’s milk?

A:  What?  No!  How did you survive long enough to be able to use the internet on your own?  (Now, if you’re just lactose intolerant, you’ll have to try it and see what happens.)

Q:  is it a sin that people are starving and yet we are wasting

A:  If I recall my Catholic indoctrination training, yes, it is a sin of omission.  We are all sinners because we cannot save the world and many of us are too lazy to try.  We should probably try a little harder than we do, but perhaps not so hard as we think we ought.

Q:  am i famous on the internet yet?

A:  Not yet.

Q:  who should i ask to buy stuff from my fundraiser

A:  Not us!

Q:  can i eat sharp humbolt cheese while pregnant

A:  probably not, for the same reason you should avoid brie and other soft raw milk cheeses– if you get food poisoning that’s dangerous.  You can eat it if it has been cooked extensively first to kill any potential pathogens.

Q:  do you cancel teaching when you’re sick?

A:  So far, no.

Q:  do leftovers from night before keep for packed lunches next day if not heated

A:  We don’t want to get sued, so we’ll say, “When in doubt, throw it out.”  Obviously different kinds of leftovers are going to make better packed lunches than others.  We do not recommend sushi, for example.  Pancakes are probably fine.  But always, be careful.

Q:  can we use the same dataset to publish different papers

A:  Of course!  So long as the questions and answers are different than your previously published papers.  Otherwise only one paper would ever be allowed to be published using say, the census, and that would be silly.

Q: should i tell my mom i have twitter?

A: Not unless you remove that link to the picture of your junk first. Actually, do that anyway. Nobody wants to see it.

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Words for pee

I have to pee a lot these days.  Before I had a kid, or rather, before we started potty-training, if I had to leave a meeting early or something at work to use the restroom (if looked askance), I would say, “I had/need to use the restroom.”  Then came potty training and a lot more comfort with bodily functions, and I say, “I gotta/hadta pee,” or occasionally, “I haveta go potty.”  Which is silly and unprofessional, but pretty much all my colleagues are at that point as well.

Back in college, I would say, “I must needs micturate” because in college one can say things like that.

Growing up, we would use the euphemisms “big” and “little” for #2 and #1 respectively.   DH’s family uses the standard poo and pee so we went with that.  My grandma would always talk about her dogs widdling (whereas our cat “used the litterbox.”)

Here are some options from #2:

wee wee
golden showers

What words do you use for pee?  Have they changed throughout your life?

Men: You are allowed to be feminists at Grumpy Rumblings

I guess that goes for our two male readers….

But if you believe in equality between the sexes, you may call yourself a feminist.

If you believe that society is structured in a way that favors white men, and you want that to change, then you may call yourself a feminist.

Of course, just thinking these things isn’t enough, we also expect you to *act* like a feminist.  (You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.)  Do at least half the chores if you’re partnered, listen to women at meetings and say things like, “Yes, that was the point Mary was just making” when a woman is talked over, question when women are automatically passed over in hiring “let’s look at this cv again,” and so on.  Be on the look out for systems that encourage disparities and work to change them.  There are many things you can do and may ways you can prove your feminist bonafides; be open to learning about what they are.

But if some crazy nutjob on the internet tells you that because you have a Y chromosome, you’re not allowed to be a card-carrying feminist… well, that’s just that crazy nutjob’s opinion.  The nutjob may say (s)he speaks for all women, but (s)he doesn’t.  She will also attack any woman who disagrees with her by telling her that she has too much privilege to speak on the subject, despite having breasts and no Y chromosome.  Just smile and disengage, but keep doing your good work and strive to do better.

Those of us who aren’t nutjobs appreciate it.  There’s a long way to go, and we need your help too.

p.s.  We would tag this post “debatable” except… it really isn’t.  We’re providing a definition for our blog.  Definitions, are, by definition, not debatable.

Update on the relatives

Scalzi once said that “Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.”

The oldest of our young relatives is graduating from high school this year.  She was excited about applying to colleges, but unfortunately she made some bad choices when she was 14, and again at 15.  Things like getting low grades in PE and driver’s ed and other classes that one shouldn’t do poorly in.  That combined with crippling math phobia caused by a bad algebra experience that killed her math and science grades after she otherwise got her act together has put her in the bottom half of her class.  That means no four-year college for her.

We think she has two choices in terms of schooling– she can do an academic associates degree and transfer to a 4 year state school to finish out in a major of her interest or maybe some new love.  Or she could do a 2-3 year practical degree in something like nursing or drafting.  She’s not sure what she wants to do yet.  We think that’s ok– she can change her mind after a semester or a year or even two.  What’s important is that she get started.

Unfortunately the local community college is at least an hour away.  This distance presents a problem because she doesn’t have a car, and even if she did have a car, the family has no way of paying for insurance and gas.  Community college is more difficult than a 4 year school would be in that respect because there’s bus service in college towns.  Yes, a 4 year college would cost more, but those would be long-term expenses rolled into loans and grants.  These are short-term credit constraints.

She’d love to get a job to pay for transportation, but nobody is hiring.  Her mother cannot get a minimum wage job in their town.  McDonald’s had 500 applications the last time it was hiring.  When a factory town does massive lay-offs, high school students are pretty low on the jobs totem pole.

Of course, since nobody is hiring, she can’t just go straight to work after graduation either.  She needs education in order to get a job because the only jobs available require education.  And if she has education she might be able to get a job that makes enough money she could get her own place– maybe even in a different town.

