Do you read me, Google?

Q:  is grad school paid if i have a job?

A:  Depends on the program whether or not they will allow you to have a non-department job while going to grad school, and it depends on the employer whether or not they’ll pay for you.  There’s no straight answer.

Q:  how do i get my graduate school paid for

A:  If you’re a high quality candidate– high grades, high GRE, previous research experience (ideally some publications!), then you’re more likely to have graduate school paid for.  You can also try working for an employer who funds education, especially if you want to get an MBA or JD etc., which have far fewer merit-based scholarships.

Q:  what does it mean to be someone’s partner

A:  whatever the two of you decide it means, based on emotions, or based on an employment contract, or a LLC agreement or something.

Q:  how to politely and professionally tell secreatries to clean up their work areas of clutter

A:  Are you their boss?  Or the cleaning staff?  If not, an unprofessional way is to leave a passive-aggressive note.  That’s what seems to happen at our work.  If you are the boss, think about why you think they need to clean up the clutter.  Is it a valid reason or a stupid reason?  Then if it’s a valid reason, explain it to them.  If not, then why are you telling them? If you’re the cleaning staff, you may be best off just telling the boss that you will not be able to clean whatever it is you need to clean when the desks are as they are.

Q: what to do with $300k

A:  paypal to grumpyrumblings at gmail.

Q:  what to do with £300k

A:  paypal to grumpyrumblings at gmail.

Q:  ran out of cereal and bread what should i have for breakfast

A:  Leftovers.  Cold pizza.  Eggs.  Fruit.  Cat food.  (#2 notes:  no, not catfood)

Q:  what are some things that cause drama

A:  high school.  cheating.  misunderstandings.  suspenseful writing and taut editing.

Q:  if i were to live a day it would be ……

A:  only one day?  Maybe Groundhog Day (like with the movie), preferably with great fast public transportation that will take you lots of places?

Q:  dealing with resentment when one spouse gives up career for another spouse’s career

A:  Use your words.  Try counseling.  Make changes.  Meditate.  Divorce.


Kindle stuff besides Regencies that we mostly enjoyed

Here are some (mostly) free things we’ve enjoyed reading on the kindle.

Tyger Tyger: A Goblin Wars Book book by Kersten Hamilton (interesting; Celtic mythology)

Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian (fairy tale)

BECOME (Desolation #1) by Ali Cross (fantasy YA)

(In none of the above 3 cases was I inspired to pick up the sequel, however.)

I enjoyed The Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido (which wasn’t free).

I really enjoyed Fledgling (Liaden Universe) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.  Thanks, Baen Free Library!  This one “worked” for them in that it got me really interested in the universe and now I will buy more books in the series.

Another fun (free!) find was Anna Katherine Green.  Her work is strongly reminiscent of Poe and Doyle. I was entranced with the first paragraph of The Mayor’s Wife which is well worth the read.  Subsequent novels of hers haven’t really been keepers (and there’s been some antisemitism and other assorted racism that make for immediate deletion).  Still, I haven’t tried everything I’ve downloaded yet.  Amazon thinks we should read her Amelia Butterworth mysteries.  [Update, the first is a good mystery so far, but man, had to take a break when I hit racism… this time anti-Chinese-American.]

Ooh, the 2014 Campbellian Anthology of Campbell Award nominees.

I also have some other free stuff (incl. Cory Doctorow) that I haven’t read yet.

Have you found any good free Kindle gems since our last post on the topic?


The first time I met you

You remember these stories as well as I do, maybe better, but let’s revisit them in front of a bigger audience.  :)  Audience, imagine us as teenagers, which is something we once were.  The setting is a boarding high school.  Try to remember…

The first time I met you, it was after school in the evening or maybe in the day on a weekend, no it couldn’t have been a weekend.  I don’t recall exactly, but there weren’t many people around.  You were sitting alone in a “pit”– those mini-coliseums leftover from when our school building was an open school.  You were depressed.  I asked what was wrong.  You told me you’d asked a girl to a dance and she’d said no.  (Many years later she would come out as lesbian, which is the only possible reason I can think of that anyone would not be attracted to you, but then, I’m biased.)  I said generic that’s too bad you’ll find someone some day kinds of things and moved on with my life.  You moved on with yours.

