How do you refer to someone’s romantic partner?

If they’re married, you can say husband or wife.  If they’re engaged, there’s various spellings of fiance.

What about all those other situations?

Boyfriend and Girlfriend sound a bit adolescent.  As do “young gentleman” and “young lady.”

We use partner a lot, but we’ve heard people complain that it often signals a non-heterosexual relationship or a couple that does not believe in marriage, and so it’s too focused to be used more generally.  (We use it anyway, just not with people who complain about it.)

#1 is a big fan of significant other, or SO for short.  She picked that up from her mom.  But Debbie M suggests that she has many others in her life who play significant roles, “Highly significant other–in a good way”–isn’t quite right either, though.

Sometimes I’ll say, “your guy” if I can’t remember the guy’s name.  (Shhh.)  But it doesn’t seem to work so well in my mind if the significant other in question is female.

We don’t say, “your old man” or “your old lady” anymore.  And with good reason!  My grandma used to say beau.  Does anybody say swain anymore?

Soulmate seems a bit personal.  I figure people can make that determination about their own partners but probably not about other couples.

Mi mama sometimes says inamorato(a).  What can I say, we’re a family of romantics.  (Though with exes, it is always “former flame”.  What can I say, we adore alliteration.)

Some other suggestions:  helpmeet? life partner? partner in Romance?  Most significant other?  Best beloved?

How do you refer to someone’s romantic partner?

May Mortgage Update and housing’s effect on college choice

Last month (April):

Balance: $81,065.97
Years left: 6.5
P =$887.38, I = $327.03, Escrow = 621.66

This month (May):

Balance: $79,508.51
Years left: 6.333
P =$893.52, I = $320.89, Escrow = 613.58

One month’s prepayment savings:  $2.66

Our escrow dropped.  Yay.  (Though boo that’s because our property value continues to drop!) Also: Note we’re below 80K!

It turns out that your housing wealth affects your college choice.  A recent paper by Michael Lovenheim and Lockwood Reynolds finds that a 10K increase in housing wealth in the 4 years before a child goes to college increases the likelihood that the child attends a public flagship by 2 percent compared to less expensive public schools.

They found no relationship between housing wealth and where a student was accepted, and they suggest that the relationship comes between housing wealth and where students apply.

This effect of housing wealth on college choice was strongest for lower income families (under 75K, which isn’t actually low income, but it is generally eligible for financial aid at colleges).  For this group, a 10K increase in housing increased the probability of attending a flagship by 8.3 percent and decreased the probability of going to a community college by 3.8 percent.

They also found for lower income families that an increase in housing wealth decreased the amount that students worked outside of school and increased the probability of earning a BA rather than dropping out by 1.8 percent.

They found no effect of housing wealth on families earning more than 125K/year.

Do you think increases in your housing wealth would change your decisions about where you or your children could attend school?

link love

Not of general interest discusses life after tenure.  Also writing houses.

Update:  MineralPhys prof also discusses life after tenure.

We still use the term patriarchy, but we really mean kyriarchy, I think, because with our post-modern definition, the patriarchy oppresses everyone, not just women.  Tiny grain of rice explains intersectionality.

Scalzi linked to another great piece on intersectionality, this time a teaching tool, from the border house.

From The Nation:  Why are we willing to spend so many resources on protecting people from terror and so little protecting them from preventable accidents?

Perhaps the way the rich have been getting so much richer than everyone else may have something to do with it.

NW edible explains how to pick good seedlings.

This Jeff Goldblum interview is adorbable.

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

Laura Vanderkam says yes, you can be ambitious and smell the roses too, and Real Simple is hurting women (and being disingenuous) by saying otherwise.

Sometimes you hit a Salon article and end up reading a few more.  Here’s one on wikipedia systematically moving women authors from the main authors page to the women authors subpage.  Fourth grader with argument in support of marriage equalityConversion therapy dude apologizes and notes that he’s actually still gay (and that’s ok!).

My mom sent me this NYTimes link about Jane Austen as a game theorist.  She also went to a classics potluck this week and noted that Newmann’s Own has a salad dressing with identical ingredients to what was used in Ancient Rome.  Who knew?  (Apparently my mom did.)

Did you say higgs boson?

Not sure how we feel about this ring.

Wandering Scientist had a couple of good introspective posts this week.  Here’s the first.

