Quick note to the most amazing person in my world

Everything I said last year is still true… except we’ve added another year and another child on the way.  I cannot tell you how much I love you.  Every day is better because you’re in it.

Thank you for:

taking such good care of me
being the most awesome daddy
making yummy ice cream
being warm at night when it’s cold
talking me down (and giving me food) when I’m irritated
being able to fix anything
feeding me when I’m hungry
listening to me when I need to think something out
suggesting things when my mind is gone
reminding me to exercise
being fun to talk with and be with
reminding me to take my lunch
being the kind of guy who regularly calls his grandma
being tall, dark, and handsome, and having a great chin
helping me get up
telling horrible puns: No wait, not that one
always being there when I need you

Like DC says, I love you *this* much, where *this* is as wide as my arms can go.  But it’s even more than that.  Like infinity.  :)

Link Love

An old post but a good one from funny about money on the following your passion myth.

More on the 64oz soda kerfuffle, this time from roxie’s world.   I like saying kerfuffle.

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

Apple pie and the universe would like some suggestions for summer meals.

If you know Taylor the Latte Boy and its sad sequel, part 3 is AWESOME.

Cherish the scientist talks about what to do when school isn’t working out for your kid.

Check out this book review from feral homemaking.

Truths about student loans from a couple of fantastic economists.

Google Questions Answered

Q:  how much did you pay for graduate school

A:  Nothing.  Except, of course, opportunity costs and sanity.

Q:  how easy is it to change a paid off mortgage into someone elses name if the current owner still has other debra

A:  If the mortgage is paid off, it no longer exists… Perhaps you mean changing the title to the house?

Q:  what would you do if you didn’t have school

A:  Apparently the answer is:  Work!

Q:  if i have my house paid off, will i be protected from a depression?

A:  Nope!  Ya still gotta eat.

Q:  do masters grades matter?

A:  Yes and no.  It depends on what you want to do afterward.  If you’re doing an MA because your BA grades were not good and you want to get into a PhD program, then yes, your grades matter.  If you just want a job… probably not.  What does matter is what you learn on the program and your ability to think critically once you graduate.

Q:  are vertical blinds still in style

A:  Sadly, no.

Q:  how do people live after they pay off their mortgage

A:  Oxygen in, Carbon Dioxide out, regular ingestion of water and nutrients (followed by expulsion of waste)…

Q:  when baby start food without lying

A:  Usually babies are capable of starting food before they are capable of lying (generally between 6-12 months– and they’ll let you know by being interested in food and not having a tongue thrust reflex).   Unless you mean being prone, in which case solid food should not be fed to babies who are lying down.  (Milk from the tap is ok, milk or formula from the bottle should also be fed in an upright position.)

Q:  are teachers notified about comments they receive on rmp

A:  No, thank goodness.

Q:  can you email professors over the summer

A:  Nope.  It’s absolutely impossible.  If you try, you cause rifts in the space-time continuum and make it easier for the great monster Gathuzula to get through to carry out his sinister plans to destroy the earth and all we hold dear.  (Note:  this is not true if you are also a professor yourself, especially if you are my coauthor.  Radio silence is not cool!)


  • This kerfuffle with the GSA spending seems bizarre and ridiculous because the last few government-sponsored conferences I went to, the organizers paid out of their own pockets for things like power-bars from Costco for breakfast because the gov’t under Obama has been so afraid of looking bad spending-wise.  They also complain that they can’t have group meals because they can’t pay for them directly, but they’re also not allowed to collect conference fees to pay for them like they could if it were a private conference.  I wonder if they knew that this 2010 thing was going to blow up.
  • Sometimes we consider commenting on someone else’s blog post and then decide the post is just too crazy.  So we don’t.
  • Kale chips are a big hit with the resident 5 year old.  So yay CSA.
  • Dear School,  I don’t care how adorable those orphaned kittens are.  We do not want any.  Well, we want them, but we are not going to get one.  I sure hope you find homes for them.  Spay and neuter your pets, people!
  • DC has come around to the idea of a new sibling and enjoys talking to hir and patting hir via mommy’s sizable belly.
  • For some reason this pregnancy doesn’t seem to be as emotionally draining as the first one was.  Part of it seems to be that I’m not getting any hypoglycemia.  I’ll get famished starving, but that doesn’t seem to come with the maudlin… I’m basically just hungry, not weepy.
  • Big bang theory started out as Penny was supposed to make them less nerdy… what happened?  They turned Penny into a nerd.  Victory!
  • Partner is watching live action The Tick on Netflix streaming.  I just don’t know what to say.  But man, Arthur sure looks like Arthur.  Except he has too much hair on his head.
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Musings on why weight targets bother me

Laura Vanderkam recently had a post about some fitness guru who, when she didn’t have kids, didn’t understand why moms didn’t just buck up and get fit.  Now that she has kids, she says she understands better.  The Huffington post blogger Lisa Belkin agrees.