Several months later, I want to say three because that’s a good number, I met you a second time.  Your roommate, for some reason I can’t remember, probably because I’m getting old, threw me a birthday party.  I think because my birthday is really close to your suitemate’s and that struck him as cause for celebration.  I was in a lot of classes with him and he was a fun guy in the way that precocious tweens are funny to real teenagers.  As his roommate, you were invited.  We talked some, though I don’t remember about what.

Every night between study hours and the time when they locked the dorms, a group of us, mostly from my science class, including your roommate, would roam around the campus in order to stave off cabin fever.  Sometime after my birthday you figured you had classes well enough under control and could start socializing more.  So you joined your roommate on these walks.  By the time your birthday rolled around, I knew you well enough to get you a present (though I don’t remember what it was… maybe Twizzlers?  Probably the only present I’ve gotten you that didn’t suck.)

Oddly, people started dropping out of the walking group and it ended up being just the two of us a few nights here and there.  You were so funny, talking about D&D and GURPs games as if they were real.  Almost a stereotype, except for not looking the part, with your tall, dark, handsomeness.  (Not that I dwelled on that back then.)

One weekend I decided to stay at school instead of going home.  It was the most fun I’d had that year.  We hung out, you and your roommate and some of your hall mates and I.  We ranged all along the off-campus area we were allowed to visit, and maybe a few places out of range.  We enjoyed the spring and being young enough to still roll down hills.  I broke up with my first boyfriend (from home) that weekend.  I still liked him as a friend, but I didn’t love him.

One night you kissed my hand saying good-bye on a walk.  One of those silly gallant things someone who loves living in fantasy worlds might do, meaning nothing by it.  And suddenly I realized I loved you.  I’d had no idea.  No idea.

I thought maybe you liked me too.  I was pretty sure.  I mean, who kisses someone’s hand without meaning something by it?  Turns out you do.  But I didn’t know that until ages later, when we were established enough that it was only minorly embarrassing to me.

Time passed, and we had more walks just the two of us.  And we had one of those conversations where I thought I was saying one thing, and you thought I was saying something else, and your response made sense in my context and in your context as well (another thing we discovered ages later)… and somehow we were dating.

I remember you seeing me off the first time when my mom picked me up, and she asked if we were dating and I said yes.

These memories used to be stronger, and they’re fading with time.  I feel like that song in Gigi, ah yes, I remember it well.  There’s so much life that’s happened since then.  We’ve spent well over half our lives together, and those baby and toddler years take a toll.

My love for you has not diminished.  I’m still that giddy 16 year old whenever we touch (especially when our progeny keep us physically apart for too long, or when I get to spend the week working from home while the kids are in school).  I still spend huge amounts of my day thinking about you.  But there’s so much more now, that there wasn’t then.  You’re still the most fascinating and attractive person I know, but you’re also a comfort and a support and a partner and a father to our children.  (And an accomplished cook!)  I can’t imagine life without you.

I love you so much.

Where can you tap if you come up short?

1.  Emergency fund

2.  Summer salary savings

3.  Claim DDA reimbursements (generally there’s also travel reimbursements on their way, but these are filed right away and are highly unpredictable, and sometimes the IRS gives us money back when we file, though not always) and for smaller emergencies, credit card rewards.

4.  Taxable stocks

5.  Roth IRA principal (hopefully we wouldn’t have to touch this)

6.  With a penalty:  IRAs, 529, etc.  I can’t see us doing this though.

7.  Sell stuff.  Do freelance writing.  Though these have delays.  Similarly grants can provide summer salary, but that’s going to have major delays.

8.  Banks of mom and dad.  Middle-class privilege!  (I could probably also tap my sister in a true emergency.)

9.  Credit cards… (if it’s really short term, as in, I could pay off before interest accrued, I’d tap these before stocks), Home equity loan, I dunno…

#2 says:

1.  My savings account

2.  My other savings account

3.  My partner

4.  credit cards

5.  some of my richer friends

6.  my dad & former stepmom

7.  my in-laws, uh… then…

8.  wider family, cousins, aunts, uncles

after that I guess I’m SOL!