Google on, Answers on

Q:  when do babies stop being grumpy

A:  When 1. all their needs are met and 2. they’re asleep!

Q:  why do i have to do everything

A:  You don’t!  Let some stuff go, delegate, hire good help.

Q:  what can i put under dish drainer to run water down into sink

A:  We’re using two dry sponges.

Q:  if i am wheat intolerant is

A:  It is possible, not a definite.

Q:  is bad research better than no research

A:  for tenure in some places, yes.  In terms of making the world a better place, absolutely not.  (Note:  descriptive research is not bad research.)

Q:  is 33 too late to start a phd accoutning program?

A:  Of course not!  But only you can make that decision for sure– do you want to spend your next 5-odd years in graduate school, what kind of opportunity costs do you have in terms of lost income, and so on.  But 33 is plenty fine.

Q:  what is life like after tenure

A;  A lot like life prior to tenure, but less with the caring about teaching evals.  More focus on research, less focus on angst and drama.  Lots more service though.

Q: why are civil engineers so grumpy

A:  Wouldn’t you be grumpy if you had to spend all day 5 days a week thinking about concrete?

Q: is the government taken away what you can write off your mortage

A:  From an economic standpoint, it really should.  The mortgage deduction was supposed to help people buy homes (in order to encourage better civic-mindedness), but empirically it doesn’t, it just helps them buy bigger homes, which doesn’t have any positive externalities that we care about.  Additionally it tends to be regressive, helping high earners but not lower income folks.  However, from a political standpoint, it is unlikely that the mortgage deduction will ever go away.  It is just too popular.  It is possible that the deduction might get chipped away at in the future if there’s major tax reform, but it will probably not be taken away.

Q:  what to wear egregious boots


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Our fantasy library

So, some day when one of us becomes extremely wealthy… you know, when #2’s partner’s long-lost great-uncle dies and leaves him his hundreds of millions… we’re going to buy a three story flat in San Francisco.  #2 and company will live on the top floor, my family will live on the bottom floor where the running of small feet won’t bother anybody, and the middle floor will be our joint library.  (Yes, we know it would be smarter to have the library on the bottom floor, but #2 will be rich enough that they can reinforce it or something.)

While I was viewing the shots of #2’s bookcases, I realized something horrific.  “Oh man, I don’t think we could ever consolidate libraries though,” I typed.  “I’m itching to go through your shelves and sort by author alphabetically.”

Fortunately, that turned out not to be a problem.  “You could curate my books for me. You could even add yours in. I would keep them in order once they were in order,” she replied.  Apparently she doesn’t have her own strange filing system that I just wasn’t understanding.  They’re just not… in order.  *twitch*  You know that episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon goes to a party and organizes his hosts’ closet and begs to be allowed to take the button box home to organize in the car?  That’s totally me.  Though mostly with bookcases and spice racks.  I’m not a clean person, but I love my alphabetizing.

Well, it’s not quite fair to say that they’re not in order.  She does have them in “an order.” “For example,” she says, “there is one case that is all my best-loved and most-personal books.”  Which totally makes sense to me.  I’ve often had my most beloved books on the shelf closest to my bed in my life.  Or I’ll have a separate shelf for not-yet-read books.  But the former are generally organized by genre and then by author’s last name, while the latter are organized either by order I should read, alphabetically, or if there are a lot of them, in a manner than will help keep the towers from toppling (largest on the bottom).

“I would let you alphabetize them,” she said.  “I might even help. I just wouldn’t do it all myself.”  This is a good thing, because I might have a nervous break-down if I had to continually see Dave Barry coming right after Diana Wynne Jones.  My mind would not be able to handle it.  In no world does that make sense unless you have very few books by other authors and that just happens to be where you break between fiction and non-fiction/humor.

#2 also has another odd need– she wants authors who coauthor books to have the coauthored book in between the other two authors.  “Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett wrote a book together, so Good Omens is filed in between the two authors, who are next to each other.  I believe that Patricia Wrede and Carolyn Stevermer belong together.”  However, that problem is easily solved, “How about two copies of good omens, one housed with each author?”  “That will work.”

Series order is also important– we are agreed that the Discworld books should be in publication order.  After all, many of the characters show up in other folks’ series.  Especially the Librarian.

Some more discussion decides that hardbacks and paperbacks should be put together in the same shelves.  We are not facing space constraints in our fantasy library, and nothing has to be in a fancy display shelf.  If you don’t think old paperbacks are beautiful, you don’t belong in our library, even if you might be invited to our living rooms.