Vanderkam, on the other hand, dislikes the way we say things are more difficult so some people don’t try, and she didn’t have a problem making 30-45 min of exercise every day a priority.  Therefore everyone should make it a priority.  (Perhaps using the morning.)

I didn’t understand why that didn’t quite sit with me until houseofpeanut chimed in and said she didn’t like the argument “I was able to do this so everyone should do it.”  Right.   People do have different utility functions and different budget constraints.  That’s why we can have comparative advantage.  Some things come easier to me or Laura Vanderkam because well, we’re in that 1% of smartness that Femomhist talked about.  And for some reason, possibly nature, possibly nurture, we’re determined and brave and so on.  Even though I don’t understand why some people can’t just will things to be so or buckle down, I’ve come to realize that doing that is more difficult for many people.  (And yes, people also have different priorities, but what irritates people like me, and no doubt Vanderkam, is the people who constantly complain about something, indicating it is a priority, but keep not doing anything to fix it.  But I’ve come to think that perhaps it really is harder for them for some reason I cannot fathom.  Not everyone is type A.)

But that’s not what really bugged me about the post.  What really bugged me about the post was Vanderkam’s update of her goal to get to 125 lb.

Should that bother me?  Why does that bother me?

We’ve already posted a long series on how other people’s values and hobbies aren’t judging our own.  I don’t really think that Vanderkam wanting to get to 125 lb is judging my lack of desire to see my ribcage. We’ve already said that neither of us cares much for exercise (though when it matters, say someone else’s life is at stake, or the doctor says it’s either exercise or give up pasta, we’re both doing pretty well), but that we don’t mind other people who enjoy exercise.  We don’t have any problem with people whose hobby is to run marathons, even though that is unlikely to ever be a hobby for either of us.  More power to them.

But it really irritates me when people say they have a weight goal that they want to get to, especially when that weight goal is low.  (Note:  125lb is within my healthy weight range, but at the low end.)  I probably wouldn’t be bothered if her stated weight goal were, “A healthy weight” or even “150 lb,” since I tend to think of that as the top of the healthy range for people of average height and I’m short so I have a hard time thinking above average.  I definitely am not bothered by goals to exercise any amount of time per day and to eat healthy foods.  Those are good process goals.

Additionally, she says she is like 1.5 lbs from a target weight.  That’s nonsense.  That’s within measurement error of a scale.  It’s within normal fluctuation of a female body throughout the month.  Are you really measuring 1.5 lbs?  (The pregnant one of us has been changing 4lb within the course of a day!)  What does 125 really mean and is focusing on that target rather than fitting into a larger range really something one wants to spend a lot of time thinking about?

Currently I live in a red state where people weighing more than 125lb is the majority.  That, of course, includes me, who probably hasn’t been 125lb since I was 14 and about 4 inches shorter.  I don’t think the majority is particularly vocal on the subject of weight here– perhaps on the subject of pork products, but not the subject of weight itself.  We just don’t think about it that much.  So I don’t think I’ve been swept up in that, looking down on skinny elitists.

No, I think the irritation comes from the time I spent in a city in which the majority of the relevant population probably is well under 125lb (again, not me, though again, I was within the healthy range) and women were constantly obsessing about their weight and their numbers and saying, “I’m soooo fat,” especially the super skinny ones.  So much emphasis on appearance and so many people who do unhealthy things to get to weights that aren’t even attractive.  The vocal majority and I was a member of the persecuted minority… persecuted by having to listen to ultra-skinny people obsess about their (“too high”) weight all the fricking time, everywhere.  And although we’re not saying Vanderkam obsesses in such a way, she’s using the words, terms, and goals that they use, so I’m instantly reminded of that again.

