link love and a challenge update

This is the week the addiction finally broke.  I no longer have the sense of yearning as I fight to keep from reaching for the ipad/iphone.  Still, when I do get to a computer I have unconsciously hit up twitter a couple times without even noticing until I’d finished.  Habits are hard to break!  I have been getting to work before 8am again which is nice because it’s just me and the cleaning staff and it’s peaceful and I can get an hour of actual work in before meetings start or before people stop by.  Previously I had done that, but something about this semester had me shifted to 9am for a while.  I’m still not getting into work before 7 like I had been, but some of that is the fact that we temporarily have 3 cars and only have a 1 car driveway and a 2 car garage so if my car isn’t the one in the driveway I have to wait for DC2’s bus to come.

Performance Today this month has been doing an amazing job this month highlighting black composers and musicians.  I am saddened by the great artists that have disappeared from regular view.  I’m shocked by the household names that I did not know were black (see:  Scott Joplin).  It’s so unfair that history is written by the dominant culture and not about the biggest talents.  We’ve lost so much.  A favorite this week was William Grant Still.  I agree 100% with the youtube commenter who remarked, “Where has this music been?! Lovely, evocative, original and beautifully written. Deserves a place alongside Copland, Gershwin and Bernstein.”

How banks block people of color from homeownership.

These FL students are inspirational (tw: school shooting)

Trump pitches plan to bring back boxes of government food even though it’s both less efficient and less equitable than SNAP.

H/T to Delagar for this 2015 post on how the cake place that denied a lesbian couple service also doxxed them and endangered their kids.

Only slightly less terrible for morale than stack-ranking

The next recession is going to suck

Media:  Reality has a liberal bias right now.  Embrace it.

Death by Pokemon Go

I am the very model of a NYTimes contrarian

Leslie Jones tweets the olympics

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Ask the grumpies: Things to help a kid get into the college of hir choice

Sandy L. asks

If a kid has his heart set on a college, what things could help them get in besides academics. For example, MIT has these science camps for kids that are expensive but could they also help with admissions later on?

We truly don’t know.  Take everything we say with a HUGE grain of salt.  I mean, we know people who got into Stanford but not Harvard and vice versa.  It really seems to be a crapshoot at a certain level, even if you’re your state’s math champion and have straight As, etc.  I don’t actually think it’s that hard to get into MIT if your grades and testscores are good and you have a true love of math and science compared to getting into Harvard (at least, I know a lot of people who got into MIT as undergrads who didn’t get into any ivies to which they applied).  It’s more difficult than getting into your state’s flagship, but there’s a lot less competition for those slots.  So I wouldn’t think that the science camps would be necessary.  Whether or not they help, I don’t know.

Back when it was called the Westinghouse science award, it helped to have won the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

It helps to have top scores and grades at a known-name school and to have come from nothing.  If you’re first gen, low income, and have fought your way to the top, that makes it easier for colleges to decide.  Particularly if you’re a scholarship kid at Eaton or at one of the state public boarding schools for GT kids.

One of my colleagues’ kids got in to our (state flagship) school (for engineering/CS) late admissions despite being low on grades and testscores because he did an after school club with a professor in the computer science department and did a very good job at said club, and the professor was able to pull strings.  I don’t know how universal that is– certainly I have never had any contact with undergraduate admissions– but some professors at some schools might have some pull.

If Caltech has the same application it had 15 years ago, you’re more likely to get in if you take it seriously.  Fill out that page that says, “put something interesting here” with something interesting!  I filled the entire thing in very tiny writing with math jokes.  My ex-boyfriend drew a comic showing the path of his life complete with adorable stick figures interacting with the line representing the timeline of his life.  I forget what my sister put in there but I’m sure it was interesting and entertaining.  We all got in.

On the application, if there’s a place for it, have an interesting story to tell that illustrates your interests and your academic path.  One of my college ex-boyfriends got in everywhere (he picked our SLAC over Stanford) partly because his admissions essay was a delightful story about how he built a trebuchet.  My sister got in everywhere she applied (including ivies) probably partly because she talked about how physics informed her dancing.  It probably also helps to be focused and to pretend you know what you’re going to do with your life and why and you have a path mapped out to get there.  Extra points if you are unusual– a young woman in an award winning Poms squad and an all-girls math team who has taken as much math and hard science as she can who really wants to design more energy efficient engines.  (Again, that was my sister.)

Many schools will make their final waitlist/admit decisions for people on that margin based on who has visited the campus/had an alumni interview.  I think this is unfair to low income kids who CAN’T just hop on a plane or spend two weeks in the summer driving up and down the East Coast from the Midwest, but it’s policy at many schools.

