link love

If you missed yesterday’s post, do you have any advice for a first year TT prof?

It’s vacation-time, that means more miser-mom!

Robot-hugs… but what about the men?

Historiann gathers lessons for girls.

100 cats in Ikea.

An instant holiday classic from deadspin.  We laughed out loud so much!

Couple fined $3500 for writing a negative review.

23andme has been in the news a lot lately.

Legos + washing machines.  Go!

self styled siren with ten easy-to-love classics.  (I’d recommend The Lady Vanishes)

CNN discusses foodstamps.

Ask the grumpies: First year on the tt

SP asks:

Any advice for my husband, who is starting his first TT job in January? He’s in a science field, if that matters. He’s read this article: How I learned to stop worrying and love the tenure-track faculty life if you have any opinion on it.

One area his struggles is with time management and deadlines. He meets his deadlines, but often will work on new research until he absolutely has to start preparing a paper, then is working until the very last minute. “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute!” He’s done fine in grad school and post-doc, but he is worried that his style won’t translate well to balancing teaching and advising with research.

My first advice is for your husband to ask for advice himself.  :-)  Specifically, he should ask his mentors and senior colleagues (respectfully) for advice when he gets on campus.

He’s right to be worried!  You can do everything last-minute on the TT, but it will destroy your health and your family life, and could be less-than-great for tenure.  One book he could read is On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching by James Lang.  This would be especially helpful if he hasn’t combined teaching and research before.

#2 points out that the excellent Advice for New Faculty Members by Robert Boice is pretty convincing on the not binging and crashing research or teaching and also has great tips.  She has definitely found that starting early and doing a bit at the time really helps her subconscious to figure out tricky problems for her seemingly in her sleep, resulting in her spending less time on teaching and writing overall with higher quality results than when she last-minutes things.

It’s kind of ok to prep your teaching at the last minute, but there will be less sleep and probably more stress than necessary.  Doing a last-minute class prep is less likely to be successful when you have very little experience doing it and at figuring out how long it takes you, personally, to prep one class period from scratch.  Some of this may be inevitable in the first year, but after that it should be more measured.

#2 liked to spend her Sundays doing lecture prep that first year.  She also did a bunch of up-front prep work before school started getting the bones of the class down.  After each lecture she either changed her notes right then or she left herself post-it notes for what to change or keep– this helped her amazingly the next time she taught the course.

I wonder if his papers have been successful in getting published if he always does them at the last minute?  I would be concerned that they will get rejected rather than R&R because they are likely sloppy and do not show revisions or clear explanations, do not anticipate reviewer objections, etc.  Perhaps setting up a writing accountability program or group would help him be more productive in the long run  (click on our writing tag to see what we think about this).  Meeting deadlines is good, but having enough time to ask for feedback before the deadline may be more successful.

#2 notes that one of Boice’s big things is to “let others do the work for you”– that’s something you can’t do if you leave things to the last minute.  A grant is going to be more successful if someone proofreads it.  Reviewers will like your papers better if they make sense and are error-free.  He can always set himself earlier deadlines that will allow him to put down the completed paper or proposal while someone else looks at it so he can polish it at the last minute.

New research is shiny, I admit, and way more fun than revising the intro to the paper you just wrote about your previous results!  What’s his R&R success rate?  His grant funding rate?  Sometimes last-minute grant-writing will work, but it puts a big strain on the support staff and you might not be able to get it through the relevant campus offices as fast as you think.  At the very least, last-minute grant work will burn goodwill in the sponsored programs office on your campus, and you might need that later.  Again, it totally does happen sometimes, but if EVERY grant is last-second hair-on-fire sign-this-form-today, you may start to encounter resistance.

#2 notes that many faculty put grants off to the last minute.  If you get a reputation for *not* doing that, they will often love you and be more willing to go the extra mile for you.  I speak from experience.


