Enjoying being the smallest fish in the big pond

Since graduate school I have been on the fringes of fame.  Some famous people you’ve probably heard of can pick me out of a crowd if asked.  Even more would say my face looks familiar.  A few may be familiar with some of my work.

I’m at an R1 that has been rising in the ranks.  We hire people who are cooler than I am, which is a good position to be in, and they’re happy to make the move (getting offered an extremely high salary helps).

I have an amazing leave position but my office is definitely the after thought… but I have an office and not a cubicle.

I’m on the fringes.

Right when I graduated it bothered me that I was in the bottom half of my class.  Many people thought my placement was disappointing.  Many people thought less of me after asking where I was going (an R1, but not a top 15 school) or what my teaching load was (average, rather than low) or what my salary was (high but not phenomenal).  There’s nothing quite like being asked those questions and then having the questioner say, “Oh” and turn to talk with a more important person.  I remember sitting at a post-conference dinner with a guy I knew from grad school a year after we’d gotten jobs who hadn’t placed highly (but was still higher placed than me!) bemoaning how he wanted to be one of them but he wasn’t, he was just on the fringe, and he’d always be on the fringe.  And I felt exactly the same way.

Reputation means a lot in economics.  We, possibly more than other fields, use signals to indicate quality rather than letting work speak for itself.  Most of our journals are single, not double-blind.  People at top programs get more benefit of the doubt.  They say it doesn’t happen, that it’s just that quality is higher when you’re a top person surrounded by top quality colleagues and RAs, but I catch myself doing it and I’m aware that I do it (so I’m able to try to counter-act my initial feelings).  Many people don’t have any idea they do it, and, as we know, implicit bias leads to bias unless actively counter-acted.  So it’s harder for someone in my situation to get the benefit of the doubt with publications, especially given a female name.  I’m not automatically accepted to conferences.  I can’t just coast on my reputation or potential.  I actually have to produce.  As one of my friends says, I have to work twice as hard to get half as far.

But I still sometimes get accepted.  I still sometimes get invited.  I get to hang out from time to time with truly amazing people who are doing great work.  Having my university’s star rise means that some of that glory is reflected back onto me.  By having amazing colleagues (who help me do amazing work), it no longer seems like my placement was disappointing.  My teaching load is still average and my salary is no longer “high” (for an economist– it’s still pretty high) but I’m not yet willing to try for an outside offer to counteract years without raises.

And I no longer feel like I’m a disappointment or that there’s anything wrong with being on the fringes.  Yes, life would be a lot easier with more benefit of the doubt and better RAs and more funding and on and on and on.  But I have room to grow.  And just being in the same building as superstars is pretty amazing.  (And, a small part of me notes that many of the stars in my graduate class are no longer even in academia, while several people who were afterthoughts to their advisers have moved up to be professors at top schools after extremely important post-dissertation publications.)

It’s much easier now for me to think of others’ cvs as goals to aim for (and being honest, without an army of highly qualified RAs and a lower teaching load, there’s no way my cv will match my counterparts’ at top schools, but I can still try to finally get a top general interest paper) rather than evidence of my own inadequacy.  People are treating me better and I’m more confident.  I do good work.  And this year I’m spending a lot of time trying to sell it.  And, tiring though that is, and as much as it takes me away from you know, actually doing work, it’s kind of fun.

I like being on the fringes.

Do you prefer being on top or bottom or somewhere in between? Does the situation make a difference?

What did we read over Thanksgiving?

Earlier I read A Darker Shade of Magic by V. S. Schwab.  I enjoyed it: YA fantasy about multiple Londons existing simultaneously.

I also liked Orbital Resonance by John Barnes:  teen nerds in space.

I’m loving the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling).  I can’t put them down and have stayed up way too late reading, also sometimes reading before work and almost being late.  Number two is The Silkworm.

Then we had a long weekend and I read a lot.

Mira Grant’s series about bloggers vs. zombies (Feed, Deadline, Blackout) are each around 600 pages in paperback.  I read the first two over Thanksgiving, along with some graphic novels.  I loved them, but they’re too violent for #2.  I still haven’t gotten to the third book in the series.