Using weight as a goal isn’t healthy.  There are a lot of very unhealthy ways to lose weight (when I last left the previously mentioned city, I believe the liquid cleanse was back in… or maybe it was hcg injections).  There are a lot of healthy things that cause you to gain weight.  Muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space.  I’d rather be lean and muscular than scrawny and malnourished, even if it meant weighing more.  When people talk about weight target goals, they’re ignoring that and putting the emphasis on the outcome rather than the process.  And the outcome is one that doesn’t make sense.  It’s not like saying you have an outcome goal to bench a certain amount or run a certain distance– those are directly correlated with health and strength and discipline.  Getting your weight down can be good or bad depending on how you do it.

And when people put that emphasis on appearance and weight, it contributes to a culture in which appearance and weight are important, nobody feels good about their weight, and some people start turning to unhealthy diets and obsessions.  Talking about it like that has negative spillovers on everybody else.  Seriously, it does: here’s an article.   “Results are discussed in terms of the ways in which fat talk may act as an injunctive norm, reinforcing women’s body-related distress. ”  One of the commenters on the Vanderkam post rightly linked this kind of talk to the patriarchy.  Why do women have to be so appearance and weight-obsessed?  What advantages do men gain by not having that constantly weighing on their mental load?  Even if the outcome of the conversation is “Hey I’m pretty skinny and hot!” it still steals processor cycles to even think about it at all.

Of course, people have a right to talk about such things if they want.  Nobody has an obligation to not cause negative spillovers on other people or to fight the patriarchy.  And maybe a person knows what weight they feel healthiest at given healthy exercise, diet, and so on.  (So why not focus on the process?  Exercising 30-45 min/day is healthy as is eating healthy foods and listening to your hunger, and it’s important to have a healthy process that’s sustainable no matter what weight goal you’ve hit.)

But it still bugs me.  And I’m glad I don’t live in that city anymore, even though I wish we had more public transportation and walkable areas.  And I wish they didn’t put so much sugar in things around these parts.  We could stand to focus a little more on health here, but I don’t think focusing on specific weight targets is the way to go about it.

Related:  chacha discusses BMI.

What do you all think?  Should we be talking about weight and BMI targets?  Or should we stick to health and fitness?  Or just talk about whatever we want and tune out what annoys us?  Are there spillovers when we talk about these things, and is that a real problem?

House prices really do affect fertility

Lisa Dettling and Melissa Schettini Kearney find that house prices change whether or not a couple decides to have a baby.

They look at changes in home prices, and find that a 10% increase in home prices leads to a 1% decrease in births among non-homeowners. They argue that the cost of housing is the largest cost to raising a child– more than food, daycare, or education.  So if you don’t own a home already, rising housing costs increase your cost to getting a larger space to raise kids.  Related to this idea, they find that the negative effects are stronger for each additional kid than they are for the first kid, and they’re stronger for mothers over the age of 30.

They also find that a 10% increase in home prices leads to a 4.5% increase in births among home owners.  Why?  They argue that home-owners now feel wealthier so they feel more like they can afford another kid.  These price effects are stronger for women under the age of 30.

Additionally, they find that these effects of housing costs is greater than that of unemployment rates.

Have housing prices in your area affected your fertility?  Or has your desired fertility affected where you want to live?

Link Love, Love Me Do

Thank you for this well-reasoned article on the NY Soda controversy from Tenured radical.  It’s not paternalism– it’s libertarian paternalism.  You can still get your 64oz of sugary soda, just in four cups rather than one.  And you can still get 64oz of other beverages.  I can see an environmentalist argument against the practice (if people do indeed go for four cups, but that’s unlikely), but not really a liberty one.

Unbalanced reaction asks you to summarize your semester in two sentences or less.

The Little Professor brings us the syllabus of the very far future.

A powerful story about life changes from modest money.

Gypsy Roxy Lee asks what happened to your ex’s?  Do you know? I only have one ex-boyfriend that I care about (he was a wonderful person, we just didn’t mesh in terms of sense of humor etc.), and I’ve heard through the grapevine (his sister married the brother of one of my sister’s friends) that he’s happily married to a woman he met while stationed in Japan and they have two wonderful children.  So I’m happy about that (and no longer feel guilty about the horrible way I dumped him).

Patriarchy sucks.  But check out the awesome picture of twitter feed.  And a related comic.

If you are mad, perhaps you need a calming manatee.

This is a super-cool time-suck that will suck all your time, but you weren’t using it for anything useful anyway:  a map of genre fiction.  Click and click again and explore within each sector… yummy.