The art of learning not to take things seriously: A deliberately controversial post

First a disclaimer:  We are totally AP parents.  If that infant cries, we pick hir up immediately.  We’re also not heartless– if a student’s grandma dies, ze can take time off and turn in assignments late.  And so on.  This post is not about big deals, but about moderating moderate upsets.  End disclaimer.

Sometimes kids get heart-broken over things that really aren’t that big a deal.  Falling down (but not damaging anything).  Dropping a candy (when they have more that haven’t fallen).  Another kid accidentally pushing them (again with no injury).  And so on, with age appropriate examples.

Yeah yeah, some parenting philosophies say you’re supposed to tell kids how they’re feeling.  And some say that you’re supposed to empathize no matter what.  Sometimes we’ve seen this in action and instead of soothing like it’s supposed to, it lengthens the amount of crying and angst.  (Possibly a misapplication of the philosophy.)

We sympathize with disappointment, to the appropriate degree.  Kiss the owie to make it better and go off to play.  (Occasionally a crying jag can be broken if you exaggerate for effect, OH NOOOOO, the world is going to end… that usually gets a giggle.)

It’s important to fix problems (had to take a break from typing this because DC1 got soap in hir eye), but once they’re fixed, they don’t necessarily need the post-game analysis.

Kids pick up on our cues.  If they’re not sure how bad something is, they look to us.  How upset are we?  How upset do we seem to think they should be?  Is this a quick peck and then you run off to play, or is this something that requires lots of sympathy (even if the kid has forgotten which leg got hurt by this point)?

When we make a big deal out of something that isn’t such a big deal, we may be prolonging the angst and the pain that might quickly have been forgotten otherwise.  When we provide too many cushions, we may be denying our children the chance to grow and to find inner-strength.  Bending over backwards as if to keep a delicate flower from being crushed over a small thing may keep that flower from being able to move with the wind.  Our reaction should be appropriate for the upset.

My mom liked to tell me that I was building my character whenever something didn’t go my way.  I remember telling my mom once that my character was buff enough already, thank you.  She said, and I quote, “Oh ho ho ho.  Very funny.”  Ah mom.

But the lesson is a good one.  Yes, we can recover from life’s little setbacks.  We can regulate our emotions.  We don’t always need to be rescued.  We can grow and find our own inner strength, and build that strength.

Spoiler Alert:  I’m currently rereading Foundling by Georgette Heyer, about a little duke who has been coddled much of his life and yearns to break free.  One day he sneaks out, just to see what it’s like.  He spends an uncomfortable time out on his own, but he also grows a lot too.  He comes back with a greater appreciation for the people who love him, but also with his own inner strength.  Life isn’t always about being protected from any potential upset.

So what brings this up?  Mother’s in Medicine had a post discussing whether or not it was ok to keep your kid at daycare if you yourself are on vacation from work.  The original commenter clarified:

This incident stuck with me because the child was very, very upset each morning, much more so than at a regular drop off. The conversation was about making sure you forge a good relationship with your kids while they are little. Perhaps this mother did need a break; however it seemed that perhaps her child needed a bit of vacation then, too.

Assuming that the reason for the kid’s increased upsetness was mom’s being on vacation and not say, staying up too late the night before (because of mom’s vacation) or something completely unrelated like teething, this kind of thing can be a learning experience for the child.

Mom may take a vacation without you.  She may drop you off at daycare and you may imagine that she’ll spend the entire day eating ice cream and going to the zoo without you (more likely she’s going to do boring adult things).  But she’ll pick you up at the end of the day just like always (or maybe daddy will get you like always) and maybe she’ll be relaxed enough that you can do something fun that evening.  It is highly unlikely that a kid is going to be scarred for life by not taking a vacation when he’s supposed to be going to school.  So buck up.  Mom’ll be back and you’ll have plenty of time to have fun again in the future.

And that’s a good thing.

What isn’t good is mom freaking out and feeling guilty.  Because that teaches the kid that this kind of thing is a big deal, which really it isn’t.  Everyone is much happier when we give reactions that are proportionate to events and don’t make a big deal out of nothing.

