Feminism ahoy! (part eleventy, and reading)

In handy-dandy bullet-point form because the month is squirrelly…

  • why do they have to be bullet-point?  Why can’t they be, like, gumdrops or something?  Pennies?  Give us suggestions in the comments for what we should call them instead.  Maybe bonbon-point.  Mmmm, bonbons.  (Random bonbons of crap!  on second thought…)
  • Man telling women they are fighting misogyny in the wrong way: ally FAIL.
  • keep on reading YO, is this racist?  Never stop.  (Unless racism and etc. all stop, ha ha)
  • Why are we feminists?  Why not just say ‘humanist’?  (Word to the wise: don’t read the comments.  Don’t.)  Maybe it depends on what type of feminist you are.
  • To hell with ‘skinny’ recipes.  Also, I would really like to eat “Rocket Scientist Macaroni and Cheese” or “Excellent Pal and Confidante Apple Pie”.  Giant middle finger to all body-shame.  ETA:  Down with fat-shaming, and once again don’t read the comments.
  • I’m making an effort to read more women of color in speculative fiction.  I like to read a lot of fantasy but other kinds of specfic are good too.  Suggestions appreciated!  I mostly want novels, not short stories, and I’m not heavily into horror.  (Though a million years ago I read “The House of Dies Drear,” by Virginia Hamilton.)  YA stuff is good, too.
  • For context, I love Lauren Beukes (Zoo City) and totally love N K Jemisin a lot.  I of course have read and appreciated Toni Morrison.  I like some but not all of Michelle Sagara.  I found Nalo Hopkinson to be okay.  I loved Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson!  Perhaps one day I’ll check out L.M. Davis and her Shifters series.  I have read some Dia Reeves and have more on my to-read list.  Also on my to-read list: Nnedi Okorafor, Octavia Butler (should have read her before, mea culpa).
    Things I own, in addition to the above, include:

  • Ooh, here’s a link about global women of color.  Here’s AfroFantasy.
  • Ok, your turn!
  • Update:  See comments for what should have been a separate ranty blog post on PBS Kids.
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All-new what are we loving (and not loving) to read

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone.  Fantastic!  New and interesting magic system.  Passes the Bechdel test.  Reminds me of other books, but only other really good books, and in a good way, too.  Will definitely read the sequel.

Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog by Ysabeau S. Wilce — We have read the first and second in this series.  Both of us liked the first, #1 is intrigued by the ending of the second… hm….

Morning Glories, Vol. 1: For a Better Future: Graphic novel series.  Squick warning: extremely violent.  This thing is so messed up, I just can’t even.  I have to keep reading!  I can’t even believe what goes on here. I’m on Volume 4 or 5 by now…

Trilogy starting with The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle.  Yummy. Read the whole thing! A good new author.

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire.  We both love it. You can’t go wrong with this author or this series!

The Pirate Vortex (Elizabeth Latimer, Pirate Hunter) by Deborah Cannon.  Ok, actually, I didn’t love this.  The premise was great but the writing was Not.  Eminently skippable!

Developing Math Talent, 2e.  Turned out not to actually be about developing math talent, just another book on advocating for your gifted kid.  Not much different than many of the other books about advocating for your gifted kid, though it has two chapters of excruciating detail about all the different tests that you can use on your gifted kid, which might be helpful if you want to test your kid for whatever reason.  Also might be useful if you live near one of the Talent Search places.  Which we don’t.  It does recommend some textbooks and workbooks from the 1980s and 90s that may or may not be useful, but I don’t know.  The only one I had heard of was Challenge Math For the Elementary and Middle School Student (Second Edition) by Zaccaro.  The others are not available direct from Amazon except one which is a very expensive textbook.

 

What are you loving these days?

May Mortgage Update and Escrow Musings

Last month (April):
Balance: $58,365.65
Years left:4.5
P =$970.93, I =$243.47, Escrow = 613.58

This month (May):
Balance: $55,385.40
Years left:4.25
P =$983.37, I =$231.03, Escrow =788.73

One month’s prepayment savings: $7.91

As with much of the country, housing prices in our little town are starting to recover.  That means that property taxes are going up again.  Yay.  (Not really yay.)

Our mortgage provider tells us we have an escrow shortfall of $1260.93.  If we send in an extra check for that amount, our monthly nut will only go up by $70.05.  If we don’t, they’ll prorate for us and our monthly nut will go up $175.13.

So which should we do?  Here’s my thought process.

Pro (cutting a check):  Ugh, it’s just over a round number now, and if I prepay it’ll still be under a round number and my OCD will feel better.

Con:  Why should they be getting interest on our money?

Pro:  What interest?  Besides, if I really feel that way, I should ask them to stop escrowing for us and just pay it myself.

Ok, let’s double check that they’re not charging us extra to prorate… doing the math, there’s a 3 cents difference between the two.

Con:  Which is completely and totally negated by the cost of the stamp on the check, by an order of magnitude and then some.