Then we move on to the more difficult discussion of how to group fiction vs. non-fiction and different genres.  I favor separation of fiction and non-fiction at the very least (though humor like Dave Barry could go in either or in a separate category), and have a slight favor towards subdividing fiction.  She prefers putting everything together.  She wants Malcolm Gladwell in with her fiction.  I don’t.  We throw the question to our partners.  Mine wants everything to be completely subdivided by genre.  Hers says that we should totally separate fiction from non-, and that his books have to go in, too, so, she reluctantly agrees, “I guess separation it is.”  As a concession I allow her to include the graphic novels, manga, and comics with the fiction by author.  She notes that we should put their gaming/RPG books in a separate section as well.

We agree on comfy brown leather chairs with ottomans.  And a divan or two.  And a window seat.  Also, comfy couches, cushions and blankets for the windowseat, curtains, and a fireplace.  Some super-fluffy rug so we can sprawl on our tummies on the floor in front of the fire.  Lighting will somehow be perfect.  And, of course a cat, though we’re not sure whether it should be our already existing felines or a new one specific to the library.  Possibly a marmalade tabby.  And some kitty-specific furniture that allows them to avoid other kitties.

X-rated stuff goes on high high shelves, or goes in individual bedrooms.  #2 must have a lot of pr0n.
We decide on a separate area with low bookcases for books for 0-4 year olds, but chapter books will be shelved with the adult ones.  I add some children’s puzzles and a little desk with little chairs.  Like at the library.  #2 adds a beanbag.  And step-stools.

Finally, we make sure the wifi covers that room too so we can get to LibraryThing.

Now we just have to wait for someone’s unknown rich relative to die and leave us lots of money.

What does your fantasy library look like?


  • It’s weird when you finish up one deadline and it’s a while before your next, and you think you have some time off, all the little things you’ve been neglecting or that you “should do someday” end up filling up all that space and then some.
  • Our mortgage interest may be only 6K/year, but when you add that to the state tax deduction, that puts us over the standard deduction and thus makes any additional charity donations deductible.
  • Hint:  None of your colleagues want to hear about your emotions.  That’s what friends, therapists, and family are for.  (Corollary:  nobody wants to hear about your toe fungus except maybe your doctor.  Possibly also your elderly relatives.)
  • So, um… what does it mean when the entire chain of command in your department quits (slash “retires”) over the course of a week?  As in, your chair, other departments’ chairs, associate dean, and dean.  Along with many many of the admin staff in the dean’s office?  What just happened?!?
  • Have you ever met anyone native from the Pacific Northwest who isn’t a flake obsessed with some superficial version of finding meaning?  No, I’m seriously curious about this.  Also, I’m not sure if Seattle counts… I could imagine that people from Seattle aren’t flaky, but I don’t know!
  • I am old enough that I can wear a younger-style haircut.  Yay!
  • If you wait long enough to discuss a controversial post, nobody notices the two are linked.  Which is a good reason to have a long queue if one wants to be secretly snarky.
  • If you write an offensive post, and someone tells you that the post is offensive (you know, straight out says, “this is an offensive post,” not mincing words with softening “maybes, perhaps, I feel, etc.”)… then perhaps the reason it bothers you is not because the person commenting is a meanie-head, but that deep down you know it was an offensive post and you feel guilty.  DARVO.
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Ordering replacement parts from the manufacturer

The handle on our crockpot lid broke.  DH jury-rigged a replacement handle with parts he found at Home Depot, but that, too, broke.

This time he went to the rival website and lo: they had replacement lids and other replacement parts for sale.  $10 plus shipping seemed kind of steep, especially if the lid was just going to break again, but after some thought and looking at replacing the crock-pot with a fancier model, we decided it was worth it.  But alas, there was no button to actually make a purchase on the website (DH saw that the source code has a note:  “put button here”).  So he called the company to make the purchase.

The nice lady on the other end asked how it had broken.  When DH said it had just fallen apart with regular use, she said they’d send him a new lid for free.  Yay.

And the moral of the story is that if part of something has broken, you can often get replacement parts direct from the manufacturer rather than replacing the entire thing.  And sometimes you can get those replacement parts for free!

link love

In case you haven’t seen it, this post from the onion pretty well sums up the week.  We have to say, though, the law enforcement responses have been really amazing.  It kind of brings back one’s faith in government… well, in public servants.  Not so much in NRA-sponsored politicians.  They still suck.