Link Love

We’re pretty light on links this week.  I don’t know why.  Ima blame #2.

Turn your research into click bait!  (The sad thing is that some of my research has already been turned into click bait… Not recently though.)

So, I was totally like, that minimum wage answer is a pretty valid one to me… there’s a reason we have 500 papers on the topic and we still don’t know the answer, but David Sibley has explained why that’s a problem.  Point taken, David Sibley!

Commentary on George Will (obviously caution rape topic)

Why aren’t you writing?

Random writing points for Tuesday.

If only.


Kummerspeck also translated as “grief bacon”.

also more squees with clarisse and josh!  I am so glad she’s telling him!

Ask the grumpies: 401(K)/403(b) loans

Dr. Koshary asks:

I was talking with my financial consultants – my father and stepmother – last week, and they floated an idea to me that had never crossed my mind before.  They suggested that, if and when, FSM willing, I land a tenure-track job and can look forward to a steadier income, I should borrow a sum of money from my 403(b) and use to pay down my student loan debt.

I immediately disliked this idea, thinking of your observation that, in the grand scheme of things, student loan debt isn’t necessarily the worst thing to carry for a while.  I have around $23,000 in fully subsidized student loans, consolidated at a fixed APR of 5%.  I’m three years into a 20-year repayment plan, so after another 17 years, the loan will be fully repaid, and I will have paid a total of about $41,000 with the yearly interest.  My monthly payment is $173.18, which hardly seems onerous compared to what could have been.  As long as I can avoid any huge unanticipated expenses – or more likely, once I pay off the credit card debt from moving to wherever my next job might be – the student loan is the only debt that I carry.

My parents replied that since that APR over 20 years makes me pay considerably more than the value of the original loan, it would be worthwhile even to take out, say, $10,000 and make a lump-sum payment that would shrink the balance and, therefore, save me some years of interest payments.  According to them, I would then have to go on a repayment plan to my 403(b) alongside the Stafford repayment plan.

The thought of having more unavoidable automatic deductions than necessary turns my stomach, but of course, I don’t yet have a t-t job.  I guess I can understand their logic here, but I don’t have a clear gut instinct what would be best.  Looking ahead, assuming that I might someday have other long-term debt like a new car or a mortgage, what do you suggest?

Disclaimer:  We are not financial planners– talk to a real one about this idea, and a good one (fee-only etc.) if you decide to go forward with it.

Even if you don’t end up with a TT job, you will probably end up with a real job that gives real benefits and a healthy salary.

Our first instinct is NO Don’t do this.  The thing about 401K loans (403b if you stay in gov’t or nonprofit employment) is that if you leave/lose your job, you have to pay them back immediately.  This is only the kind of thing you want to play around with if you already have the money in your savings account just sitting there.  But if you have that money just sitting there, why not *use* it?  It’s not like savings rates or cd rates are particularly high these days.  The worst case scenario sees you declaring bankruptcy.  The best case scenario saves you a little money in interest.

Some other wrinkles if considering bankruptcy as a future option:  It is difficult (nearly impossible) to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy, so if you’re going to go bankrupt, getting rid of that before other debt might make sense.  However, retirement accounts are also usually protected in bankruptcy proceedings (IRA exemptions are limited, but 403b are unlimited), so taking money from retirement isn’t such a good idea either if you’re planning on a bankruptcy.

5% is pretty high for student loan interest.  That’s not a fun debt to be carrying around.  But it’s also not credit-card levels of interest.  Your monthly payment seems doable, so it’s unlikely to put you into hardship scenarios as long as you’re making enough to pay your rent and feed yourself.  Yes, you’d save money long-term paying it off, but at that level we personally wouldn’t consider adding the risk that comes with 401K loans to do that.