So community college it must be.  There should be carpools that she can join at least until she gets a job that covers transportation.  (And maybe the job market is better in the community college town.)  We’ll pay for her tuition and books, and she should be eligible for fairly large Pell grants compared to the cost of community college.  We’re hoping not to pay for transportation costs, but we will for a short time if it is truly necessary in order to get her to school.

Having always lived in a college town, it’s really hard wrapping my head around just how necessary transportation is if you don’t have public transport, and how difficult it can be logistically to even get to the “local” community college.  Even if the buses to my neighborhood only ran once an hour I could still get to the university or community college without a car.  And it’s crazy how small an amount of money can keep someone from having any options.  (Not a trivial amount, and not small compared to what their family has to spare, but small compared to the value of a degree.)

We’re hoping that being poor won’t mean that she’s stuck with choices she made at 14 if she has well-off relatives.

Do you know anybody stuck where nobody’s hiring?  What do people do if they can’t afford to get to school but they can’t get a job without school?

Yet another “levels of personal finance”

JD talks about the stages of personal finance:
1. learning the basics
2. practicing the basics
3. what next?
4. financial independence

A lot of folks follow these stages with step 0:  having lots of consumer debt, step 1 learning that they can get out of debt, step 2 actually getting out of debt, step 3 realizing they can do things like save for like travel (because in steps 1-3 they started disliking stuff), and finally step 4 being able to quit the job they hate and become full-time bloggers (etc.)

Some of us started out not only naturally frugal, but kind of skin-flinty.  I strongly identify with Jacq, FGA, and Donna Freedman in this respect.  Some of us never got into consumer debt and our only debt was student loans or mortgage debt if that.  We were gazelle intense before we ever heard of Dave Ramsey.

We have our own levels of personal finance.

This post is inspired by a recent article by Donna Freedman in which she’s contemplating how she needs more time in order to make more money without killing her health.  Doing every tiny thing from scratch is no longer worth her marginal wage.  Occasionally it’s worth more to her to *gasp* order a pizza.

So I present to you, the terrified-of-debt-ultra-responsible-perhaps-too-thrifty-by-US-standards levels of personal finance.


1.  In this stage you’re just starting out.  If you have any debt (specifically:  education debt, car debt because you need transportation to work, emergency medical debt, or debt your ex-spouse left you) you’re scrambling to pay it off.  You don’t live beyond your means.  You eat a lot of rice and beans, or potatoes and onions and you know how much everything you ever buy costs.  You watch every penny and every wasted penny is mourned.  (And you beat yourself up over its loss.)

2.  In stage two, your debts are gone and you have a tiny emergency fund.  This allows you to feel comfortable adding a little meat and fruit and vegetable to your diet, even if these items aren’t scavenged from the “odd ends” or “eat today” section of your grocery.  You still keep close eyes on every penny.

3.  In this stage, you have a nice emergency fund and your income has gone up so you feel comfortable that an emergency isn’t going to kill you.  Additionally, you realize that your time is valuable because your real wage is pretty high.  Instead of saving $5 soaking beans, you could be making $25 working the same amount of time.  You start doing cost-benefit analyses, you realize you can outsource things you dislike (or that are just time-consuming) if the monetary trade-off is high enough.   You spend nickels and dimes, but mindfully and optimally.

4.  In level four you have a really big emergency fund and your income is high enough compared to your spending that you could replenish your emergency fund in a month or two.  Say you’re saving 40-60% of your income and you’re not feeling particularly deprived doing so.  One day you suddenly realize that you can slip up and it’ll be just fine.  Rather than beating yourself up over a lost penny you say to yourself, “it’s only money, and I’m still doing fine.”  You stop watching the pennies.  Instead you put away dollars and feel free to spend what is left.  It’s ok to mess up because the dollars are already saved.  At this stage you may even decide it isn’t worth your time to argue when a company mischarges you for something, but you probably will anyway, just out of the principle of the thing.  (Even if it’s not an optimal use of your time.)  You may do cost-benefit analysis from time to time, but sometimes you decide it is not worth your time to do so.  You’re a lot more relaxed about nickles and dimes so long as you’re keeping tabs on the dollars and hundreds and thousands.  A certain zen slips in.  You’re still frugal on the whole, but that frugality allows you to stop worrying so dang much.

In one of my favorite MSN articles not written by Donna Freedman, Liz Pulliam Weston talks about when you no longer need a formal budget.  Basically it’s when you’re out of debt and spend a lot less than you earn just naturally.  Your savings are on auto-pilot and an emergency isn’t going to wipe you out.  This happens in level 4.

Where’s Donna?  I can’t really say because it’s her income, her savings, and her comfort level that determines that.  But, based on her recent blog post (the one that inspired this one), it sounds like at level 3.  But (hopefully) at some point she’ll be able to look at her savings and at her regular income and realize she’s suddenly at her own level 4.  And that will be good for her blood pressure!  That level of peace is well worth the hard-effort that built up to it.

I’m not sure if level 4 was what I was aiming for back when I lost my ability to digest red meat back at level 1.  But having gotten to level 4, I never ever want to go back.  And that’s what keeps me saving a large portion of our income and keeps me wanting to earn more than we spend.  If necessary we could go back to level 3, but I’d really rather not.

Do these levels describe you, or are you more the standard, “got into consumer debt and saw the light” or something more moderate entirely?  What level are you at?  When do you think you’ll be able to stop worrying so much?  Or do you maybe not worry enough?

Link love


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