Applying early action, particularly the kind where you swear to go if you get in helps, though it decreases your financial aid offer many places.

Playing (and being really good at) the right instrument/sport can help.  But it is hard to predict what the school of your choice will need the year you’re applying.  (And this probably doesn’t matter at MIT, but I don’t actually know.)

Not needing financial aid can help at some schools.  I don’t know if MIT is one of them, but MIT is notoriously stingy when it comes to financial aid.  (Harvard is exceedingly generous!)

Being a member of an Olympic team or the child of a celebrity or owning your own profitable business or app or nonprofit that you started as a teen can make you more attractive.   So can having published a scholarly paper in an academic journal.  Or having a patent.  Or a parent who gives a multi-million dollar donation.

Passing the AMC 10 or 12 and doing well on the AIME can help.  Taking college classes and doing well in them doesn’t hurt (though as this becomes more common, it may no longer be as strong a signal as it once was).

We’re told that leadership experience, state and national awards, and volunteering can help, but I’m skeptical.  I don’t know if these are necessary, but they’re definitely not sufficient.  There’s just too many people each year who have these things.

Some people swear by college coaches.  I don’t know how to find a good one or what kind of value they add to someone who is already doing well.

I don’t know what we’re going to encourage our kids to do.  This is more timely for DC1 who starts high school in a year and a half.  Zie is really into math, but not competitions.  Zie like robotics, but not competitions.  Zie loves computers and games and likes programming but needs more formal training in programming.  Zie loves music but although better than I was at that age, is not at competition level either in piano or violin (the piano teacher is pretty lax and zie just started violin a year ago), and again, is not crazy about competition.  We might be able to get hir an unpaid summer internship with a professor at my school, or zie can do more work for me, possibly even something publishable.  Zie could take summer classes at the community college or the university (I still haven’t figured out how to do summer student-at-large classes, though it’s pretty easy for high school students to take college classes during the school year).  It is hard to say what’s best.  Most likely we’ll just let hir interests guide hir and focus on learning rather than on getting into a specific school.  Because for high income kids of educated parents, the specific school isn’t that important for earnings.

Anybody know more about what undergraduate admissions offices are looking for?

A mostly unscheduled weekend snapshot

One weekend:

Saturday:

Extended morning cuddle time.
DH and DC1 go grocery shopping:  8-9:45
DH takes DC1 to robotics (last Saturday before tournament, DH is there because the last two times DC1 went by hirself we got complaints from the teacher about DC1 wandering around):  10-4
I take DC2 out for lunch:  11am-whenever
Kids chores (I help with workbooks) and homework
I do so much laundry and dishes (kids fold their own clothing– usually DH joins too but I did his stuff while he was at robotics) and made a bunch of food (start beet salad, freeze the rocky road liquid that DC2 and DH made the previous night).
Finished and scheduled a bunch of blog posts.
DC1 and DH watch Paddington Bear in preparation for seeing Paddington 2 in theaters. It is too scary for DC1 and we spend the next few nights with hir complaining about being too scared to sleep. Paddington 2 is nixed.

Sunday:

Extended morning cuddle time.
DH does online gaming with friends (I help kids with chores and putter with other chores): 9-12
DH helps my students with a tricky programming problem:  12-1
I finish making beet salad and make tuna noodle casserole.
DH and DC2 make angel food muffins with the eggwhites leftover from the ice cream we made Friday/Saturday.
Did a bunch of financial/family chores (2018 IRAs, ordered a book from the library for DC1, emailed about getting on the middle school math practice mailing list, etc.  I had a list of about 9 things that needed to get done sometime that weekend and worked on them in between answering math questions.)
DH and I kiss a bunch.
Cranked through some work emails in preparation for Monday.
Listened to a bunch of 1960s and 1970s songs and sang and danced. Taught the kids the mashed potato and a few arm moves from the 1970s (that I learned in kindergarten in California…) DC1 showed us hir preferred hopping dance move. DC2 has an impressive group of dance moves. I realize that I really need to wear a sports bra if I’m going to twist like we did last summer.
Help my sister with some activism stuff.

I just cannot schedule weekends.  It makes me really unhappy to have them scheduled.  I could be getting more work done, and before kids I worked 6 days a week, but I have a really hard time doing that now.  DC2 especially is really good at interrupting me when I’m trying to get something done that requires thinking.  I really enjoy unstructured weekends.

How do you deal with weekends?  Feel free to link up to your previous weekend scheduling posts if applicable.

