An unexpectedly high bill

The other week DH’s relative called DH at 10pm on a weeknight in a bit of a panic because kid #4 had signed up for community college next semester unbeknownst to him (she’s graduating a semester early and we are impressed with her initiative!) and the bill was due. Was our offer to pay it still valid? DH said sure, no problem, and we went back to sleep.

The bill turned out to be for $1,800!

So we said, we can pay this, BUT we think it’s really unlikely that you actually have to pay this much given that daughter #1 was free and #2 was something like $300/semester after financial aid. (This is more like the bill we would expect should one of them go to a 4 year school.)

Looking closer, it appeared that financial aid had not been included in the bill, even though they had done the FAFSA and everything else. Kid #4 also said two of her friends had gotten similarly scary bills. So something was messed up. (Also it turned out the deadline posted on the bill was a month earlier than the actual deadline!)

After several days of phone tag, DH’s relative finally got someone on the phone, but they said that they couldn’t talk financial aid with him, only with his daughter, even though she’s 17 and still a minor. She needed to come into the office to sign a bunch of forms.

So she went into the office, and instead of giving her forms, they emailed her forms. But they don’t have a printer, so she had to go back to the office (but the office’s printer cuts off the bottom of every page…). There was a lot more back and forth and in the end, the relative and his daughter both went into the office together. And a month later, everything got sorted out. All we have to pay for is books. Whew.

Our hope is that this daughter will get her SAT score up at least 10 points so she’s state school eligible and then go to a 4 year school (neither of her sisters finished their associates degrees because they dropped out after having babies and the oldest son didn’t start because he couldn’t drive himself… our hope is that maybe the 4-year college environment will be more appealing than dropping out… but we have learned we can only do so much nudging and we never truly know what the right thing to do is).  She’s interested in an education degree, but might change her mind.

So… I guess the moral is … if you get a bill that is way larger than expected, chances are something went wrong?

Last Link Love of 2018

The year is on the way out and we’ve been on airplanes.  Here are some slightly belated links!

Definitely follow @sewwiththeflo, which is Nancy’s account from Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  (Artist account: )

Here’s some cheer:


Don’t forget to donate to charity.  Speaking of which:

Here are some things #2 sent me that I don’t know what they are:

In 2019 maybe I will post about books more.  Just for joy.  Out with the old, in with the MOAR NOVELS!

Cheers, Grumpeteers!


Ask the grumpies: How to address the affordable housing crisis in expensive cities

Yet another pf blog asks:

What policies do you think are best to address the affordable housing crisis in expensive cities?

Definitely not rent control!  I cannot tell you how many lectures I’ve suppressed on this topic when being a tourist.  (Instead I say, “Sorry!  I’m registered to vote in another state and cannot sign your petition.”)

The big answer is:  Loosen up zoning to allow more high-rise apartment buildings to be built.  It is as simple as that, so long as you make sure that the developers and additional taxes contribute to the additional pressure on local public goods.  But there are a lot of SF suburbs that only allow 2 or 3 stories to be built.  The second big answer is reliable public transportation (my favorite is light rail, but commuter rail and buses with special highway lane access are also good) to places outside that have affordable housing so people can commute to work.  Even our best subway and elevated systems could use expansion in terms of number of trains, number of lines, and just plain maintenance.

What are we reading?

Boxing Day is for reading books!  Here’s a fantastic list of good books, if you don’t have enough to read.

I don’t usually like rehashes of Pride and Prejudice, but Lady Bridget’s Diary: Keeping Up with the Cavendishes by Maya Rodale isn’t really a rehash of the book so much as a splicing of a bunch of Colin Firth media together (the P&P is definitely the BBC miniseries version, complete with fully-clothed dousing). She even names her hero Colin Fitzwilliam Wright Darcy. It’s very tongue and cheek and definitely not historically accurate. A library check-out, but I think probably not a purchase. It’s hard to say. Silly and enjoyable.  The rest of the books in the series were ok but not great.

(Another book is Pride, by Ibi Zoboi, along the same lines.)

Other Maya Rodale books were not worth even trying.  The Tattooed Duke was terrible.  Bad in the #metoo movement, repetitive, unlikable main characters, nobody realizing that a married woman doesn’t own her own property except the dumb villain… so much that doesn’t make sense.  The entire writing girls series also terrible… boring, TSTL, at least one unlikable main character in each.  A great idea with a terrible execution.

In contrast, I’m in the middle of Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh which is another take on the female gossip columnist (here she owns the entire gossip sheet), and so far 27% in it has been enjoyable… meandering but I’m in the mood for a little meandering.  (Though I am going to skip the second in that series because the amazon reviews says the hero is a creepy stalker who doesn’t take no for an answer, which, ugh.)