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

Ask the grumpies: What makes an ideal student?

Femme Frugality asks:

What are the qualities in your ideal student? Where’s the line between being a good student and being a kiss-ass?

There’s no such thing as a kiss-ass in the grumpy nation.   A good student is excited about the material and about learning and isn’t concerned about grades, just doing a good job, being responsible, polite, and understanding the material in the class.  Enthusiastic students are often labeled kiss-asses as if it is a bad thing, but we’re here to tell you that enthusiasm for learning is never a bad thing, even if it forces you to go to graduate school and perhaps even become a professor.  So stay bright-eyed and respectful, we will not think less of you, even if your classmates are secretly jealous and try to pull you down.

#2 adds:

Come to class, look attentive, don’t sleep or text.  Make some reasonable effort on all assignments.  Don’t ask for exceptions to the rules.  Don’t give me presents or try to be friends, it’s weird.  (#1 says:  I do not mind presents from my international students whose cultures suggest gifts for all professors after the holiday break, but only *after* the class is over.  I have a nice collection of New Years red ribbons, which are entirely appropriate, especially when all your first semester professors have one.)

The students that stand out in my mind were really interested in the topic of the class and found something to fascinate them.  Also, intelligence.  Smart ones are better.  (#1 notes:  even if you’re not smart, hard work will *make* you smarter, at least in my classes.)  Respectfulness (not obsequiousness) and good writing will help.  I will have a soft spot for you if you volunteer for an in-class demo, but you don’t have to.

Grumpy academic readers, what makes your ideal student?

Extreme Patriarchy-Induced Rage (now decaf!)

Quality ranting in today’s instant-messaging:

I should probably not talk to people while I am cutting back on caffeine for the summer.  Also it’s possible I shouldn’t make a major life decision while pissed off about travel and things.

#2: why are you pissed off about travel?
#1: because it sucks ass to get to and from Blighted Town.  It’s super-expensive and massively inconvenient.  Also I maybe shouldn’t make a major decision while detoxing off caffeine.  did I mention we went to another wedding this weekend
#2: ick, caffeine detox
  no wonder you haven’t been up
#1: my favorite person in the dept is leaving here because her hubby can’t get a job here.  and I feel like the seniors in the dept hate me and they’re not retiring
#2: nobody could hate you
  maybe they have bitch faces
 #1: wrong. they are crazy mad insane people and they hate me because of no reason. But they do.
if they have bitch faces, they must also have bitch sentences.
#2:  ha!

#1:  sorry, I’m really really ragey right now due to my mom’s IMing me in the other window about how people screw her over and SHE LETS THEM

#2: my mom is IMing me about how she’s almost done with her revision for a book chapter.  She’s working on the citations

#1: see, my mom is IMing me about how her male authors don’t do the revisions on the book chapters, so she has to, because her boss accepts sub-par work from authors.  my mom does the citations for men. Because her boss lets it be that way.
  my mom, BTW, is not a secretary.
#2: My mom used to be more of a pushover, but since they were assholes when she got breast cancer, she’s gotten less doormatty.
#1: I don’t understand why I have to produce publishable work in order to get published, but other people don’t!
 #2: Because you’re a young woman?
#1: other people get my mom to fix it for them!
#2: It isn’t fair. Though I bet you could get your mom to fix things for you.
 #1: my mom wouldn’t fix MY papers when I was a KID IN SCHOOL! she made me do it myself!  she did proofread part of my dissertation, but she damn sure didn’t do the citations for me.
#2: obviously she’s only a doormat for men.
  hm, your mom is part of the patriarchy?
#1: patriarchy combined with lack of caffeine makes me extra-ragey.
 #2: Perhaps I’m being too mean. [#1 doesn’t think so]  But seriously, I’m glad my mom isn’t a doormat anymore.
#1: mostly, my mom’s BOSS is patriarchy. My mom knows this is wack but refuses to change. She is patriarchy too, but less so.  I wish my mom would quit being so patriarchy. She raised us to do better than that.
#2: you should tell her that.
#1: WTF second-wave feminists who taught me that I’m as good as a man but apparently don’t actually live that.
#2: “Mom, I’m sorry to have to say this, but you’re setting a bad example.”
#1: I’ve tried.  but she also has low self-confidence about her awesome skills and ability to get a different job if this one lets her go. Which if they have any brains they won’t because she works like a workhorse and for cheap.
#2: ridiculous
  but I suppose it provides health insurance
#1: how the F*CK can we make OTHER people pay us what we’re WORTH when some people think it’s totally ok for a woman to get treated like a doormat? As long as there are some doormats, the rest of us get trampled too.
#2: it is true.   we get blowback for not being not doormats
#2: exactly!  My mom says she wishes your mom were her editor.
 #1: my mom doesn’t seem to understand why I’m so mad about her job. It’s because she’s teaching men that a woman will do their work for them, and then I have to deal with the little shits in my classroom.
#2: yup
 #1: I told her that but she doesn’t believe it’s anyone’s fault but their parents. HELLO you are a parent too.
 #2: My mother agrees with you.  I’m sorry that your mom is a tool for the Man.
#1: maybe your mom and my mom should swap jobs for a week. My mom can write things. Your mom can be an editor that’s not a doormat.
 #2: She wouldn’t though.
 #1: the pay isn’t good enough!
p.s.  Sorry Mom, I know that patriarchy is a system, not just you.  There are many systematic forces going on here.  I love you even though you annoy me.
Grumpy Readers, Does it bother you when other people are used by the system (and have given up on trying to stop being used)?  Does it matter if the person is a loved one?