Better:  Once you’re employed with a real job, increase your student loan payments.  That will save you interest and it will decrease your risk down the road.  It won’t save you as much money long-term as paying it off immediately with a 401K loan would, but you also wouldn’t be dependent on your job and your employer either.  If you were stuck in an untenable working environment or if your job were eliminated, you wouldn’t have that huge 401K/403b repayment to make.  At that point you would just stop making the extra student loan payments.

It’s hard to give direct advice for the scenarios with cars and houses without having the numbers.  We will give the standard advice however:  Once you’re employed, contribute to retirement at least enough to get the employer match.  If you can handle it, save 10-20% of your income (including their match) in your work retirement account.  Don’t buy a house unless you have 20% down.  Don’t buy more house than you can afford (and don’t believe the bank calculators about what you can afford– they estimate high).  Don’t buy more car than you can afford (unless the minimum safe option necessary to get you to work is more than you can afford).  Hold on to your car until the maintenance expenses are bigger than the cost of the car, or longer.

We’re betting though, that you’re going to end up getting a non-academic job that will make 23K seem pretty trivial.  (23K is a LOT of money when you’re not making much, but it’s not as bad when you have a high-level salary, so long as you’re able to control your discretionary spending.)  Here’s what we see happening in that scenario:  1st paycheck goes towards moving expenses, living expenses, and a spiffier work wardrobe (as required by work).  2nd paycheck your retirement account on the new job kicks in, you pay extra to your student loan and finish up your remaining moving/living expenses.  Sometime over the next few months you knock out that student loan and start saving for a house and/or new car.  Hopefully your car lasts long enough that its replacement can be paid for in cash.  After the loans are gone and your targeted savings accounts are started and you’ve accrued a couple weeks of vacation, you take a nice relaxing vacation.  When your car finally gives out you replace it.  In a year or two you’ve saved enough for your own condo or townhouse.  Or you’ve found someone to share a house with, get married, and live happily ever after.  If you end up with an academic job, you may decide to start those targeted savings accounts before paying off the loans because it’ll take longer to pay off the student loans.  But you also won’t be spending so much on wardrobe and your expectations will be lower in terms of quality of life.

Grumpy nation, what are your thoughts on 401K loans to pay off student loans?

Recently read regencies

I’ve learned that when it comes to regency romances, the negative reviews on Amazon are always right.  Now, sometimes the negative review is something you can live with: “Predictable. It feels like you’ve read this story a million times already,” because often when you’re reading a regency you’re not reading it because you want something original, but because you want something comforting.  Or sometimes, “Occasional use of anachronistic language!” or “Plucky heroine acts nothing like a regency miss would.”  Pah, it must be taking place in an alternate universe then, fine by me.  But sometimes the negative review says something like, “Hero won’t take no for an answer, which is creepy,” and it indeed, turns out to be creepy even if the 64 positive ratings didn’t think so.  Or occasionally, “Hero and heroine are just unlikeable, and the story was boring.”  That also turns out to be true, even if the remaining 23 five-star ratings don’t seem to find that to be a problem.

We’ve read a lot of regencies recently.  Some of them have been real duds, but some of them have been pretty good.  And the occasional find is better than a few (of the worse) Georgette Heyers.  (Heyer’s better novels are like a fully stuffed Italian Wedding Cake– full and deep and exciting… a few of these make it to a decent chocolate cake status.  Good and tasty, but without quite so many layers.)  You know, if Heyer had sex scenes.

Candice Hern [who seems to be on kindle sale] was a first foray into non-Heyer territory.  Her work is highly mixed– some clean sweet Heyer-like novels, some deeply sexy and entertaining novels, and some stuff that’s just not that good (often with heroes who won’t take No for an answer– for shame!).  A Proper Companion is as good as some of the reasonably good Heyers, so is The Best IntentionsAn Affair of Honor isn’t too shabby, nor is Miss Lacey’s Last Fling (though unlike Heyer, this one has an actual fling in it) though it gets a bit silly.  Her short stories/novellas aren’t bad.  Sexier winners include The Merry Widows quartet, four books about a group of wealthy widows who swear to take lovers, but, of course, end up losing their hearts in the process.  Bonus:  In some of the books she discusses 19th century birth control methods (because don’t you wonder?).  Duds (generally in Hern’s case because the hero does not allow the women full agency) include A Garden Folly and The Bride Sale.  The series about women running a magazine is ok for library checkouts but not worth owning.  We haven’t read her entire oeuvre yet.