Sad about death, destruction, and random bombings? Hit reload at emergency kitten.

A good article from get rich slowly on how financial literacy classes don’t really work.

Fretful porpentine with some awesome art.

Penny-arcade with a really thoughtful strip on gun control.  More from mom-101 on the senate vote.

Bro says, “I guess my baby sister is cool. Or whatever,” from offbeat families.

Offbeat home loves on libraries.

OMG from academic cog.

Reassigned time talks about what life after tenure is like.  We hope more folks will chime in.

Microsoft excel error used in a conference paper to justify economic policy.  (Refereeing would not have found the excel error, btw.)  From arstechnica.

YOU NEED TO SEE THESE PICTURES from buzzfeed THEY ARE VERY IMPORTANT (ed: or have babies and puppies).  On the other hand, just babies.

SBC comics explains how extremists screw up communication.

Not of general interest on being a writer, and Dame Eleanor with a deliberately controversial post on negative spirals/group therapy vs. accountability.

Finally, if you haven’t checked out our Ask the Grumpies from yesterday, TRS could still use some advice (she adds info in the comments, as well).

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

Ask the grumpies: A two-body problem solution?

Tenured rock star in the humanities (we picked this name for her) asks:

Here’s my advice question. It’s a big one but you guys seem smart about thinking through decisions rationally and I think you and your readership might have some valuable thoughts. My husband and I are trying to decide whether to move.  I am a recently-tenured assoc prof in a humanities discipline at a fancy private R1 university. I get paid well (for a humanities prof) and have modest research funds and a sweet teaching load.

My husband is the trailing spouse. He has been working as academic staff here in a job he does not like. His humanities field is insanely competitive (200+ applicants for every job; he has been a finalist 4 times). Meanwhile he has published a book with an extremely reputable academic press, published some articles, and started working in the field of digital humanities — doing his own new research project this way, teaching a class in it, and starting up a DH working group on campus. All of this on top of his fulltime academic staff job and with zero support from the school.

This year he was successful on the job market and got a TT offer from a second-tier, but very solid, public university in a neighboring state. It is too far to commute and this school is willing to bring me in with tenure as a spousal hire. We both like where we currently live [ed:  A major city] and my brother and sister-in-law live in the same town. Second-tier but solid school is in a less-cool but still entirely serviceable and incredibly affordable large city (apartment here — with 2 kids — and big house there, etc.). We will still have our yuppie necessities: whole foods, trader joes, farmer’s markets, CSAs, bike paths, a bunch of cultural institutions, etc.

We feel like, given the humanities job market, we may never again have the chance at two TT jobs (we have, after all, been trying for 6 years), so this is a huge opportunity. But I can’t quite decide how important it is to be at an R1 and have that status, versus having both of us welcomed and supported at this other less-prestigious place.  My husband’s current job is not only totally unenjoyable but is a career dead-end. We are trying to negotiate something better for him at R1, but it will not be and will never be a TT job b/c they just don’t play that way.

I’m currently grief-stricken because of health stuff going on with my Mom and I’m finding it incredibly hard to think clearly and to separate out reasonable fear of change/moving from that grief from trust-your-gut messages about what’s really right here.

Any thoughts from you and your readers?

This is a really tough decision, especially when you’re worried about family health matters.  Our sympathies with you and your mother.

Our first thought is that when top women in our fields (and it’s almost always women) make these moves, they generally get their top institution to allow them to try it out for a year first.  Your husband would then accept his job and you would essentially keep both jobs for a year.  Technically you would be on unpaid leave from the hot-shot job.  In a year you have a better idea of the differences between the two institutions and your own preferences.  This doesn’t always fly, but it seems to be how most of the academic couples we’ve seen changing institutions make the move.  It is very hard to give up tenure at a top school.  (Websites like can help you find temporary housing, often furnished so you don’t have to move your stuff.)

Let’s say that trying it out for a year isn’t in the cards.  From your email, we’re assuming that staying together is important, so we won’t discuss options that include living apart. For other couples, that might be a solution.  (And we’ve seen this work out too, eventually.)

The main worry leaving your awesome school is that you will get to the less good school and find out that one or both of you is miserable, or your DH doesn’t get tenure and there are fewer opportunities for him in the new town than there were in your old city.