Ok, Grumpeteers.  Your turn.


  • Dear campus security, Don’t send sketchy looking emails with links embedded offering the chance to win an ipad if you click on the link and take an online security test.  I’m fairly sure that our online training told us to delete emails that look like yours, and I’m surprised to find that yours is legit.
  • Dear Cardamom producers, Please figure stuff out and get back to growing and selling and distributing cardamom.   The folks at Penzey’s thought perhaps the problem was in the middle east, but wikipedia tells me that Guatemala is the leading producer with India second.
  • Dear California, Can’t you figure out how to grow cardamom?
  • Dear Self, You should know that the risks of stopping by your chair’s office include getting put on another committee.
  • Dear Jury service people, I just served on a jury LAST MONTH.  Why are you doing this to me?
  • Dear stupid state that I live in.  Other states won’t let you be summoned twice in the same year.  What is UP with you?
  • Dear internet: to “peak” someone’s curiosity is not the same as to pique it…. ow.
  • Dear job market candidate:  Prezi SUCKS.  If you don’t like Powerpoint, use Beamer. Or in a pinch, Adobe.  Did you know that Prezi is a migraine trigger?  True story!  (Irony:  googling migraine trigger prezi brings up prezi presentations on how to avoid migraine triggers.  Hint:  don’t use Prezi!)  Also, seems like only people who are completely unable to think linearly use Prezi, which makes for a pretty terrible presentation even if it wasn’t making people motion sick.
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In which I learn a lesson about myself

This year, about a day after DH started his new job, I was on the way to meet a job candidate for breakfast.  Just as I was driving into the parking lot, the radio made an announcement for one of those adopt a child for Christmas things, where you get a child’s Christmas list and buy things off it.  The point of contact, coincidentally, was the restaurant whose parking lot I was driving into.  As I walked up to my regular “meeting the job candidate” table, right at eye-level on a Christmas tree was a tag for a girl with my first name, the age of DC1.

The coincidences were too much not to be taken as a sign, so I pulled the tag and figured I’d shop for the items the next weekend.  She wanted a “Dora the Explorer doll.”  Immediately I started thinking about the Dora related merchandize I could get, shirts and socks and books and so on.

Upon closer examination, the girl’s simple request was more complicated than I had suspected.  First off, there are something like 100+ different Dora the Explorer dolls.  Since my DC1 is unusual, I asked our secretary’s daughter (age 8) what she thought this 6 year old could be wanting, and she said probably one of the big ($34) plush ones, and not one of the ($11) figures.  Her mom said she always did the Christmas adopt a child thing (one adoption for each of her kids) and suggested Toys R Us.

I reserved a Dora book at our local Barnes and Noble so we could just drop in and pick it up.  I wanted one with words and buttons to push because DC1 has loved hir button pushing Dora books for about 4 years now (even if technically they’ve been passed down to DC2).

First stop, shoes size 13… but, of course, Target hides those.  After a lot of fruitless searching, I found some acceptable sneakers shelved with the size 1s.  I tried to find some dress-shoes too, but gave up.  Target did not have any of the plush Dora dolls, and it only had one of the $29 large doll versions (Sleepy-time Dora), but her hair was totally messed up and the packaging somewhat beat up.  Then I thought, Dora underpants would be kind of neat… but they do not make Dora underpants in size 8 (or at least, Amazon says they do, but they’re hard to get and definitely not stocked at Target– they only go up to size 6 in Dora).  So I wavered between size 6 Dora underpants and size 8 regular girl’s underpants, and went with the size 6.  Similarly, Dora socks only seem to come in toddler sizes, and I was overwhelmed there not knowing quite what size I wanted or what I was looking for in socks.

I know this is ridiculous, but my MIL buys most of DC1 and DC2’s clothing, except for school uniforms, and we’re told exactly what to order from Land’s End.  The rest comes hand-me-down from various colleagues and neighbors.  I almost never have to buy kids’ clothing.  So, yes, I should know what socks go with a size 13 shoe, but I don’t.    Also DC1 is a bit on the small size, so we’re not quite there yet.