Most regency writers seem to have only one sex scene (sometimes repeated multiple times in the same novel), and one that’s totally female wish-fulfillment (and not necessarily the kind the virgin in question would be looking for).  It’s formulaic.  Mary Balogh doesn’t.  Her sex scenes both are more realistic and actually add to the plot and character development.  She goes into detail when the details matter.  It’s a refreshing change from the other books with their same generic hero-introduces-virginal-woman-to-the-joys-of-sensuality (which Sarah MacLean does well, see below).  It feels a bit less like boring porn added just to titillate, and a bit more like art and commentary on life.  More than a Mistress, by Mary Balogh, is an excellent example of the use of sex as character development.  Unfortunately its companion book, No Man’s Mistress, was a dud.  The third book (or maybe the first– time-wise it is set before the other two), The Secret Mistress, was delightful, especially if you’ve ever wondered what was going on in the minds of the seemingly silly chatterbox characters who appear in some of these novels.  Simply Perfect by Mary Balogh, is the fourth of a set of four (but the only one the university library had; we haven’t read the first three). It was wonderful (except for a 2-3 page scene ripped from the pages of Arabella, which would have been fine if I hadn’t been thinking, “Hey, I read this already”).

Shameless by Karen Robarts was another book from the library.  Unfortunately it sounded promising, but had lots of repetition with long boring passages, and… the main character doesn’t enjoy sex with the hero.  I skipped large chunks of the book and then was irritated– who writes a fun romance novel in which the heroine’s thought after her first time with the hero is, “Glad that’s over with, hope we never have to do that again.”???

Of course, not all regencies have sex (Heyer, of course, has none).  Kathleen Baldwin is fun, rated PG.  We both enjoyed Mistaken Kiss and are looking forward to the third book coming out on kindle.  One of these days one of us will get the first book and tell the other if it’s worth the kindle price despite its lower reviews.

The Gentlemen Next door series by Cecilia Gray was also fun.  She has four $0.99 short stories that are each a smaller delight with lovely unconventional heroes and heroines.  I wish she had some longer stuff that wasn’t retreads re-imaginings of Jane Austen.

Barbara Metzger is another big author in this genre.  Unfortunately the uni library has none of them and the local library doesn’t have her highest rated stuff.  So far I’ve read The Duel and A Perfect Gentleman.  Both were ok.  Oddly they had very similar plots, complete with serial killer.  They both concurrently dragged and went too fast.  Lots of boring stuff and suddenly they’re in love and it doesn’t really make sense.  But some entertaining bits.  I’m sure her higher rated stuff is better, but I’m not yet willing to spend $5.99 or even $3.99 to find out via kindle.  I may get to the other library branch at some point, which has a few more of her titles.

Lost in Temptation by Lauren Royal:  I enjoyed it so much!  Thanks to #1 for giving me this book; I’m going to get the second one post-haste.

Sarah MacLean’s fantastic series: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake; Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord.  We both enjoyed these, though Ten is nowhere near as good as Nine.  Eleven is supposed to be better than Ten, but neither of us has read it yet. #2 was introduced to this author via several podcasters who love her, and then spread the love to #1.

MacLean’s other series is the Rules of Scoundrels, which is about 4 scoundrels who run London’s most notorious gaming hell, The Fallen Angel:  A Rogue by Any Other Name (excellent!), One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (great!), No Good Duke Goes Unpunished (not as good as the first two, but introduces what will happen in number 4, which I’m exited about).  #1 is a bit more luke-warm on these.  She thought the first was pretty good, but not great.  Nine Rules, OTOH, was truly fantastic.

Among the best non-Heyer there is!

Has anyone kept reading this far?  You certainly have got some summer reading to do! Got suggestions for us?  Where do you stand on sex scenes?  Yay, nay or it depends?