If that happens, all is not lost, assuming that you are still awesome. Because awesome people can move again.

So you need to make sure that if you move, your new position allows you to remain awesome.

What does that mean? Well, what is the teaching load like? (Include things like number of classes, number of preps, size of classes, grading support etc.) How much sharing of ideas etc. can you do with your new department compared to what you did with your old department? What kind of resources are they giving you in terms of travel bursary, research support, etc. compared to what you had before? How are the salaries different? (And is your current department countering with a better salary for you?) The new place doesn’t have to be as amazing as the old place, but it does need to allow you to continue to be a productive and happy researcher. Get things in writing. Negotiate. Don’t just be grateful to be a spousal hire– they’re very lucky to be getting you and you need to protect yourself. You’re a tenured professor at a top school– keep that in mind!  (And no, you don’t have to be a jerk about it– you just have to politely explain why you need these things.)

One of us is at a school that has better resources than its ranking– she still has a higher teaching load than she would at a top school, but the other benefits keep her more productive than she would be at a less resource-rich school at the same rank (and it helps that the resource rich environment is attracting more colleagues in her specific field area). The other one of us is in a resource-poor environment and it’s difficult to even get travel funds. These things are important.  Teaching loads are very important.  If the new school is resource-rich, then you can mostly ignore the prestige question, but if the resources are less than abundant, then your career may be strongly negatively impacted.

I know several women who have made this kind of a move, and they’re all pretty happy. Of course, they’re also making huge salaries at the less-good universities and they have other kinds of sweetheart deals (running a center, being allowed to make new hires, etc.).  You can’t just look a the question in terms of :  one Tenured job at a fancy school vs. one Tenured/one TT job at a not as good school.  You have to look at the whole package.  (And given that you’re moving to a Public university, I am sure you’ve looked at the salary scale of people in the department that wants to hire you…)

If you do decide to stay put… I’m sure your DH knows this, but given that you live in a major city with several universities, he should be networking with folks in those departments… if they like him enough they might be convinced to write a job description for him one of these years.  You can also go on the market yourself to places that have good spousal hiring policies, though it sounds like you’ve been doing so.

Good luck with your decision and best wishes to your family!

#2 would like to add that I support everything above and those are great points.  Given everything you’ve said, I think you should definitely go for it, just do itte, as CPP would say (keeping in mind the options above about trying to take a year of leave, negotiating for more resources, etc.).  I think whatever you decide can work out well for you and your family.  hang in there.  #1 is more ambivalent… the resources available at the new place are important, as is the counter-offer given by the current place.  #2  adds:  time for lots and lots of negotiation with BOTH schools.  Play them against each other.  If DH can get a lectureship, then stay!  #1 says:  Yes, tenure isn’t everything, but being productive is.  Letterhead is also nice.

Grumpy Nation:  TRS needs your help!  What advice do you have for her?  What should she be thinking about in making her decision?

Ideas for volunteering at DC1’s school?

DC2 will be in daycare next year and DC1 will be in third grade.  DH will be working on starting a consulting business.  I have tenure.  We think we may have more time to get involved with DC1’s school this coming year.

DC1’s school is still hurting from the disastrous financial management last year.  It’s down to 50-odd students.  The management is much better now, but it takes years to recover from bad publicity.  We’re hoping to help out some, but aren’t sure what best fits their needs and our desires and abilities.

We’re currently on the financial committee.  Their large-grants committee is in terrible shape, but their version of the PTA seems to be doing ok.  We don’t want to go on the fundraising committee, though it is insane how much that particular committee has dropped the ball and bungled things this year.  We also did a stint on recruitment last year and find that to be pretty thankless.

They also have parents doing regular helping out in class.  They have room-parents.  There’s a lovely woman doing a gardening program with the students.

My graduate degree is in social science, and really isn’t something I can teach at the K-12 level.  I do, however, have a wide range of experience in math education, both teaching and tutoring.  I even spent a year doing gifted pull-out math once a week for fourth graders in an inner city school.  (Though I would have to recreate my box o’materials– even if it still exists it is in my parents’ basement back in the midwest.)

DH has degrees in engineering and computer science.  He will probably be the adviser of the robot team next year.  He wanted to do that the first year, but for one reason or another the students didn’t field a team.  This year they did, but we had a brand new baby so that was off the table for us.

Any suggestions for what we should suggest to them, if anything?