Lady Killer, continuing my trend of reading comics featuring strong women.

Lumberjanes #2, in which the girls earn their “Friendship to the Max!” badge.  Also dinosaurs.  You don’t need to have read the first volume to enjoy this one.

I really just love reading books very, very much.

#2 reread Seducing an Angel, not realizing she’d already read it even though she read the others in the series and was sure she hadn’t read the brother’s story yet when she most recently read the cousin’s story (in fairness I read the paperback ages ago not realizing/not caring it was part of a series and it looks nothing like the hardback).  It is sometimes fun to read books out of order and then you get a completely different feeling for them reading again them in chronological order when you know all of the characters.

Also, if you want a free kindle book, #2 enjoyed Daisy’s Aunt.  Yes, the plot is ridiculous (“Victorian melodrama”-lite), and if you’re looking for Mapp and Lucia you’re not going to find those levels of mean-spiritedness (even the villain is treated benevolently by the author), but E.F. Benson’s biting sense of humor definitely shows itself here and there, particularly in descriptions of the country estate.  And some of the main character’s dialogue, and some of the ridiculous minor characters.  Light and fun with little bits of devilish writing that make you take a second look and highlight with a little smirk.

What do you love doing very, very much?  Alternately, how do you approach series?

A super-late update on my super-boring finances, how fun is that

I last talked about my boring finances waaay back in 2010.  Since then I have:  gotten tenure, quit my job, gotten engaged, moved across the country from Hell to Paradise, planned a wedding, gotten married, and gotten a new job… and gosh, a lot has happened in five years.

So, you may be wondering, how has all of this affected my boring finances?

student loans:  These were due to be paid off in 2018.  I got rid of them in 2013 mostly because of the loan servicer changing to one whose interface SUXXORED.

Wedding/Honeymoon: Thank every one of the gods and goddesses that the planning is over.  The wedding was a blast!  Everything was great.  The pictures came out wonderfully, the food was tasty, there was some laughter, nobody killed each other [despite the swordplay].  When I look at the photos of that day, all I see is love.

We paid for the honeymoon (and the wedding) ourselves, thanks to our savings and a windfall from my partner’s job.  Thanks also to both sets of parents who gave us cash gifts they could afford, thus freeing anybody from arguing about loans or who got to make decisions.  We <3 you, parents.  Cash is always appropriate.

We went far away on our honeymoon, and because it was our one-and-only honeymoon, we sprang for business class on the long-haul flight (both ways).  We haven’t done this before, and it was really worth it. Business class really cuts down on the amount of pain we’re in after a long flight (although it doesn’t completely eliminate that phase of the flight where every part of your body hurts, but it does make it shorter and less severe!).  By ‘long’ flight I mean over ten hours.

We ate everything, we stayed at nice hotels, we did touristy stuff, we loved it.

Car: I had to buy one when I moved to Hell in 2008.  Paid it all off on my junior professor salary.  It’s slightly the worse for wear at the moment, but still going quite strong.

house down payment:  Nope.  Since we moved to Paradise, we can’t afford a house.  I am just as happy renting in a place that I love, and I’m glad I didn’t try to buy in Blasted Wasteland.  Because now I would own a house in Blasted Wasteland.  Ugh.  Or I would have had to unload it on some other poor sap of a junior faculty person and then they’d be stuck there.

retirement:  After some time off between jobs, my retirement account is a bit anemic for my age.  Yipes!  But now that I’m employed full time with benefits again, I’m going to try to make up for lost time.  (I know that compound interest means I can’t, really, but I can only work on the future.)  Starting in Jan., I’ll be putting THE MAX you can put in each year.  It’s kind of a scary-large amount of money.  But it seems like the right choice.  My overall retirement amount is very small so far….

How our joint finances work:  Big changes here, due to my unemployment and then re-employment, us moving, my partner changing jobs, and getting legally married.