Then I made it to the clothing and had a hard time finding anything in size 7.  And I had no idea what to get.  So finally I sought out DH and DC1 (found them in the cat section, as we’ve got 3 new backyard residents we have to get acclimated and to the vet.. more on that in the future) and made them look.  That didn’t help much.  Then DH vetoed size 6 underpants for someone who was size 7, and I forgot to get the size 8 underpants when I put back the size 6.  Or maybe I thought Toys R Us would have underpants and socks (they didn’t) because we once got training pants for DC1 there (which is completely irrelevant when you’re looking for a 6 year old).

Finally I got a pair of matching black (because everyone looks good in black) yoga/sweat pants and a hoodie with colorful peace symbols on it.  All the jeans there were skinny jeans and I was concerned that a 6 year old who liked Dora the Explorer (suggesting an age closer to 5 than to 7) but was size 7 might be something other than skinny.

Then to Toys R Us.  They also did not have the plush $34 Dora doll, but they did have better versions of the $29 plush + plastic head dolls.  I picked out Baby-sitting Dora over Sleepy-time Dora, because I thought baby Boots was cute.  While there I also picked up another 3 Dora books, including one with buttons that make noise.  Realized I forgot underpants and socks.

Then to Barnes and Noble to pick up the last book.  At this point DC1 and I both had seriously low blood sugar and had to stop at the cafe which took a long time and cost more than it should have.

As I write this, I’m trying to figure out when I’m going to make it back to the store to get some final clothing items, or if I’m just going to take it in as-is.  She didn’t ask for underwear and socks, but a lot of the kids do.  (Why are underpants and socks so important?  Because you can’t buy them used and you rarely get them as hand-me-downs.)  It would also be nice to get a lighter weather shirt too, and not just the hoodie.

So what did I learn?  Turns out I HATE shopping.  I seriously hate shopping.  (Also I learned that almost all Dora clothing maxes out at 6x.)  It’s not about the money– we’re feeling pretty flush in the pocket and given that most of the kids ask for bikes, spending another $20 on books and $20 on the clothing set and $10 on underpants and $5 on socks (and probably another $20 on shirts if I can find any, possibly $20 on a dress if I can find any) isn’t much in the grand scheme of things for us (though it surely is quite a bit for someone who qualifies for this program).  It’s about having something in mind and then not being able to find it and then having to make choices and having to think, “what if she looks terrible in this color?  what if it doesn’t fit?  what if she hates this?  what if she already has this?  what if this is the wrong kind?”  And then more sinister thoughts, “Should I include the receipt?  If I do, what if someone exchanges the gifts for something not for the kid?  If I don’t, what if the clothing is too small or this is the wrong doll?”  (In the end, I went with including the Toys R Us receipt but not the Target receipt, mainly because we bought other stuff at Target and didn’t get a separate gift receipt.)  I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with all these decisions.  And it took so much time just trying to find things.

Next year if I get the same sign, I’m totally going to make a note to myself to just go to the damn webpage and press the “donate here and we’ll shop for you” button.

(Update:  Walmart, which we normally avoid for various reasons, allows you to purchase online and pick-up at the store, similarly to what we did with B&N.  And they have more size 7 stuff in stock than Target did.  And they have size 8 Dora underpants.  $40 of clothing later, including a very pretty black and white dress, I feel as if I’ve done a reasonably decent job.  Also I went through MIL’s size 7 offerings still with tags since DC1 always has more clothes than ze needs and added a bunch of shirts of various colors and styles.  Still, next time I’m just gonna give the ~$100.)

Do you enjoy the process of shopping?  Would you pay someone to do it for you if you could?

Literary Link love

Mysterias notes that a few bad apples do not make a home.  Most people are decent, even if they’re not necessarily as vocal as those who aren’t.

Twanzphobic with Little Mr. Misogynist.  I “fixed” our copy of “Little Miss Bossy” and am considering just recycling the lot.