I liked In Love with a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle enough to buy my own copy (though it was only $1.99, so no real hardship).  It’s a nice take on the hardened hero gets amnesia in a near-death accident while the heroine nurses him back to health trope.

If you can handle a Christmas novella after Christmas, A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews was lovely.  Soothing.  Sadly, the book the library had available, The Lost Letter, was one of those where if the Hero and Heroine ever talked with each other instead of constantly jumping to conclusions and then running off the book would be 3 pages long.  You’d think after it happened once they’d have you know, figured it out.  I’m curious about her other books, but not enough to pay to try them given that they’re mostly tropes I’m not crazy about.  (I did buy A Holiday by Gaslight before reading it which was a total impulse purchase, and I am glad I did.)

Note to self:  stop trying to read Balogh reissues.  They are ALL full of rape.  Just stop.  The new stuff is good but make sure it is genuinely new.  (Most recent indiscreet)

#2 really liked Not Even Bones, by Rebecca Schaeffer.  It’s too violent for #1 to read, though.

I (#2) would also like to recommend the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal.  The first one is The Calculating Stars and the second one is The Fated Sky.  The third one is in progress, dunno the expected pub date.

I also recommend The Hum and the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe.  First in a contemporary series about the mythical Tufa people, who live and keep to themselves in Tennessee.  Until 20-year-old Bronwyn Hyatt becomes an accidental war hero in Iraq and returns to her hometown with all the pomp she never wanted.  I think I would call this speculative fiction.  I’m waiting on the second one from the library.

I recently liked Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang, but I can’t remember if I talked about it on here already or not.  I think I didn’t.  It’s weird and has a happy ending.

What have you been reading, Grumpeteers?

A history of loving money: Our family crest

One of my cousins has been doing a bunch of genealogy work with the help of our relatives still in Europe.  Turns out my family has a crest!  This is from the 17th century when an ancestor was the local official overseeing a town building and decided to leave his mark:

The circles in the lower right are coins, which is not surprising given how important money is to this side of my family (we are all terribly crass about it!).  The cross-like things on the upper-right are supposedly lilies, and I guess they technically are similar to fleur de lis.  This is the side of the family that has won and lost fortunes in Europe (and various non-American colonies, where it is likely they did horrific things in the name of trade), as opposed to the stunningly middle-class American side (it’s unlikely that that side had fortunes prior to leaving for the new world either, though side branches that I’m not descended from have done well for themselves– I am very distant cousins with some rich old US families).  My mother’s family does not have family crests (indeed, my mom’s last name is one of those that got created upon an ancestor coming to the US).  My DH’s last name does, but only in the way that really common UK names that are also places do.  If you go back 4 generations down my maternal line (possibly not coincidentally, the line related to those rich distant cousins), we’ve got one of those as well according to places on the internet that sell such things.

Do you have a family crest?  What’s on it?  What would you put on a family crest?  I’d like to swap out that woodland creature for a book…

Link Love

Florida lawmakers mandated armed guards in schools after Parkland.  One just killed three people.

What the wall will destroy

How to spot if you’re being gaslighted

Why some academics use Black with a capital B in scholarly writing

This person has cut off their trump loving family and is happier!

h/t delagar– this article says more elegantly what we will rant about on some future Wednesday (but not boxing day because you should spend that day reading good books)

Baking anxiety

Russian disinformation:  scale and sweep

She explains this phenomenon really well

The similarity is pretty creepy

Canned corn recall

A mother’s leap of faith at an African airport

SF to developer who tore down landmark house:  Rebuild it exactly as it was


What’s your personal discretionary spending?

Examples to teach Difference in difference

time lapse trapping

If only I had known this existed!


I’ll just leave this here

Why you should surround yourself with more books than you will ever read

Dat table 1 tho

Ask the grumpies: how to prevent the Earth from dying

omdg asks:

Is the earth dying? What’s the best way to prevent this from happening?

The BEST way to protect the environment is to get governments to legislate governmental protection.   Companies need to be competing on an even playing field in which they all have to be good stewards of the environment.  Otherwise firms have an incentive to cut corners in the interest of profit maximization.  Government regulation can take away the ability to cut corners.

All the little environmentally friendly things you can do (reduce/reuse/recycle) are great, but they alone are not enough.  Voting and contacting your legislators to support climate-friendly initiatives are really the only way to make big dents.  Think of it as the latte factor vs. large fixed expenses– the stuff we do individually is like cutting out your latte factor, but the stuff big organizations do makes a bigger difference faster.

Here’s a good article from business insider that breaks down the benefits by thing we can do.

In terms of “is the earth dying”… no, but we are having a mass extinction.  The more immediate problem is that climate change is moving climate around bringing drought and floods where there were none.  This will increase costs and cause mass migrations which will cause political/social/etc. problems like, I dunno, war, famine, death… standard apocalypse stuff.