We’ve got a joint account for savings for our next life adventure, whatever that may be.  We’ve already had a wedding and we’re priced out of real estate.  Maybe my partner will make a career change?  We also each have individual checking and savings.  My partner pays all the bills and occasionally I chuck some money his way.  He’s paying more than half, since his salary is about 2.3 times mine.  I’m on his health insurance, which is way nicer than the one at my work, and turns out to be the same price or cheaper for much better service.  We are each other’s beneficiaries on stuff like retirement accounts and life insurance (free through work).

We used to have method one of sharing finances, but these days we have no spreadsheet at all.  One big thing that has changed is that with legally tying the knot, all our finances are legally “ours” instead of his-n-hers.  We still use them mostly as his-n-hers, which is fine, but our thinking is much closer to “enh, it’s your money too” than we used to be.  But now we’ll be doing taxes as married-filing-jointly, and my lower income will help offset his higher tax burden.  Because we had some complex tax things go on, I leave the taxes up to him, because his job had a bunch of wacky tax implications with stock options and things I do not understand.  Maybe in 2016 our taxes will be simpler and I will go back to understanding them.

So, uh, yeah?  How are your finances?  Any changes in the last 5 years or so?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Link Love

Now that song is in your head.  You’re welcome.

Speaking of songs, I still think this is funny (I amuse myself).


This is my favorite thing this week: Cats destroying the patriarchy.  #23 is my favorite.

A lot of money on clothes (our minds boggle).  Speaking of which, OMG this is half-price and we both want it so hard. In polka-dot red!

This week #2 learned a new thing about statistics (part 1, part 2).  Yay, statistics.  Meanwhile, she had to re-explain this topic to #1, because I had got the basic idea (I could tell that someone was DOING IT RONG and I was mad at them) but I kept getting the denominators wrong.  Erf.  Math!  Important.  (I swear I can science.  Really I can.)

Trumpington.  Go home, stupid-hair man, you’re drunk.

And to prove that #2 can’t stop sending me HuffPo articles, this.

A good man in a tragic situation.

Oh goody, more white men being terrorists.

If you get bored, go learn about bats or some stuff.

We might just have the spirit of Christmas in our hearts.

Books make great gifts (watch carefully when he says “although not impossible”):

(This video displays excellent taste in books; you could do worse than to follow John’s suggestions!)

Ask the grumpies: Not as good as ask a manager

Rented life asks:

Tips on “managing” bosses who need to be reigned in when they are over excited about projects you’re in charge of–especially since the excitement means he’s worrying about things 15 steps ahead of where we really are. I need the info for step 1! (He means well, just not good at focusing.)

Obligatory reference to Ask A Manager.

Maybe Wandering Scientist would be a better person to ask this question?

Man, if I figure this out I won’t be stressed at work anymore.  My boss is a great, great guy.  And kinda like this.  :)

#2 says… maybe checklists?  Yeah, I got nuthin’.

Does anybody in the greater grumpy nation have better advice for Rented Life?

Books that foster a growth mindset in kids (and grownups)

We are totally into growth mindsets as a way to be.  In fact, we have blogged about growth mindsets at least a couple of times before.  And we’ve discussed Mindset by Carol Dweck here and there.  Here’s some additional resources for fostering growth mindsets in kids.  Some of them we’ve posted before, but some are new to us, thanks to #1’s sister who provided us with a list of resources (shoutout!)

You can learn anything: A cool video.

Here are some more books for kids of all ages, with brief commentary on the ones we’ve read:

Dream Big, Little Pig! by Kristi Yamaguchi. Companion: It’s a Big World, Little Pig!
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (we like this one, classic!)
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubunstein
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D.
Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg (big recommend!  So fun!)
A Little Bit of Oomph! by Barney Saltzberg
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds (#2 finds Peter H. Reynolds to be annoyingly preachy and especially dislikes So Few of Me, which seems to be digging at the parent reading the book rather than being for the kid)
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (HUGE recommend!  Describes the engineering process perfectly through the eyes of a budding young engineer and her dog.)
Flying! by Kevin Luthardt
Someday by Eileen Spinelli
The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The Mermaid and the Shoe by K G Campbell
Make Magic! Do Good! by Dallas Clayton
A Is for Awesome by Dallas Clayton
Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler
Lily the Unicorn by Dallas Clayton
What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
I Can Be Anything! by Jerry Spinelli
Almost by Richard Torrey
Mistakes That Worked by Charlotte Jones
Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daley (the illustrations are hilarious)
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae (DC1 really liked this one back when zie was a toddler)

See anything you want for the people in your life this non-denominational holiday or birthday season?  Any other suggestions for great books that promote growth mindsets?