Thoughts on K-12 awards ceremonies

Personally, as a kid I hated these.  As an adult, they’re just as bad. Really I hate sitting still while people drone on about meaningless things in general.  (I could be reading a novel with this time!  Or doing work…)

Anyhow, recently sat through a 2 hour ordeal for K-6.  It started with a 2nd and 3rd grade combined recorder performance.  The program claims they were playing When the Saints Go Marching.  I will take its word for it.  Fortunately the rest of the music wasn’t quite so painful, but I wouldn’t say it was good and man there sure was a lot of it.

In terms of awards, there seem to be two types of philosophies.  There’s the philosophy that some of the older and more behind-the-times folks grew up with, in which there are a small number of awards that generally actually mean something.  Like you won a spelling bee, you get a spelling award, you had perfect attendance, you get an attendance award etc.  A small number of athletic and academic awards based on demonstrated quantifiable performance.  These kinds of awards lost favor sometime in the late 80s with the self-esteem movement– the idea is that the kids who don’t get awards feel bad.

The self-esteem movement ushered in the idea that every kid gets a trophy.  Everybody gets awards so that nobody feels left out.  Ceremonies are long and annoying and meaningless.  But hey, everyone gets a trophy.  (These would account for my small collection of “most improved” softball trophies.  What a waste.)

The K-6 ceremony I sat through seemed to combine the worst of both worlds.  Each teacher got to nominate 4 kids for every subject plus a few extras, 2 nominations for “excellence” and two for “improvement”.  So, the K teacher, got to nominate something like 32 awards to be shared across her 9 students.  The same for all other teachers and their classes.  On top of that there were tons of other awards for various forms of citizenship and extramurals etc. (including a “Best Boy” and “Best Girl” just like in Harry Potter).  You can see how this might be interminable for the parents.

DC somehow only ended up with one award… “improvement in handwriting.”  I figured with hir almost unbroken record of green dots for behavior that ze would at least get “excellence in listening skills” or something.  Apparently not.  Fortunately DC is still too young to realize that ze was the only kindergartener who didn’t get at least 3 awards, and seemed proud enough to have the certificate of completion.  Whew.

Part of it is ze falling through the cracks– with the subjects ze excels at, neither the K teacher nor the 1st grade teacher nominated hir.  And unlike the other kid doing the half-day split, DC apparently did not impress the language teachers or the arts teacher or the music teacher.

But seriously, if you’re gonna do the “zillions of awards” thing in which the awards are meaningless, shouldn’t you notice when a kid has significantly fewer awards than everybody else?

If there are only a few awards, then the people not getting them are in the majority.  The awards mean something, but not getting one doesn’t mean you’ve been left out.  When there are a lot of awards, not getting any means you’re in the minority and maybe there’s something wrong with you.

But maybe it’s a good lesson to learn that unless there’s money or prestige attached, these awards ceremonies are pretty meaningless, and external validation isn’t as important as actually doing a good job.  Luckily not a lesson that has to be learned this year.

Ironically, DC got hir second lowest grade of hir career in handwriting in the last grading period.

What’s your view on end of the year awards and awards ceremonies for K-12?