Pro:  This is a good way of hiding money so we’re not tempted to overspend.  I’ve got too much in savings as it is, and this money is going to have to be spent sometime.  Why not now instead of when a negative shock hits us?

Con:  It’s only an additional $175.15/month.  Even if DH loses his job tomorrow we’ll be fine, and it’s better that money stay in the emergency fund.

*end conversation with self

So… which of these arguments were most important to me?  The one about the OCD and the one about the cost of the stamp.  Funny how the irrational stuff is what’s important.  Yes I have a PhD in economics.  Don’t judge me.  Irrational stuff matters when the decision isn’t really that important.

In the end, the cost of the stamp won out because I think we’ll either be significantly prepaying the mortgage for a while (meaning the fact that we’re $3 over a round number isn’t such a big deal since the checks will still be round numbers), the number will change again with the next escrow cycle, or DH will lose his job and we’ll re-amortize and get a completely different number.

Do you like to pre-pay escrow shortages?  Or do you do your own escrow?  Or have you decided to opt out of the whole mortgage thing entirely?

Link love

Confusing math homework?  Don’t blame the common core.

Patterson and Kehoe and the great lead debate.

White male privilege squandered on job at Best Buy.  Though I dunno, there are probably plenty of non-white males who would prefer to work at Best Buy and can’t because they don’t have white male privilege.  (The Onion.)

argh!
also argh

OMG I need these things (Is that a birthday hint?)

warning: time-suck

crucial conversations storified

meanwhile I’m also reading this because it is interesting, though it’s missing the fact that women are acting RATIONALLY, and men are as well, because of bias

In case you missed it, Cloud quit her job! Woo!

Ask the grumpies: gifted schools

jlp asks:

We’re on the cusp of being able to send our older child to public school (free! school!) and are debating what to do. We believe that our kids are HG/PG, and we are fortunate, as we have some potential school choice. In our area there are multiple private and magnet public schools (both of which require testing to attend) geared specifically for gifted kids .

As we comb through schools, public and private, I’ve been looking for a variety of characteristics, but the two most important ones seem to be: a) will our child(ren) have like-minded peers of a similar age?* and b) will the school be able to provide sufficient challenge for our child(ren)?

My question is: is there another characteristic that we should prize more highly? If so, what?

Oh, also, because the public schools are magnets, and require testing to attend, this, ostensibly, means we can live anywhere in the city and reap the benefits of a great school. It seems like a no-brainer to go public (assuming DC1 gets in!), since we don’t have to pay for a great school district, nor do we have to pay for private school. However, the student:teacher ratio is 28:1 in K, going up to…I forget, 30:1 or 31:1 in 3rd or 4th. There are no teacher’s aides. Are these class sizes as ridiculously huge as they sound to me?

*Based both on Miraca Gross’ work and also my kid’s passing comments about the kids at his current preschool who “just scribble.”

#1 says:  If you can possibly get your kids in a gifted school, for gods’ sake do it! (One of us is very grumpy about her years in the regular schools.  The other one is still scarred from middle school and doesn’t want to talk about it.)

#2 says:  Golly, these choices are just so hard.  I can’t say what you should do.  What we’ve done has always been to play it by ear every year.  We figure out what our options are, check out the teachers and the school environment, and are willing to change mid-stream if necessary.

One of the reasons we’ve been so keen on acceleration for DC1 is exactly because ze is kind of a jerk about lesser performing kids (generally innocently, first asking questions about why they can’t read, and such, but it seems like something we have to revisit every year).  It does hir a lot of good to not be leaps and bounds in front of everybody else in the same class.  In terms of acceleration, the friends the same age thing is over-rated, at least so far for DC1 (and according to A Nation Deceived, as well as our own childhoods– we always got along better with older kids/adults until we went to boarding school)– DC1 gets along great with kids a couple years older.

The sufficient challenge was also really important to us.  DC1 is *usually* really well-behaved (update:  at the last school function, Easter, all the teachers commented on how much hir behavior had improved.  The Spanish teacher noted that her child had gone through the same phase at that age, which is why she hadn’t commented on it earlier), but when ze isn’t sufficiently challenged ze can be a bit of a pill.  That’s one reason ze does workbooks on weekends.

In our geographic area there are two options that are geared towards “gifted” or “math and science”… one is a public within a school in the low income town next to ours.  We would have to move to attend, but despite being called a gifted magnet, we haven’t really heard anything good about it and suspect it may be a slightly above average little white island in a minority district.  We didn’t investigate further though because we decided the private school would be a better option than selling our house.  It may be great… but, none of the university parents we know are moving to send their kids there.  The other option, also in that town, is a math and science charter.  We know much more about this option because a lot of people in our town have tried it out because there isn’t a residency requirement for it. It has enormous class sizes K-4, larger than state law allows for public schools.  A K teacher quit mid-year because she was so frazzled, according to one parent who pulled her kids out to attend another private school.  I don’t think we know anybody who stayed for elementary.  We hear it’s great for high school and know parents whose kids do high school there.  Of course, the publics here are also supposed to be great for high school.