  • DC1 brought home fur elise from hir new piano teacher.  It was amazing how the second time I played it my fingers instinctively remembered where to go, especially in the hard part in the middle.
  • DC2 wants a walrus for a pet.  I think zie has been reading too much Pigeon.
  • The problem with having fur elise completely and totally memorized is that every time DC1 makes a wrong note it bugs the crap out of me.  That is an E, not a C.  An E, gosh darn it!
  • I found out that DC1’s teacher has been mispronouncing hir name all semester.  DC1 has corrected hir, but zie has forgotten.
  • DC1 wants to go back to hir small private school next year.  We’ll see.
  • What do you supposed it’s like when you put two narcissists in a room together?  Do they find each other irritating or do they just talk past each other or what?
  • DC1 got mostly Bs in reading/writing (there are like 25 different “reading/writing” items).  Not sure what to do about that.  Zie also got a “needs improvement” in PE.  Not sure what to do about that either.  And a B in science, though the science teacher based that grade on 3 short multiple choice quizzes (two of which DC1 missed two problems on) and a final exam.  He’s pretty lazy for an elementary school teacher– assigns but doesn’t check homework.  A’s in math and a note that DC1 has run out of 5th grade math, so the teacher will be supplementing in class and has suggested more Kahn Academy at home.
  • Update:  DC1 finished Kahn Academy’s 6th grade math and is 40% done with 7th grade.  I think there’s a lot of overlap so that isn’t quite as impressive as it sounds– after finishing 6th grade, zie started 7th grade with 36% already done.  We’re thinking it will slow down once it reaches algebra.
  • I took the love languages quiz and got:  8 “words of affirmation”, 7 “quality time”, 0 “receiving gifts”, 8 “acts of service”, and 7 “physical touch”.  These results are pretty similar to my myers-briggs and a bunch of other professional personality tests that I’ve taken where, with a few exceptions, I tend to be pretty close to the middle for a lot of things.
  • DC2 was drawing a picture on a letter for DC1 to take to the school retreat.  First zie drew a stick figure of DC1.  Then sie drew a cross and said, “Jesus died on the cross.”  Then zie drew a dead Jesus blob.  Then zie kind of obliterated the cross.   (It’s not even Easter!  At the last religious daycare DC1 went to, I asked how they were handling the scarier parts of the bible but didn’t think to ask at this one because it’s the same denomination as the last one and I figured it was just Catholics who were into teaching the scary parts to toddlers.  Guess not.)   The other week zie was telling us about Samson and Delilah.  The lesson zie took was to never get a haircut because you will lose your power so DC2 is getting pretty shaggy.  DH says, “Not everybody gets a dead Jesus, at least not in the mail.”  I really wish they would stick to baby Jesus, at least for this season.
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December Mortgage Update: Kitten-destroyed bathroom, during and after

Last month (November):
Years left: 1.333333333
P =$1,138.89, I =$75.51, Escrow =$809.48

This month (December):
Years left: 1.25
P =$1,143.40, I =$71.00, Escrow =$809.48

One month’s prepayment savings: $0

I realized I haven’t posted about this yet even though it happened ages ago.  I thought I’d taken pictures specifically for this post, but I’m having trouble finding them.  Here’s some kitteny pictures.


Here you can see the start of damage on the bottom of the cabinet door behind Boy Kitty (who now lives with my sister).

Damage on the top. It's equally bad on the facing, but I can't find any facing pictures.

Damage on the top. It gets worse later.