Ombailamos with a related rant from someone else.

Mike the Mad Biologist asks why we have to put up with sexist harassing jackholes when there are plenty of people to replace them.  That’s asking the right question.

Historiann reviews Raising Henry.

Very sad that Suzanne Bianchi is dead.  I think I saw her speak a few years ago.

Why we love long novels.

Science mani-monday.  Science accidental art.

Where did windy city gal put that blog?

Excelsior Bev’s grandkid continues to be objectively adorable.

Delegar discusses the dangers of living female in a fundamentalist area.

Google, you’re my only hope

Q:  should i get married before i pay off my student loan debt

A:  You should make these two decisions separately.  Perhaps with a smaller wedding than you were envisioning.

Q:  are vanguard funds available through tiaa cref

A:  Generally, yes, though you will want to check your own tiaa cref.

Q:  why is there a high demand for accounting professors?

A:  I wouldn’t say there’s a high demand so much as a low supply.  As to why that, I’m not sure.  I guess not many people have a grand passion for accounting, or perhaps those that do are happily employed in the private sector without PhDs.

Q:  if you have an ma in accounting can you get a doctorate or equivalent

A:  Yes.  If you get in to a phd program.

Q:  what can i get a grumpy woman for christmas

A:  Money or something off our amazon wishlists.  Thanks!

Q:  how to update of boring vertical blinds without replacing

A:  That question is just wrong.

Q:  do i need to sleep train if my baby sleeps thorugh the night

A:  What?  No!  Why would that even make sense?

Q:  are you a home body?

A:  Yes.

Q:  what the most successful review

A:  We liked Fosse.

On privilege and patriarchy and Gwyenth Paltrow

The media has it out for Gwyneth Paltrow.  They’ve got a thing going where she’s out of touch and too-perfect and privileged and whatever.  She doesn’t help it with the things she posts on her blog.  After reading this post by Family Building with a Twist, I had to see what the latest thing was.  Turns out she’s suggested hundred dollar hostess gifts and stocking stuffers (cynically, I would not be surprised if some of the items on that list were sponsored or put down as favors for someone invested in their sale).  Useless over-priced crap that rich people give to each other even though they don’t need more stuff.  Because they can.

It actually reminded me of this recent CNN article on the huge amounts being spent on art and jewelry.  Money that is definitely not “trickling down” to the little people.

This is what wealth inequality does.  It makes useless luxury items more expensive and it moves wealth around amongst the wealthy.  It doesn’t feed kids.

But that doesn’t make me hate Gwyneth Paltrow.   Infinitely worse are people like the Koch brothers or Roger Ailes and other extremely wealthy people who are against higher marginal taxes for the 1% or for cutting food-stamps.  If Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t realize that not everybody can afford organic foods, personal trainers, or $200 hostess gifts, then she should be educated on that.  Maybe a little mingling with the hoi poloi could spark some social activism on her part, though she doesn’t have to become an activist.  Pretension isn’t worth worrying about unless it harms others.  She’s not actually doing real harm, just providing media fodder for fun little let’s hate the privileged rich girl stories.  (Now that Paris Hilton has dropped out of the public eye.)

And why do we have the privileged little rich girl stories instead of stories about people who are actually doing harm?  Well, Gwyenth Paltrow is harmless.  She’s a side-show.  She can’t harm us.  She can’t harm a media organization.  She’s probably even well-intentioned.  And she’s female.

People love to put down “perfect” women.  Paltrow is thin, pretty, rich, and self-confident.  Crabs in a bucket like to pull people like that down.  It provides circus entertainment to distract us from real problems, like unemployment, failing education systems, or children going hungry while the top 1% gets wealthier and wealthier.  It is her very irrelevance that makes her the perfect sacrifice.   Attack the perfect woman and we’ll feel better about ourselves and we’ll be less likely to riot in the streets.  We’ve dealt our blows to the system by making fun of an actress who doesn’t know any better.   And that isn’t going to fix a damn thing.  It’s just sending yet another signal that women shouldn’t get too uppity or other women will hate them.  That’s a stupid signal.

