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?

Never do the following out loud

1.  Assume anyone is pregnant unless she has told you herself.

2.  Assume that the person is the nanny.

3.  Assume that the person is the grandmother.

4.  Assume that a person wants kids.

5.  Assume that a person wants to discuss his or her fertility plans with you.

6.  Assume that you have any right to comment on anyone’s fertility decisions.

7.  Assume that everyone has equal access to fertility control and decision-making.

8.  Say, “I’m not defending rapists, but–”

I think that about covers it for now.

Why I like stocks over real estate

There are two main reasons one might prefer stocks (and bonds) over real estate for the small time investor.

The first reason is diversification risk.  Houses are expensive, and unless you’re extremely leveraged, it is difficult to buy a lot of houses across a lot of different markets.  If your small area takes a hit or something goes wrong with your single rental, you don’t have a lot of other investments to balance that out.  It’s also more difficult to manage houses over a large number of markets than it is to just buy an index fund.

Now, you could just do a REIT, which is like stocks for real estate, but again, that’s focusing your money into one market.  Having some REIT makes sense as part of your portfolio if you don’t own your own house, or your own house is a tiny portion of your overall portfolio.  However, on average the REIT is going to match the stock market, so only focusing on real estate doesn’t trade off enough return for the lack of diversification.

The second reason is laziness.  It is easy to buy and sell index funds.  There’s always a buyer at market price.  If you need to unload stocks quickly by a certain date to turn into cash, you can.  You don’t need a good credit rating or the bank’s permission to do those kinds of things.  You just need money or stocks.

Directly managing real estate lowers those transaction costs that you have with longer-distance diversified real estate, but also adds more hassle.  You’re the one who has to deal with tenants, contractors, etc.  It’s a pain.

In addition, there’s a time factor.  Buying or selling an index fund takes no time at all.  Directly owning investment real estate can take hours.  Yes, your effort produces more value, but so would your effort in other directions.  Some people enjoy the small business aspect of real estate, but I do not.  I would rather earn more money through my day-job or other side projects.

Again, if you enjoy the process of buying and selling real estate, and you like dealing with repairs and tenants and so on, real estate investment can be a fun side project.  But if you don’t get utility from such actions, index funds are just as good on average and take a ton less time and emotional energy.

Have you ever dipped your toes into real estate investing?  Do you know anybody IRL who has done well with it?  Any horror stories?

link love spink love

In case you were wondering, wikipedia tells me that Spink is another name for Chaffinch.

Lotsa links this week!

Gawker mansplains to mansplainers why women don’t like it when you tell them they’re hot in professional settings.

Delagar with a pic of the cutest new member of the delagar family.  Squee!

How David Carr doesn’t mean to be sexist, but, like many folks, he is.

NIHCM explains health entitlement spending in six charts.

Are you, like me, continually checking xkcd: 1190?  Here’s an automagically updated video version.

Academic cog contemplates Dr. Seuss’s hats of creativity.  I used to have a thinking cap.  I wonder whatever happened to it…

Not of general interest and the chronicle of higher education ask who gives up tenure?  Pretty happy people, apparently.

We wanted to link to MutantSupermodel’s pictures of bookshelves… but just LOOK at what her ex sent one of the kids home in.  I mean, wha?

Single mom rich mom talks about being a scanner.

Tressiemc notes that the advice to not go to graduate school may not be the best advice for underrepresented minorities.  Part of this advice I’ve thought about in terms of associates and bachelors degrees with DH’s (low SES but not minority) relatives… earning a little over minimum wage doing commercial art wouldn’t be that bad compared to earning minimum wage at the dollar store, so the advice not to be an artist doesn’t necessarily make sense in that context.  Additionally, getting a bachelors degree is important when there aren’t a whole lot of jobs in your town and there’s a ton of competition for the ones that don’t require degrees… whether or not you want to get the heck out of dodge.  Additionally her analysis also applies to gender– part of the reason that women earn more education is precisely because their options without them are not as good as men’s options, even though the degree doesn’t add as much to a woman’s salary as it does to a man’s (though for white women, you can still do fairly well with just a bachelors compared to the opportunities for minorities).  Anyhow, a very neat article and illustrates the importance of breaking apart treatment effects by groups (something I covered in class on Wednesday!)– even if those still only give the average for each group and individuals may vary.

buzzfeed with 31 reasons why the job search sucks.

The oatmeal with the mantis shrimp.  DEATH SHRIMP.

Turns out coursera does have an underwater basketweaving course… (avoid the death shrimp though…)

This song from mashable is EPIC.  Where is Prince Ali?

No time for flashcards suggests positive princess books for kids.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.  (Though, as a note, Nicole and Maggie do not share a budget… the post in question is just about #1 and her husband.  #2’s partner has a real job!)

Your googled questions, our sage wisdom

Q:  mnemonic device for vaginal ring?

A:  That word you are using– I do not think it means what you think it means.

Q: who came up with authoritarian

A:  The first bellweather in the animal kingdom, though perhaps that is too much leading by example.  In any case, we imagine authoritarian predates humans.

Q:  how having award ceremonies help children with self-esteem

A:  If it helps anyone, we bet it only helps the kids who don’t see through it.

Q:  where does mr money mustache live

A:  Colorado.  Are you a crazy stalker?  He’s kind of a big guy.

Q:  when you have something planed on the weekend does the week go fast

A:  No, but maybe you perceive time differently than we do.

Q:  how do you pay taxes and insurance when your home is paid off

A:  In our state, at least, the tax assessor sends you a bill.  Presumably your insurance will also bill you directly.  As to how to pay it off, if your income is not high in comparison to the bills, the suggestion would be to set aside some money each month (part of what you’d been paying to the mortgage you no longer have!)  If your income is high compared to the bills, then pay it off with cash flows.

Q: what happens when there is a grumpy noise when you are pregnant

A:  your partner offers you some ice cream?  And a massage?

Q: as a professor, should i teach in the summer or do research?

A:  do research

Q: how many parties a year do you host

A:  one or two

Q:  how to spend money right

A:  You can always send it to us…