DH got a 10% raise and now we’re really going to have some obnoxious money posts

What do we do with all this extra money?!?!

I think we’re going to really have to sit down and think about our money goals.  The alternative is to not do that and to just put all excess money away in taxable stocks until we actually need money and then see where we stand.

We’re again at this point where we can easily buy all our needs and all of the upper-middle-class wants we ever dreamed about as lower income kids, but we can’t you know, quit our jobs and buy a house in Northern California.  We’ve paid off our house and don’t want a bigger one (or a second one).  We’re maxing out our retirement and saving at a heavy clip for the childrens’ college.  We have a hefty cash emergency fund and an even heftier secondary fund in taxable stocks.  We have yard service.  We eat out once or twice a week.  We don’t really want a cleaning person because that’s not a priority and I find it really irritating to have to pre-clean or to have to deal with cleaning people in the house when I want to be relaxing.  (I understand that truly excellent cleaning people don’t require such things, but I wouldn’t know how to find a truly excellent cleaning person.)  I don’t mind doing our laundry or loading/unloading the dishwasher.  I just bought myself a whole bunch of Cat Sebastian Kindle books, but that really wasn’t a huge expense.  I’ve also started (as of DH’s re-employment) regularly giving to charitable and political causes when they ask, usually to the tune of $25/pop, on top of our regular previous giving (mostly to educational causes).  And we’ve stopped driving to visit DH’s family and fly instead.  But all of that was before this 10% raise.

But now there’s more that we could do.  Things I’ve never really thought about doing before and maybe they’re things we should do or maybe we should just keep stockpiling money because if we didn’t want them before, maybe we don’t need them now.  (And yes, many of these are things that lots of bloggers who regularly complain about money make priorities rather than paying off their debts, so maybe we’re not thinking big enough.)  And even with all this excess money, we can’t do all of these things, only a subset.  So it isn’t obvious that the answer should be yes to any or all of these.

We could go to Hawaii!  Or Europe!  Or the Caribbean.  (But… vacations take time away from work…)

We could send the kids to fancy away summer camps.  (But they’re still pretty young.)

We could spend the summer someplace that isn’t a bazillion degrees Fahrenheit.  (But moving is a pain, especially with cats.)

We could spend the summer (or part of the summer) someplace where only Spanish is spoken and let the kids get immersed in the language.  (See above, plus I wouldn’t be able to spend time with econ colleagues.)

We could fund a scholarship for someone low income to go to private school or college.

We could remodel the kitchen and bathrooms (though actually, we could remodel the kitchen even without this raise [update:  maybe not right away—see below update]).

We could landscape the lawn to make it less thirsty.  (But… Bermuda grass…)

We could replace the roof and put in solar tiles before the roof dies (but we’ll probably wait on this until the roof is older and solar technology has improved).

We could buy a super fancy electric car or a minivan.  (This is not going to happen.  Ditto having a third child…) [Update:  the Honda Clarity that we just discovered existed is affordable after the federal tax incentive…]

We could eat out a lot more each week, or order fancy food online, or get a subscription service that doesn’t require chopping.

We could buy empty land around town and keep it empty and make sure it never has obnoxious advertising for evil political candidates posted on it.

What is missing from this list because of the limits of my imagination?

Link love and challenge update

Challenge update Week 2:  It continues to be cold in the mornings.  I lay in bed wishing I could grab for a device.  I don’t want to wake up DH but I also want to wake up DH.  Sometimes I cuddle closer and think about stuff and sometimes I give up and do my morning ablutions and then head to the office to check my email.  Then I get cold and I head back to bed.  Thus far I have not gotten up to do any work other than answering emails.  I have, however, been getting into work earlier in the morning after DH is up and out of bed.  I’ve been eating breakfast with the kids instead of snoozing and I usually head out when DC1 goes for the bus.  This has led to an hour of productive time (and some political calls) once I get to work.  Of course, then I run out of steam earlier in the day once I’m at work.  Which suggests maybe I was optimizing already and not checking social media in the mornings is just moving things around.  Still, I am actually spending less time on social media.  I’m just not sure I’m doing anything productive with that time.  I mean, I guess there’s a little bit more contemplation in the morning but do I really need to be contemplating how much I wish I could grab the ipad or DH would wake up or how 9 Rules to Break isn’t quite as good in light of the #metoo movement etc.  Most of the planning/work thoughts I’d been having on my morning drive.  With all the extra time I have been a bit better about grabbing a vit D in the morning, but I also have them in my desk at work to take later in the day when I notice I’m tired because I forgot so maybe that’s why I run out of steam earlier in the day.