Continuing… yes, if you believe the TN STAR experiment results, 28:1 in K is too big of a student teacher ratio.  It would be very difficult to do differentiation with a class of that size without an aide or student teacher.  Depending on the teacher and the other students, it might even be difficult to keep order in the class.

Is there something you should prize more highly than classmates and challenge?  That’s hard to say.

We visited the two schools that were willing to talk with us and talked with every parent we knew about our options, and even a public school teacher we knew socially.  We learned a lot from talking and visiting about what was important to us.  One thing that was important was the school and the teachers having an understanding of gifted children and an ability to differentiate.  Another was having a school environment that was pro-gifted kids rather than anti-gifted kids that was willing to work with us.  You can read our saga in our archives.

So, sorry for the [delayed] long non-answer.   When you have a special snowflake for a kid, there’s special snowflake answers, which is to say, really no answer at all.  Talk, visit, and you’ll figure out what is important to you and your kid.  And if things don’t work out, you can always change.

Do any of our readers have better advice for jlp?  How did you decide on a school for your kids, if applicable?  What do you wish your parents had done for you at that age?

Big change can be ok too

Recently we talked about how small change is ok.  Sometimes you can’t save the world, but you can make your small part of the world a little bit better.

Today we’re going to talk about the flip side.  Sometimes you want or need to make a big change.  And that can be scary.

If you have a lot of high-interest debt, it might be the best idea to do the unthinkable and down-size to a smaller house.  Or drop down to one car.  At least until you get your finances in order again.  That big change might eliminate years of horrible stress.  The one-time cut in lifestyle might even be better for your kids than the repeated stresses of financial difficulty.

If your career is making you miserable, it might be time to find a new one.  If you hate where you live, it might be time to leave.  Even if you’re tenured.  Even if you’ve never known or wanted anything other than academia.

Sometimes relationships just don’t work out and it’s more productive to be alone than to keep trying to stay together, especially if the relationship is in any way abusive, but even if you’ve just grown apart.  Obviously this is a very personal decision and can be a scary step to take, but cutting ties might be better than staying just for the sake of staying.  Think of the children!  Studies show that kids are much happier when their parents have a polite divorce than when they have a craptacular marriage.

One of my students recently told me that except for having children, most decisions can eventually be reversed.  That may not be completely true.  Although you can often buy a new car to replace an old one, you may not be able to do the same for the house you shouldn’t have bought in the first place.  An ex-significant-other may marry someone else or just no longer be interested (though who knows if you would have stayed together anyway).  You generally can’t get back tenure at the place you left (though, oddly, one of my recently hired colleagues used to work in my department something like 2o years ago).  But that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find amazing housing.  Or a partner you love who will love and cherish you. (Or the happiness of being on your own without a partner.)  Or a job that brings you fulfillment and isn’t just golden (or brass) handcuffs.

Sometimes a big change will make a big difference.  And sometimes it’s a mistake in retrospect, but mistakes can be learned from and overcome.  Sometimes it’s better to take the chance and see what comes next than to live with the status quo.

Big changes can be ok too.

The toddler and the ipad

The shu box was recently talking about how she lets her two year old watch limited tv these days.

Even with our first baby (as opposed to our second whatever keeps hir from destroying things baby), screen time has been a part of our kids’ lives.  DC1 used to nurse to Comedy Central and showed a distinct preference for Stephen Colbert over Jon Stewart.

We just give the IPad to our 20 month old and have been doing this for quite some time. We have a little box that ze can press to get all the apps we’ve downloaded specifically for hir, though ze also plays in the main section with some of daddy’s games (we just deleted Pitfall because ze kept getting irritated when it would ask hir to buy diamonds since ze doesn’t have the password to do that) and also the photo center.

Ze finds PBS kids on hir own. Ze’s not much for watching complete episodes of anything (other than Curious George, oddly, which isn’t what I would have picked out as being attention keeping) but does enjoy theme songs. And the “How did I ever get into this mess” intro of one of the shows. My favorite new themesong is Peg + Cat. (Nah nah nah nah nah.) Sometimes at work I find it on Youtube because I have the earworm.

Fisher Price also has some good free interactive IPad stuff that you can go to their app store and download.  That’s probably the best of the free stuff.  Other apps that ze has liked include: The wheels on the bus by kids game club, Funny animals, G’night Safari, EduRoom, KidsDoodle, and Magic Piano.

With the Ipad ze isn’t, say, climbing up DC1’s closet shelves in an effort to get the crayons and markers we took away from hir the last time ze drew on the walls. It gives us a chance to clean up the last mess ze made without hir making a new one!

What are your favorite IPad apps (or what are the favorite apps of someone you love)?

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