So yeah, if this is something you care about (and we all should), make sure you vote for science believers, and keep contacting your elected officials on the topic.  They won’t know it’s important if we don’t tell them.

Books I’m getting people

This post is a follow-up to our earlier post about what we were getting people… I wasn’t done shopping yet!

Books I’m getting people include but are not limited to:

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Treat Your Own Neck

Hogfather; Soul Music

Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent: Abridged Edition (Penguin Classics) by Alexander von Humboldt.  N.B.: You really want the Penguin abridged edition on this one.  The unabridged is like 2000 pages of him talking about measurements.

(I’m not getting anyone this book but maybe I should!)

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler, by Ryan North

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight

Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams

The Spanish version of Petunia: the Girl who was not a princess

Lies my teacher told me

Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

BONUS!  A podcast recommendation: Our Opinions Are Correct, in which two speculative fiction writers talk about SciFi.

So what books are you getting people?

Should December babies (whose families celebrate Christmas) feel cheated?

(this draft is from 2011!)

December and January babies have to share their birthdays with the holiday season.  That means that it’s easy to combine their birthday presents with their Christmas presents, suggesting that overall they might get less stuff.*  And people with holiday birthdays have said they were not happy about getting one large gift in place of two smaller ones.  (As parents, we’d be happy with that!  Our kids get So Much Stuff.)

Getting less stuff isn’t a problem when there’s only one kid because one kid doesn’t know what the counterfactual would be, but when there are two kids, they might worry about fairness.**  My mom, with her early January birthday and 6 younger siblings feels very strongly that she didn’t get her due growing up.  My MIL, similarly, wants to be scrupulously fair to each grandchild.

What the grandmas do is they have a specific dollar amount they spend on each kid for Christmas and for birthdays.  They send separately wrapped packages, making sure that the birthday gift is not in Christmas wrapping.  This seems to be the best option that we’ve come up with.

Another popular solution is to celebrate a half birthday, though with the half birthday falling in the summer, that doesn’t help with other kids not coming to a birthday party.  Back in preschool when there were people around during school holidays we had more kids show up for a belated birthday party in early January than for our other child’s summer birthday.  So I’m not really sure that a half-birthday is a great solution, though I suppose one could just pick a time in April or May.

But these solutions focus on fairness as some kind of dollar amount.  Stuff.  The focus shouldn’t be on who gets the most stuff as presents.  Presents are optional and not an entitlement.  They shouldn’t be the focus.  Insert your favorite complaint against rampant consumerism here.

But the true concern comes when the difference in stuff given is taken as a signal for something else.  Stuff shouldn’t be a proxy for love.  It’s easy to take it as a proxy, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  That’s probably why there’s so much focus on which wrapping paper is used on the presents– not because it actually matters but because it is a proxy for whether or not the kid’s birthday is special.  That link doesn’t have to be there either.

What is really important?  A kid with a December or early January birthday needs to feel that their birthday is just as special as a kid whose birthday doesn’t correspond with the holidays.  Both of our kids get to pick their own birthday cake (this year DC1 wants a cookie cake) that we make, and they generally get a birthday celebration with my in-laws (DC1 over Christmas break either on hir birthday or the night before, DC2 whenever we do our summer visit) and my sister (some weekend in the city) in addition to their home celebration.  It’s a lot of us showing that we think they’re special, even if they don’t get actual parties anymore.  Even if we only give them small gifts.

What are your experiences with holiday birthdays?


*There’s also a possibility with holiday sales that they’ll get more stuff, or if they’re the extended family over their birthday they’ll get stuff from people they wouldn’t otherwise get stuff from, but more likely it’ll be less.

**Though given that most of the first kid’s stuff gets passed down to the second kid eventually, what does fairness even mean?

Link Love and today (SATURDAY) is the last day to sign up for the ACA (in most states)

ACA deadline is Saturday.

If you’re worried about the ruling on the ACA in TX, here’s why you should not be worried.

tw: child murder

ICE arrested 170 legal immigrants seeking to sponsor migrant children

More in fascism:  state edition

Trump’s inauguration spending under investigation

Dick’s sporting goods makes more profit after getting rid of guns.

That Russian spy still has a linkedin page.  She was a grad student at American University…

Feds probe fake messages to fcc supporting ending net neutrality

What Brexit is.

Heart attacks in women can feel like shoulder blade pain.

Rich people are getting away with not paying their taxes.

Yes, it does matter where you go to college unless you’re a rich white dude, in which case it doesn’t matter at all

Why universities are good for regional development

High costs of living and early retirement

This might be useful to someone

There is none.

Ask a stupid question

We are both 060.4 General rules of order (Parliamentary procedure)

What is your favorite weird fact?

I would read/watch this

Remember when this little baby was born?  Now he has 15 teeth!

This is true

2018 Christmas songs

Hello, Lionel