Trump’s draft plan to punish “legal” DOCUMENTED immigrants if they send their US-born kids to Head Start, or sign them up for CHIP etc.

Another tragic deportation victim

resist matrix poem

Boycott the GOP to save fiscal conservatism

An apt metaphor

No one is silencing misogynist Katie Roiphe

The drunk history video in this post is 100% totally worth watching

Gender imbalance in news stories and how to fix it

Terrible paper title, but men need to behave more like women, not the other way around.

Social justice and children’s literature

These video interviews with Chadwick Boseman are also really cool (though you also have the option of reading the text transcripts)

People who escape debt traps end up right back in them.  :(

How owning a house can bring in passive income

You can have more than one 401(k) at a time

I made it all the way to #1 before I LOL’d uncontrollably

 

Ask the grumpies: Better political and economic systems?

Solitary Diner asks:

Working in an inner-city clinic, I think a lot about the political and economic systems that contribute to the poverty and marginalization of my patients. What do you think can/should be done to make the world’s systems more fair to everyone?

Yeah, these aren’t hard questions at all.

Most economists favor socialism-lite.  We think government should intervene in cases of market-failure when the benefits of intervention outweigh the costs of intervention.  In practice that usually means something like what Europe has (not entirely though), with a lot of focus on making sure that the social safety net is high for everyone and even more focus on early childhood equality.

Of course, the rational-actor model is blind to structural inequalities stemming from racism, and many of our models seem to think that sexism is a feature, not a bug (they start out with the assumption that women are differently-abled and that’s why they get paid less… even in jobs for which they have comparative advantage).  I don’t know how to get rid of -isms.  I can tell you that Marxism doesn’t do it.  Nor monarchy.  I presume a benevolent dictatorship would even have difficulty, though maybe it would have a shot depending on how long the dictator can stay in power and how good they are at forcing behavior.  If we could somehow manage to get rid of segregation, that might also help since so many of our policies use geography as a way to discriminate.  Though perhaps changing those policies to be less local could help.  There’s no reason, for example, for local property taxes to fund schools.  Of course, we would no doubt still see inequalities from “voluntary” requested donations.  Paradise requested a $500 donation from every parent at the beginning of the year, and got it from many– less wealthy areas are not able to do that.

So… what should be done?  More socialism with a focus on the children.  What can be done?  Beats me.  :(  If I knew the answer to that, I’d tell it to one of the economists who hangs out with Bill Gates and they’d get to work!

 

A new lunch plan for DC1

Getting DC1 to make hir lunch last year was an exercise in unpleasantness, so in the end we gave in and just had hir do cafeteria lunches.  It worked out relatively well.  This year at the middle school has been a bit worse– DC1 has been enjoying cafeteria lunches, BUT the cafeteria lunches are no longer healthy.  Basically DC1 gets cheese, pepperoni, or sausage pizza and fries, unless zie remembers to specifically request something other than fries.  Fries are the cafeteria server’s default.  In THEORY there are three different lunch stations, and in theory one of those stations is entirely salads (the third station has more traditional not-that-healthy cafeteria fare).  DC1 promised to try to choose healthier food options, but in the end just ended up eating cheese pizza and fries and the occasional fruit cup or carrot sticks for lunch 5 days a week.  Zie says zie doesn’t want the traditional cafeteria food (which usually isn’t any healthier than pizza– think chicken patty sandwiches without condiments, corndogs, or breadsticks and baked potato) and zie hasn’t been able to find the salad station.

Since school started, DC1 has become much more picky about not eating healthy food at home as well.  Which is annoying.  DH and I suspect the monochrome meals at school are contributing to skipping the vegetable portion of dinner.  We don’t like it.

So we’re trying something new.  Since we’re now higher income and pre-made healthy things are “in”, we’re letting DC1 pick out a bunch of overpriced healthy meals like pre-made salads, guacamole packs (which are like fruit cups, but with guacamole instead), and, of course, our standard applesauce/fruitcup/crunchy legume sides.  We also have a bunch more adorable lunch containers because I put a bunch on the amazon wishlist after writing this post and my mom came through with them at Christmas.   The hope is that this will produce less lunch-making angst than did actually making zir own salad/sandwich/etc.

I vaguely recall when I was in middle school, the lunches I made were mostly packaged orange-colored crackers with peanut butter (or better, the packaged sticks with dipping cheese), Doritos, and an apple.  Sometimes I would even get a Little Debbie snack-cake.  There are a lot healthier packaged options these days for those willing and able to pay for them.

How do/did you deal with middle schooler lunches?  How healthy are/were the school lunches you know or remember?

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