There used to be stuff under the wallpaper that used to be here…


Here’s some pictures of facing on those drawers.


What was that about wallpaper?

One more.

One more.

And after:


No more wallpaper! Paint! Cabinet doors replaced (with custom-made identical doors) and repainted!


I’d tell you how much it cost, but I don’t remember(!)

Link Love

“The measure blocking individuals suspected of terrorism from purchasing guns and explosives failed 45-54”  WTF.

If we treated guns like abortions.

Don’t lose hope.  Also here.

Sigh. Double standards.

The comments on this article are a special kind of terrifying.  People still believe that Japanese internment was right too.  The US is a scary scary place.  Hedda Hopper.

Let’s get rid of abortion clinics.

Linda knows this.

Abortion protesters come in for abortions.

Planned parenthood helps people.

Poverty appropriation and tiny houses.

Little kitty convicts

Super interesting post on cutting down on Christmas presents and feelings and stuff.

It only works once, but it’s a good trick.

What they bought.

Hipster coffee.


My sister sent me this when I told her that no she would have to buy the tickets to the nutcracker (that I am not going to) herself instead of having me buy them and her reimbursing me.

Basement cat worries.

Amazing dino facts.  Apparently we’ve already linked to this but #2 really wanted to link again.


Ask the grumpies: Favorite PF blogs?

Rosa asks:

would you do a post of PF bloggers you recommend (including the hate reads if you have them)? My old favorites have all devolved or disappeared.

Many of our old favorites either suck or have disappeared as well!

Obviously there’s the folks we consider regular members of the grumpy rumblings community:

miser mom, leightpf, agaishanlife, nzmuse, donnafreedman, middleclassrevolution, plantingourpennies, and stackingpennies though many of these don’t post about finances as often as they may have used to.  Of these, I think miser-mom is the most regular “frugal” blogger (and that’s probably only true while she’s on sabbatical!) and LeightPF and Planting Our Pennies are the most regular high-income bloggers (though neither are as frequent as they used to be).  There are people on Ana’s blogroll (including Ana) who occasionally post about finances even though they’re not really part of the “PF community”.  (Our current favorite is Two Adults One Child.)

For people who aren’t semi-regular commenters here, I don’t know that there’s much.  I occasionally check in on retireby40, though I’m not really sure why.   Similarly with EvolvingPF though she doesn’t post often anymore.

Like Leah, I occasionally look at FrugalWoods, but I sort of feel like that site only has maybe 8 (lengthy) posts that just recycle with slightly different words or slightly different ideas.  (Even the pictures repeat!)  Which I know is a different complaint than most people have about FW(!)

I also sometimes read the mr. money moustache forums, but the best comments there are generally by friend-of-grumpy-rumblings, bogart who should really have her own blog (as should Rosa!).  Like most fora, it’s a mix of very silly people and some interesting people, but not worth being a member for us.  The bogleheads forum is better at providing information when I am googling, but I never go there regularly.

We’re not GOMI so you’re not going to get our hate-reads (especially since #1 has so leechblocked them from everything except the ipad).  I will say though that I’m not a fan of PF blogs that are mostly sponsored posts.  That’s not a hate-read so much as being annoyed when I forget and click on a snappy headline.

So yeah, I don’t know.  I know there’s still a lot of personal finance to learn about and to think about, but to be honest, the only PF blogs I’ve really picked up anything that I didn’t already know or hadn’t thought about in recent memory were LeightPF’s and Miser Mom’s.  I don’t know if that’s me or if that’s just the bulk of PF writers focusing on low-hanging fruit.  (I do always get a little excited when one of the academic or slice-of-life blogs that I read talks PF.)  But it’s not like I’m writing all that much new about personal finance either, so… (but hey, come by every Money Monday anyway!)

Grumpy Nation– what PF blogs do you love or hate read?  Any recommendations for Rosa?

Update: how could I forget Walter updegrave? I find him to be incredibly knowledgeable and trustworthy and am bummed that his Money posts are no longer on their website. However, he has a new site here: http://realdealretirement.com .