The patriarchy is insidious in its divide and conquer strategies.  It’s great at distracting us from real problems, because those real problems are caused by people we can’t be catty about.  Those people are dangerous and powerful.  They’re not writing up silly over-priced gift lists on their blogs.  Much easier to channel that ire against women.   The patriarchy is good at this stuff.  It’s had lots of practice.

Out of curiosity…

So my kids were not blessed with fast-growing hair.  For each of them sometime before age 1.5 they ended up with awful mullets.  Their heads grow faster than the hair, so it gets short on the sides with the proverbial party in back.  Awful.

For boys, that’s an easy fix.  First haircut and you’re back to presentable.

For girls… there’s either the pixie cut, or there’s the putting up teeny tiny rubber-banded spikes on the side of the head (“Pebbles-style”)… and I think that’s it.  Maybe a person can try to even it out, but it’s still going to be longer in the back than on the sides.

So what do people do with the toddler mullet?  Just leave it?

Partial-retirement/self-employment experiment over

As of today I am no longer the breadwinner.  DH’s new salary is more than twice his old salary (and is more than mine).  If all things stay the same in 2014, we’ll have jumped up two marginal tax brackets for that tax period.  I guess it’s true what they say about the private sector!

This will be his first time working for a real company.  He was given a choice of start dates and he picked the earliest one.  He was eager to get back to work.

I don’t think either of us is cut out for the Mustashian lifestyle.  Maybe if we were living in California it would be more fun to have more free time, I don’t know.  We both like working, that’s all there is to it.  DH was happiest during this self-employment stint when I needed his help with a knotty programming problem.  He got very little done on the large set of home-improvement tasks we listed (though he did do a lot of yard work and did some pretty elaborate cooking experiments).  That’s just not what makes him happy.

Does that make us haters?  No!  (Though we’re fairly sure MMM would say it does because anyone who doesn’t want to be him is a hater.) It just means that different people have different preferences.  Some of us prefer desk jobs that use thinking and computer skills over manual labor, no matter how creative that manual labor can be.  DH’s father likes doing home improvement as a hobby… it’s pretty clear that DH doesn’t.  Or at least only in moderation.

DH said he could never be quite at ease during this self-employment stint.  Of course, he loved the year he spent working on a start-up with his friends (one of whom he’s working with again), even though he brought in very little money that year.  But maybe the difference was that he had interesting projects to work on even if they weren’t lucrative.  And we’d saved a set amount for that year to spend down and didn’t really have to worry about economizing.

Turns out we prefer working and making money to not working and spending time having to think about money.  Even though I love money!  I’d rather have a wide margin of more than enough from earnings than from spending time doing things to save more money.  Given our already reasonable levels of spending (particularly if you subtract out non-negotiable private schooling), the bang for the time buck is a lot bigger for us with earnings than it is with savings.

And spending time on earning activities a lot more fun for us– DH would rather create a computer program that makes lives better for people than replace the bathroom carpeting with tile himself (something that will eventually have to be done because small children are gross).  I’d rather determine whether a program does what policy makers want it to do than get rashes (from severe allergies) doing yard-work.  Not only do we have comparative (and absolute) advantage in these activities, but we also get utility rather than disutility from them.  We can’t help it, it’s the shape of our utility functions and our budget constraints.

And, of course, we all have our own utility functions and budget constraints, so what makes us happy isn’t what makes all other folks happy.  What we are good at doing isn’t what all other folks are good at doing.  And that’s a good thing– when different people do different things, the economy has a better chance at working.  If everybody had identical preferences and abilities, everybody would be miserable because the people following their passions would be getting minimum wage at most, and the people making money would hate their jobs.  (California would also sink into the ocean from everyone trying to live there.)

Variety is the spice of life.  And I’m glad now that we can afford buy cardamom even if it’s crazy expensive.

Where are you on the work for pay/work for savings continuum?